According to one psychological theory, everything we do and say is to project status and impress others.

Sometimes this is obvious, like wearing fashionable clothes or bragging about your achievements. But it extends to the non-obvious too, like mentioning to your dining companion that you stopped eating meat a couple of years ago when you could easily have just ordered the vegetarian option without comment.

Since I learned about this theory, I’ve started catching myself wanting to do or say certain things – even tiny ones – and realising that the only purpose is to disclose something I think the other person will be impressed by. Often I manage to pull myself back, but the compulsion never goes away.

Now you know about it you’ll keep noticing this impulse too and it’ll play havoc with your internal monologue during conversations, so you’re welcome.

I was surprised by how often it happens, because I think of myself as being pretty self-secure and not having much of an ego. Then again, having a blog like this is arguably a 24-hour worldwide flex that I’m adding to every week.

Case in point: in the last monthly update I sent out, I wrote about how I’d started running every day. Supposedly it was to make a helpful point about habit formation, but deep down did I just want people to be impressed by my running and find an excuse to mention it? If I’d learned a helpful lesson from sitting crying through a Bargain Hunt marathon while eating ice cream, would I have made a point of sharing it? If I did, would that just be to show off about how vulnerable I can be and how bravely I’m overcoming my struggle?

I don’t have an answer to this, and I’m probably only writing it to show off how deep and thoughtful I am anyway. But here’s the lesson I’m including as an excuse: whether you’re aware of it or not, your ego is controlling you. And everyone else’s ego is controlling them.

Once you start looking at the world through that lens, a lot of what you see – including your own behaviour – will start making more sense.

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