I spent some time poking around for the phrase “Feminine Ego.” It’s not an easy search.
Part of the problem is that ego is so out of fashion nowadays. The spiritual life is the life beyond ego, outside the demands of the self. I have had people tell me that my goal in life has to be detachment, disconnection from the ego self. The standard call from counsellors is to make smarter choices, to renounce drama and indulgence in favour of moderation and context.
This is a fine quest for those who do have too much attachment, but my experience is not that. Between my parents and my trans experience, I never owned that shark self, that entity who was selfish, not selfless. Ego was something that I never really found the energy to claim.
The other part of the problem is that ego is seen as masculine in this culture. Ego is a cocky thing, macho as hell. Ego teachers — they don’t call themselves that, of course, instead preaching about “the maximizing of human potential” or some such — usually come from the glands, a thumping kind of go-getter, balls to the wall approach.
Women who have this kind of drive have to choose between deciding to be ballsy or finding ways to identify their ambition & desires as service. We don’t want to be unfeminine, disconnected, or cold, even if we do want to “maximize our personal human potential.”
I’m good at service. I have spent the last few weeks taking care of my sister, even to the point of breaking the car driving through a storm to get her. I have been out for myself once in the past three weeks.
I don’t hate taking care of her. I like the service, the consideration. It is satisfying on some level, even as it is also frustrating and erasing to not get back what I really, really need in the relationship, instead walking on eggshells and cleaning up the messes that come from her messy, stressy, bollixed life.
What I’m not good at, though, is taking care of me. I’m not good at fighting for myself, not good at claiming my own identity, not good at feminine ego. Me, Me, Me, Me? No, no, no, no.
Ego and desire are intimately linked. You do have to get past ego to get desire clear, but just denying all your desire is also denying the ego drive that motivates claiming in the world; claiming the spotlight, claiming joy, claiming rights, claiming vitality.
When your identity is based on renouncing desire in an effort to renounce ego, based on the virtue of service and denial of indulgence, it is certainly possible to dry up and lose the drive that comes with desire. I trade vitality for virtuosity in order to claim the holy of the feminine, away from the indulgence of ego.
I live my inner life while denying my outer life, tolerating loss and squalor to be the good girl, even if that also makes me the sad girl, the lost girl, the very lonely girl.
A CD was taking pictures of me at the old Corvette museum and they told me “Smile! You’re the fat girl! You have to be jolly!” Yeah. And I am the smart girl too, having to be the caretaker, not the one cared for.
Life is usually a process where we start callow and end up wise. We are indulged, the centre of the world, then we learn context and service. I missed that early time, my exuberance & vitality locked inside from a very young age, facing the limits on transgender language & expression, facing the demands of family & role.
Martin Short’s memoir is full of crazy young people with a gift for funny being exuberant in the world. I was close to that era, with the same energy, but I never tested my wings, never followed my ego to be playful and full of life. That stick up my ass, the one I tried to use to act appropriately, kept me from so much beautiful and empowering indulgence. I understand the trade-off, finding the view of a hermetic theologian, but I also understand the struggle.
Claiming the indulgence of ego feels impossible to me. I know how to serve, but I also know that only serving ends up with me reacting rather than acting, with me meeting the needs of others but no one meeting my needs. My desires have been denied for so long, out of a combination of dedication to others and disbelief that I can ever achieve them, that they may as well be dust.
I become self-defeating, my denial leading to destruction and that damage leading me to more inner smarts and even less outer pizzazz.
Affirming and inflating my ego, owing my own hamminess — my Inner Merman — exuberantly claiming the spotlight in a chorus of “Yes, Yes, Yes!” seems too distant to imagine. Instead I negotiate the fears and unhealed spaces of others, being the guru who comes with patience, moderation and dedicated service, expecting to be too complicated, too challenging, too hip for the room.
I know why most people in this culture struggle to manage, constrain and move past the ego. I know why the ego, especially the concept of a feminine ego, is not venerated or celebrated.
I just sense that I could use a bit of that stuff.