what Goa taught me about ego

what Goa taught me about ego

I’m writing this piece, albeit a little shaken up, from a beautiful cafe / healing center in Southern Goa called The Space Goa. Space Goa is in the small town of unspoiled, white pristine beaches and colourful shacks called Palolem.

from then till now: golden goa

Throughout history, Goa was one of India’s main trading hubs till the Portuguese took rule in 1510. The Portuguese turned it into the Asia capital of their kingdom to control the spice trade. The Goan bazaars flourished – there’s a Portuguese proverb that even states “He who has seen Goa need not see Lisbon”. Golden Goa stayed prosperous till the Dutch started patrolling the Indian waters, blocking access to the city.

Though Goa is the smallest state in India, it still takes 2 hours to travel from the North to the South. Modern day North Goa is more about partying and clubs, while Southern Goa is more about relaxation, quiet and peace.

I booked 2 nights at Woodstock Village Bamboo Cottages, a beautiful paradise next to a gorgeous stretch of Benaulim Beach. Benaulim is at the beginning of South Goa. It’s next to the famous Colva beach so tourists Benaulim has stayed off most people’s radars.

Generally, the beaches in Goa are very different kind of relaxation, there’s an element of serenity to it. I saw wild dogs chasing crows, cows getting washed, locals playing cricket.

exploration of the south

I dedicated my second day to exploring south southern Goa. I rented a scooter to hit up Palolem, Agonda and the surrounding natural beauty as it’s a 2 hour ride away. Though I just learned how to ride a scooter, I figured why not? I’ve always told myself that the best way to learn a new skill is to throw myself into it and be fully immersed – when you’re forced to do something for a long period of time, you have no option but to carry one.

So here I was with my scooter. The journey started seamlessly. I was maneuvering well, going at a safe speed – it was like biking, but faster and with absolutely zero effort apart from the flick of my wrist. I rode past palm trees with leaves shimmying to the warm ocean breeze, I rode over glittering rivers with colourful homestays dotting it’s coast. Each additional moment I rode, I rode with an increasing confidence. This is great, I thought, I’m a natural.

Then suddenly, everything did a 180. I was accessing an upward hairpin on the side of a mountain when two motorbikes sped at me from the opposite direction. I panicked and in a split second, my hands clammed up, I lost speed and I fell. I toppled off the road and a meter or two down the bend of the mountain. Lucky for me, there was a bush so I collapsed onto a mass of mini thorns rather than rocks, or worse.

all it took was one second

Nothing and no one was to blame but me.

My negligence. My cockiness. My ego.

The ego is a dangerous thing. Stripped away of fancy words and analyses, Egos are superimposed images we have of ourselves. It is who we think we should be based on 3 things –

  1. I am: belief
  2. I think I am: aspiration
  3. I will instead be: movement

These three pieces combined allows us to survive and grow, and gives us the necessary confidence to leave our comfort zone. But like a double sided sword, the ego also generates blind faith that often creates harm to you or those around you.

Take my accident for example. There were facts, there were beliefs, there were desires to master a new skill. In this case, the Ego allowed me to jump and take the first step towards conquering a new skill, but it also grabbed me back by the throat just when I was starting to get comfortable.

yin yang of the ego

Some may say the Ego is good – for you never make the shots you don’t fire. Others may say the answer is Ego is an evil that we have to keep in check – that it’s important we stay humble.

I’m not winning a Nobel Prize by stating that our society favors the former. We reward the ego – our conditioning has taught us to prefer those who are bold, always ask for more, and believe that they should get exactly what they want.

But is this the right attitude? Is it good that the majority of big companies are run by people who don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and want to replace themselves with others with similar personalities? During one of my earlier performance reviews, I recall my then-manager telling me that I do amazing work, everyone on the team loves working with me, but I need to change the way I communicate. I needed to be louder, more assertive, more demanding. This puzzled me for a long, long time. Why am I asked to change my style when everything is working out fine?

I learned recently, years after that conversation, that my manager wanted me to improve my confidence rather than the way I speak. “Faking it till I make it” was an extremely valid attitude (probably even encouraged) to my manager. But to me, that sounded lofty – why would someone respect me if I have no substance, no experience, no knowledge?

This goes back to our society’s obsession of the ego and how we assume those with the bigger ego are the ones who are more successful. Is this a result of our conditioning (this is the way things have been, so therefore, we accept it and fulfill the assumption)? Or is it actually true (those who do have a bigger ego do posses the skills to get ahead)?

a request

Regardless of the answer to the unanswered question above, I’ve learned during my travels that louder voices often does not mean more success, just more unthoughtful words. Shooting out 100 ideas to get 1 does not make one better and more innovative than a person who makes the one shot they fire. Our society needs to better balance between these two conflicting personalities as it stretches across gender, race and culture.

There’s no easy solution apart from work on both sides. The quieter, more introverted ones (what I identify as myself) need to help themselves and raise their voices a little louder to be heard a little better. After all, no one will hear the idea that is not said. And to the rest of society, we ask that everyone reflects more the words/phrases that are being emitted. Serenity brings about more mindful ideas and no one needs more noise to circumscribe our daily lives.


(Sent from Goa, India)