Music, My Teacher: Ego

from Knowing Who I Am by NIANELL

Posted 11/12/12 | Updated 5/25/23

I have learned so much from being a musician and performing artist, and I am very grateful for this gift called music. Being able to sing and write songs is wonderfully fulfilling, and I am incredibly blessed. Through music I am able to express my emotions and feelings, escape reality at times, dream, inspire myself, motivate myself, encourage myself, and forgive myself. Music has taught me almost everything I know, and I am very thankful for this.

Sadly, I must confess that I wasn’t always thankful. I remember resenting my talent when the teasing during high school became too much for me, and later in life I put a lot of pressure on myself to make something of my gift. I had extremely high expectations, and felt I owed it to myself and everyone I knew to make a success of my talent. In the early stages of my career, my burning ambition and desire for success consumed me night and day and turned me into a workaholic, and when I did achieve success, I still wasn’t satisfied; I felt that my gift deserved more from me than I had already given.

According to Dr. Wayne Dyer, an expert on positive thinking, the ego will always try to convince us that our self-worth is measured by what we have, what we have achieved, and the approval we receive from others; and almost every problem in the world today stems from our need to accumulate more, our ambition to achieve more, and our need for approval. The ego can be ruthless; even more so when we do not realize that it is merely our false sense of self. The true self needs nothing from this world; it knows that everything has already been done for us by the Creator of everything and that we are perfect and complete as we are.

I learned early on that life is not about what we accumulate — material wealth means nothing in the end — but I have struggled with ambition. I wanted to prove that I could achieve great success with my talent, and seeking approval has always been my biggest drawback.

There’s nothing wrong with accumulating earthly possessions, being ambitious, or seeking approval, as long as we are spiritually motivated by unconditional love for ourselves and others, and not driven by the need to elevate the ego, receive something in return, or prove something.

Let me try to explain it this way: If I make music only to sell a lot of downloads, make lots of money, become famous, and please everyone, I might or might not end up being rich and famous, but I will most probably end up feeling unfulfilled. If I make music that comes from my heart and soul so that I can do what I love and uplift and inspire those with whom I share my music, I might or might not end up rich and famous, but I am guaranteed to be happy and fulfilled.

My ego sticks its ugly head out from time to time, and I often have to put it back in its place. If I am not aware of it, something will soon remind me. When I was chosen to become an ambassador for the “Be Namibian, Buy Namibian” campaign (for which the Namibian president is also an ambassador), I felt that it was a great honor to be able to represent the country of my birth, and I took time out of my busy schedule to fly there to help promote this campaign, even though I wasn’t going to be compensated.

I just assumed that they would be flying me business class (I am, after all, very important), and I was a bit offended when I found out I would be flying economy class. Sitting on the plane feeling unappreciated, I asked God if I was out of line, and immediately heard a voice in my head saying, “… and Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey.” Well, that brought me back down to economy class in a hurry! We are all very important, but no one is more important than anyone else.

I have noticed that the most talented artists in the music industry are usually also the most humble. It’s when we still feel that we have a lot to prove that our egos sometimes get the better of us. On the other hand, the opposite is also quite often the case, as beautifully illustrated in the television advertisement where an arrogant man says to the lady at an airport counter, “Excuse me, but do you know who I am?” She leans into the public address system and says, “Attention please, does anyone know this man? He doesn’t seem to know who he is.” When you feel offended by a person or a situation, you can be sure that it’s your ego at work; it’s good to be able to remind ourselves of that before someone else does it for us.

©2012 by Nianell. All rights reserved.

Knowing Who I Am by Nianell

NIANELL is a gifted singer with an impressive four octave vocal range, a talented musician and songwriter, and a stirring keynote speaker.