Doctor Stephen Strange is in trouble. So are all the other magic users in the Marvel Comics Universe. Empirikul (once more, reporting the news, not making it) has come and he has brought his rage and his army with the intent to destroy everything magical in every conceivable dimension. Sorcerers Supreme are being slaughtered. Artefacts are being drained. Magical creatures are dying. Already Strange & Co (Scarlet Witch, Talisman, Mystical, and several others) are scrambling for scraps; useless weapons; and final, exhausted sparks.
The price of using the remaining magic has increased exponentially though Strange is no… ahem, stranger, to shelling out his body and soul in exchange for the use of his powers. Unfortunately, it seems despite his altruistic motivations, his need has outpaced his ability to cover the metaphysical checks he’s writing. Strange, and his assistant Wong, have found a new reserve: a monster they created from pain and suffering who lives in the Sanctum’s basement. Wong is also utilizing an order of monks who, when in meditative states, can, and have agreed, to siphon some of the consequences from Strange, though it appears to inevitably result in the monk’s demise (Strange has no knowledge of the arrangement or, at the very least, hasn’t asked any questions).
Stephen Strange does Important Work.
Does he accept the consequences of his actions? Yup.
What he has failed to do, however, is respect his limitations. What he has failed to see is the consequences others experience when he flirts with the edge and then, inevitably, slips and falls.
Strange lives the service of others but with a dangerously supreme confidence of self.
In other words? An ego the size of North America.
Ego isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Ego, in the sense the word indicates an awareness of self, keeps us alive. It make us aware of the needs and wants that fuel our motivation. It grants us the desire to leave a legacy, to make a difference. Ego doesn’t always equate with “selfishness” insofar as it can bolster our self-confidence. Perhaps we publish a book that changes, or simply brightens, another person’s day. Prods us to talk to someone new who, it turns out, really needed a friend. To try something different. To submit an application that lands us a spot on the GeekMom masthead even though the part of us that believed it would happen was very, very tiny indeed.
There is, however, certainly such thing as too much ego.
Where is the line? For Strange, it’s a literal monster. For most of us, that monster is a plunge into resentment and self-absorption. The place where we start forgetting what we do has at minimum the potential to negatively affect others.
I am terrified of being “selfish.” Which, as much as I whole heartedly endorse my friends taking time for themselves, equates, for me and only me, to always considering my own needs last. Always. The etiology of the phobia is… both simple and complex and you’ll just have to take my word such a thing is possible. Also, if I’m honest, and I do try to be, I am well aware defining the former by the later is quite silly for a grown woman. Alas, brain worm has been in there for the greater part of three decades and the roots are too deep to be dug out by common sense.
I don’t sleep enough. I scarf meals while I make nice lunches and dinners for my family. I’m often on edge. I am frustrated and cranky more often than I would like. I mean, not constantly, but definitely more than would be my preference. I feel guilty about everything which means when I do finally get to family time, I feel horrible about wanting to sneak away for some alone time, terrible when I’m not 100% focused on the kids. When I’m on chat or have writing inspiration or want to finish a good book.
In summary: I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, have a a healthy ego.
You’d think being aware of the fact would go at least part of the way to my achieving what I lack. It does not. It just makes resent myself.
Doctor Strange’s ego is, by contrast, perhaps a bit too healthy.
That it gives him the confidence to risk his own life to save others? To be Sorcerer Supreme? To defend magic against all odds? Awesomesauce.
That it leads him to harness agony and be certain he can control it? That he thinks himself powerful enough to contain it? That he doesn’t consider the consequences for others because he has a need that must be met and his mission is important enough to warrant such blatant disregard for the lives of others?
And there you have the line.
A healthy ego, then, lies somewhere between Stephen Strange’s and mine.
Healthy ego is balanced. Knowing what you need, knowing what you want, being able to separate the two. Asking for the former, requesting the later, understanding there may have to be compromises. Making sure the people you love are getting what they need and some of what they want. Being aware that even complete strangers are worthy of your regard and consideration.
Knowing your limits. Knowing theirs. Pushing, flexing, stretching if that’s what you want, if that’s what others want, but never going so far as to break. Respecting a “no,” or a “that makes me uncomfortable,” or an “I need some space.”
You don’t have to agree. You don’t always have to acquiesce. When you do, it doesn’t always have to be graceful or without grudge. You don’t always have to understand.
But you must respect and know that you, in turn, are deserving of the same respect.
You must always consider the consequences. For you. For those you care about. For the world at large if the decision is big enough, portentous enough.
Don’t be me. But don’t be Stephen Strange either, at least, not the ego bit of him. Some of the other stuff is pretty damn cool (and in an upcoming Padawans, I have ever intention of using him as an example of someone who has an excellent grasp on the use of humor as survival mechanism).
Respect. be respected. Be your best self and help others to do the same. Have the confidence to do more while respecting your comfort zone, your limits. Don’t neglect others. Don’t neglect yourself.
More complex that it sounds?
But never impossible.