It’s natural to protect ourselves. The world is scary and there are real threats out there. Unfortunately, we spend far more time defending ourselves than we ever really need to do. Let me explain.
There is a vast difference between real and perceived threats. Real threats endanger our very existence, whereas perceived threats initiate unwarranted anxiety. You certainly need to be aware of real threats, and to do that, it’s extraordinarily important to listen to your instinct. You also need to be aware of what is a perceived threat, but not an actual danger to you.
Anxiety is a crippling phenomenon, and the anxiety that stems from perceived threats can be devastating. All too often, however, we experience anxiety (or a perceived threat) when others challenge our egos. A challenge to your ego rarely translates into an actual threat, but it can certainly feel like it. For example, when someone disagrees with your opinions or viewpoint, you are likely to interpret that as a real threat, when, in fact, it is most likely a perceived one.
As much as you believe with all your heart that what you believe is true and that those with differing beliefs are simply “naive,” “mean,” or “outright wrong,” the truth is that certainty is often an illusion, and unnecessarily defending your ego can result in emotional pain and relationship turmoil. There is a time to defend yourself from real threats, and there is a time to let go of perceived ones. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which is which, but be mindful of the fact that your ego does not likely need as much protecting as you might think.