Eat your ego with self biscuits
If anyone could be supposed to have erred on the side of narcissism in loving their ego, it's surely a well known comedian who rose to prominence on a personality that shone more brightly and brashly than those of the celebrities she used to cement her fame. But Wax's qualifications to speak on the topic of ego go beyond public exhibitions of over-confidence. She has openly spoken of her experience of depression, for which she still takes medication, has trained in psychotherapy to better understand her own mind, and now tirelessly campaigns on behalf of mental illness. Insofar as it's possible to really know a celebrity, it appears that Ruby Wax is a more humble character today.
From the 'pulpit' of Conway Hall, Wax delivered laugh-out-loud messages on ego that seemed to owe less to her current Masters studies in neuroscience and more to her tumultuous life experience. She described the "big genes" which programmed her to "avoid being a write-off" despite the obscurity that could have resulted from a nasty group of glossy-haired peers and an overbearing mother who dressed her daughter in dirndl and lederhosen (further inviting the taunts of the aforementioned peers).
She also talked about the unfortunate condition of having one brain, rather than two - the bitch being that when your ego is out of control, you are ultimately what's wrong with you: there's no second, rational consciousness in your head voicing a desperately needed dose of reality. Wax is now confidently able to separate her public persona from the 'real' Ruby, having long ago realised it was the fake version of herself getting invited to parties that the genuine woman would have never been interesting enough to attend.
If there was a lesson in her sermon for all of us, it may have been that external levels of interest in your person should not act as a barometer of your satisfaction with who you are: confidence must come from within. But we had to search hard for that lesson! Once the sermon was finished and the final pop 'hymn' sung, a few people confessed over tea and biscuits that the sermon, rather than being about how to love our own egos, seemed to have been all about Ruby Wax.
By Michelle Newell
The School of Life's quirky Sunday Sermons are delivered monthly by maverick cultural figures, addressing different ideas for life. The next sermon, Oliver James on Envy, is on Sunday 29 November 2009. The cost is £10.00, including tea, biscuits, and optional confessional with the Devil.