Ego is one of the most common reasons why people plateau in their quest to become the best Melee players they can be. Ego interferes with improvement in many different ways. Even if you think you have your ego in check, you may realize in reading this that there are situations where it is at the heart of the problem, just not in an immediately apparent way.
With ego comes arrogance. Arrogance results in difficulty taking feedback. It can be hard to listen to someone who is way worse than you talk about the game. I get triggered all the time listening to terrible players talk about Melee. In spite of this, it would behoove us all to make sure we don’t neglect information about the game because it comes from an unexpected source. I’ve had to tell top players for years that powershielding doesn’t reduce shieldstun. Melee is a game full of mysterious mechanics, and no one knows everything about it. More commonly, ego makes us unable to take criticism about our gameplay. Sometimes players worse than you can notice bad habits or deficiencies that aren’t obvious to you. Ego might even be what obfuscates these deficiencies. Different players look at the game in different ways, so don’t ignore the possibility of insight from anyone. This is particularly relevant if you are trying to level up in doubles, where ego is by far the most problematic thing in social dynamics between teammates.
Work ethic is important for improvement at anything and is one of the most common deficiencies in Melee players. Ego can damage your work ethic because of complacency and arrogance. You might have been able to do 100 perfect ledgedashes last week, so then you’ll feel like you don’t need to practice it anymore. Reliable tech skill comes at the price of eternal vigilance. Don’t neglect practicing your bread and butter “because you’re already good at it.” How many hours do you think Armada and M2K have spent comboing CPUs, and yet, they still beat up CPUs before getting on stage. Work ethic doesn’t just mean practicing tech skill either. It means maintaining the same fire you had when you were getting wrecked by your rival month after month. If you lost to someone for years, and then you beat them week after week, it’s easy to fall into complacency. Regardless of how good you are, you still need to go to tournaments and work on implementing new things. The beauty of Melee is that there is no skillcap; we should all strive to implement new things and polish our gameplay until the end of days. Don’t tell yourself that after you lose a friendly to an arcadian that you would have won if it were tournament—think about what you can learn from the game you just played. Don’t john to protect your ego.
Ego makes you isolate yourself from situations that potentially damage it. We all have friends who do disproportionately well against us for what our supposed respective skill levels are. Most of us hate playing these people. Our egos hate that we do worse than we feel we should. The fact of the matter is that these are people that you should actively seek out to play because their playstyle exploits weaknesses in your own. Ego makes us want to avoid situations where we can get upset in tournament, or even avoid giving someone a runback after beating them. Don’t avoid matches because you “have nothing to prove” and don’t seek out matches because you have to prove something for the sake of your ego. To improve as rapidly as possible, you should play as much as possible against players who can potentially beat you. It’s easy to attribute losing to factors outside of your control. But factors outside your control are just that—outside your control. Hence, it’s pointless to focus on them, because your own deficiencies are within your realm of influence.
Expectations for results are an understandable reality of being a competitor. However, having your ego tied to these results can take you out of the moment. Our lives are the cumulation of a series of present moments. There is nothing you can do to change the past. The present has a deterministic relationship to the future, such that the only way to affect the future is through the decisions we make in the present. The future does not exist as anything except an intangible idea.
Don’t let your ego make you worry about intangible meaningless concerns. When playing a tournament set, all your focus should be dedicated to what your opponent is doing, what he’s likely to do, and what options are available to you to counter theirs. This is the last time you want to have thoughts creeping in about results. The easiest way to get upset by someone you “should” beat is to start thinking about things like what people are going to say about you losing, how losing will affect your power ranking, how you should be winning, how you are so much better than your opponent, etc. All of these thoughts are inextricably linked to your ego. Focus on the game and not perception of your skill. Learning to silence your ego and have stillness of mind will result in your performance being better and vastly more consistent.