You Are Not Your Ego
The information I am sharing today is based on a book called A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle. It is one of the few resources I have come across in my life that has shifted the way my mind works and how I process my emotions.
In the book, Tolle introduces the concept of having an ego. We usually think of somebody that believes that they are better than everyone else when we hear the word "ego." For the sake of the ego that I am discussing, that is not what I want you to think. Preferably, I want you to see the ego as this identity that we have created. For example, you might say to yourself: “I am a great artist or a hard worker” or “I do not think anyone likes me.” All of these thoughts, whether they are positive or negative, is the ego.
The ego is hidden in the words I, me, my, or mine.
- "I am a hard worker."
- "My body is ugly."
These beliefs about our personalities, talents, and our abilities are examples of our ego. It is a mental construction that we have created of ourselves. The more we identify with these things as being a reality, the more the ego produces emotional drama in our lives.
Characteristics of the Ego
There are a few aspects of the ego that are important to notice. For one, the ego loves identifying with key things that enhances its sense of self-worth.
- "That’s my car, my partner, my clothes."
- "This is my life, my story."
The ego also loves comparing our positive attributes to someone else’s negative attributes or vice versa.
- "Why am I always the hard worker, and he’s always so lazy?"
- "Those people are successful, but I’m a failure."
The ego loves attaching itself to labels because labels enforce that sense of self. It is always me versus them. When we validate labels, we feed the ego.
Complaining is undoubtedly another aspect of the ego that also helps to strengthen it. Whether we are just complaining to ourselves or to others, this specific action is what makes the ego thrive. For example, let's say we are unsatisfied with our physical appearance. Subconsciously, the ego tells us that maybe if we obtain beautiful things, then we too will be beautiful. We convince ourselves these new material possessions will boost our self-worth. The thing about the ego is it is never completely satisfied. That feeling of pleasure that comes precisely after retail therapy is always short lived. The ego is already looking for something else, wanting something more.
Spotting the Ego
If we want to spot the ego, we need to look for the trail of emotional drama. This manifests itself in distinct feelings of dissatisfaction, anxiety, anger, and insecurity. These feelings are typically strongly associated with our sense of self-image. Anytime you notice yourself saying the words, I, Me, My, or Mine, chances are your ego is at play here. For example, we never cared about the car until it became my car. We did not feel envious about that person until they became my partner. Any time we feel as if we lack something, it is usually ego.
The ego always wants more. more success, more money, and more attention. Anytime the ego does not feel like it has enough of something, it can make us feel as if we are the ones that are not enough. We can never fully get rid of the ego. It will always be there. How strong of a role it plays in our lives depends on how much we let it run free unconsciously.
Reducing the Ego’s Presence
Now that we know how to spot the ego, we can go over effective ways that we can reduce its presence in our lives. Start by being more open and honest. When our friends and family ask us how we are doing, we may naturally tend to tell them we are doing great. If we tell them that we are doing great, but we are not, that is the ego. The ego is trying to maintain a certain self-image of being happy or perfect. Instead, try being open and honest. Tell the person how you feel. Keep in mind, if you start complaining that would be the ego again.
Another thing that we can do is to find value in the work we do. We should view our work as something that provides value instead of viewing it as something that we do for recognition, fame, or monetary gain. Acting in a selfless way for other people is another way we can transcend the ego. We should not be doing things because we expect something in return, but because we feel it benefits the greater good.
The last place that the ego does not exist in our lives is when we are in the present moment. The ego cannot be bothered by thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Being in the present moment can come about in different ways. You can be cooking or spending time with others. You can spend time in nature, writing gratitude lists, or playing with your pets. If you are struggling with focusing on the now, I heartily recommend meditating, exercising, or practicing yoga. These are the precise moments, the now moments when the ego is not present in our lives.
Transcending the Ego
Eckhart Tolle states that the key way to transcend the ego is to become aware of it. The problem is the ego is usually hidden in the stream of the unconscious. The ego is hidden in thoughts that run through our minds every single day. The person who is aware knows that thoughts are just thoughts and that feelings are just feelings, but they are not us. We are not identified with it. Awareness of the ego is the key to transcending it.
These concepts of the ego are just the basics of what the ego is and the role that it can play in our lives. We need to personify the ego, separate it from ourselves and carefully observe it. Observe what it does, and how it behaves. By practicing these techniques, you can overcome your ego and relieve any shallow short-lived happiness and uneasiness.