Ego has always had a bad connotation for me through such words as egotistical and ego-maniac. Positive feeling associations do not really come with those words. But ego means more than that to me. For me, ego is that part of yourself that has forgotten the truth of life; the part that is constantly striving to be superior but often feeling inferior; judging others (aloud or secretly in your mind); the part that has to make others wrong so it can be right; the part that fears and worries about physical survival; it is in turmoil and confusion; lives for the future; tries to control circumstances to get desired expectations; associates with thinking and logic rather than feelings from the heart; doesn’t understand what you do to another you do to yourself because we are all connected; the part that wants people’s admiration, respect, attention and good opinion and must have this to prove its worth; the part that has no connection to God and thus is in a continual struggle to prove its worth in order to validate its very existence. After awhile, issues of the ego get exhausting. All stress comes from the ego.
Many self-help theories say the ego is not good if it drives your life; but that the ego should not be dismissed completely because it has its values, such as physical protection. That is where I stood for many years where the ego is concerned. Lately, however, I had been re-thinking that. I feel like the ego was making me pay a high price for its physical protection. Sort of like a mob deal- ‘I will protect you from the bad guys that want to kill you, but you’ve got to hand over 75 percent of your peace and joy in return.’ It seemed to me that it was an all or nothing situation. And for me the ego was in all of my situations. My ego was the driver and we had been on an awfully long, dramatic and exhausting road trip with no finish in sight. I was ready to put the ego, not just in the backseat, but out of my car completely!
How the Ego Shows Up
In order to transcend the ego, – er, kick it out of my car! – I think it is imperative to get a keen awareness of it so as not to get tricked by its cleverness. For me, the ego has very strong thoughts and suggestions that come across in a matter-of-fact way and have a sort of rationality and logic to them. My ego often makes me feel like I would be dumb not to follow its advice. Sometimes I feel high anxiety from how the ego wants me to be. Some examples…
At work, I often have anxiety about making mistakes. I want my work to be perfect. Well, I don’t care about perfection, but my ego does. It wants to be one hundred percent correct, one hundred percent of the time. Actually, even that is not the truth. The ego only cares about what people see and think about my work. If the work is not perfect and nobody knows, that is just fine for the ego. It is only concerned with how people perceive me.
While hiking on vacation in the Grand Canyon, I was petrified – to the point of my legs shaking-because of the steep descent of the trail. I told Don I needed to abort this hike! Looks like ego was looking out for my physical protection, right? As he hiked off and basically ignored my plea, he asked me, what was I so afraid of? Through much contemplation (details in a blog entry for another day), I figured out I was really afraid of what people would think of me if I died or got seriously injured on this hike. I didn’t fear dying or getting hurt, I feared people’s negative thoughts about me!
How has ego showed up in your life?
In a nutshell, worrying about ego issues, such as these, is a major deterrent to joy. How can we truly be joyful when we are acting from a place of what others will think or say or acting out of a need for their good judgments? More importantly, how can we not care about the opinions of others? By having self-worth. Next entry, please.