It’s hard to have a healthy ego because these days it’s under attack wherever you go.
It seems like all I hear in yoga is that there is too much ego. Too many teachers have ego. Too many students have ego. Instagram is filled with photos of yogis with ego, ego and more ego.
The ego is like a puppy that’s being constantly swatted with a rolled up newspaper.
Those of us with children do not have to worry about keeping our ego in check. Their sole purpose in life is to keep us humble. Over the years, mine have told me:
- “Do not wear shorts to the soccer field. It is too embarrassing.”
- “Do not speak. Do not open your mouth. Do not even breathe if you are with me.”
- “Do not say you are my mother. I don’t want anyone to know we are related.”
Then there is Hot Yoga, which is the ultimate ego-killer. You are supposed to look in the mirror including the real estate between the top of your shorty shorts and the bottom of your bra.
Teacher: “Look your reality in the eye.”
Me: “Ego, be quiet and let me concentrate on staying alive.”
It’s a wonder any of us can have a healthy sense of self-esteem, especially in yoga pants. Why are we all not lying broken on a bathroom floor? Do we need medical or herbal mood enhancers?
My mood enhancer used to be yoga. In the beginning, yoga gave me a sense of achievement and a shot of self-esteem. My teachers would say, “You can do it,” and “Don’t give up.”
That was before I could touch my toes.
Now that my practice is more advanced, I am often told to let go of my ego—um, if I let go of it anymore I will be awash in Zoloft. Again.
Here are five ways to have a healthy ego, even if someone tells you to let it go:
1. Be clear on what is ego and what is self-centeredness.
The primary definition of ego is recognition of the self, being in touch with external reality and having self-esteem.
Only when the ego is out of balance does it become an exaggerated sense of self-importance, or conceitedness.
Hence, ego is ego, and conceitedness is conceitedness. If one had no ego, they’d be lying around on anti-depressants all day. Is that really what we want as yogis? Do we want to cultivate a lack of self-worth? Come on, stand tall, be proud in that Lycra and for Godsakes stop letting go of your self-esteem.
2. Only you can tell your ego to f*#k off.
Often when our ego raises its ugly side, it’s because we are hurting, like a puppy that’s been smacked. It can lash out and bite with a display of pride not as aggression, but as self-protection. Know when you need to take care of yourself. And if your ego won’t calm down, then tell it to [email protected]#k off. You are still in control.
3. When teachers put you down, walk away.
If a teacher demeans or belittles your practice by saying you have too much ego, you have a choice. You can find a nugget of truth, or, you can walk away. Nobody can put you down without your permission. Nobody. Often, when a teacher tells a student they have too much ego, it is actually about the teacher feeling threatened—this is not your problem.
4. Ignore the stupid sh*t on Facebook.
People on Facebook tend to report the positive things they do and other people tend to bash it. I recently posted a photo of a student who finally got a yoga pose she had been working on for months. Almost immediately it received a nasty comment that it was full of ego. Um, no. This is what hard work looks like and the comment was more about petty jealousy.
I have a saying that when everybody is acting kind of weird and mean, maybe it’s not everybody else. Maybe it’s you! So sit. Breathe. Turn off the noise. Tune out the world and get in touch with what is going on inside. If we listen, sometimes our prayers are answered, and we might even understand our own ego if we’re lucky.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise