Many of us have big egos and some of us have the problems that can come along with this.
Some of the time a big ego won’t even admit it’s big, let alone that it has problems.
In all honesty, I have a big ego, but thankfully it’s no longer a serious pain in my ass. Back in the day it used to be though.
It was angry, self-absorbed, depressed, stubborn and crazy. Okay, well it still may be a little crazy.
It used to get upset about something not going its way. It had an unjustified sense of entitlement. It was more likely to react instantly to situations instead of accessing its executive thinking capacity to respond appropriately to the circumstances. It would piss a lot of people off too, instead of now the rare few (well, we can’t please everybody). And it would always behave in inconsistent and self-sabotaging ways.
Sometimes it was ruthless to itself and at other times it was actually compassionate. Yet it would continue to hurt itself over and over again. It set itself up for failure with too many expectations and too many desires. Too many to actually be met.
But now I look back and feel fucking relieved. It was a long time ago that I realised that my ego was stopping me being content with life. Turns out it just needed to give itself some tough love and a little nurturing, and this was a lot harder then it sounds.
Since then I have spent much of my time helping myself, and professionally helping others, to overcome the suffering that our egos subject ourselves to. And to enlighten it. Check out the adult only ‘10 Spotlights on Enlightenment’.
“Ego is the immediate dictate of human consciousness.” – Max Planck
So what is our ego? Isn’t our ego what we are?
Yes and No. For the purpose of this article, when I say ‘ego’ I succinctly mean the part of us that thinks and feels “I am Me”. It’s the beliefs that we have about ourselves. It’s all our thoughts, feelings and memories. It’s all of our activity which explains ourselves as separate from everything else. In this definition, it is the combination of the rational, moral, intuitive and instinctual capacities.
This is contrary to what is usually believed about the ego. It is sometimes portrayed as a negative, self-absorbed aspect of the personality. But the ego can also be open, kind and giving; it is everything negative and positive about whom we are.
What, then, is not our ego?
It’s our ground state; our pure self. Our individuality is a finite flame in the eternal fire and our ego is our flame’s heat. The non-ego part of us is our flame, before the ego starts to define it, as well as the entire fire.
To be absolutely clear, it’s not our individual awareness which is our ego, but everything which defines what our individual awareness is. What we identify as characteristics and beliefs about ourselves are reflections of our ego. It is all our personality traits—good and bad—which means it can also be functional and healthy, or the opposite.
What is the role of the ego?
Our ego is obviously necessary for many reasons. It helps us to maintain a separate (albeit illusory) self and therefore survive and potentially thrive. So it’s not going anywhere, nor do we want it to. It just needs to work out how to manage itself right.
So when I say that my ego may be a little crazy, I mean, Phil may be a little crazy. Therefore, our ego talks to itself. It says: “Hey mate, you’re being a dick.” Or, “You may want to stop and think for a moment before you do something stupid”. Our ego-voice-of-reason tells our ego-instinct to keep it in our pants. Or allows it.
Effectively, our rational ego self, can train itself. It can say: “You’re being illogical, how about you be more reasonable cos’ you’re fucking up our mojo.” It also trains other areas: “You know being angry and sad hasn’t worked positively for you in the past Einstein, so maybe it’s time to think and feel differently.” It continues: “So now that you say you want to change, I’ll monitor the situation and make sure you bloody well do, because we both know how many times you’ve said that before.” (See ‘How to Change in 3 Simple Steps’).
“A big ego isn’t problematic until it executes priorities at the cost of itself and others.”
So what is a big ego?
A big ego has a powerful confidence in itself and a big ego problem arises when it is closed to change. It’s extremely strong-willed and has conviction in its stance, which is why for its own health and for the positive impact on others, it should aim for true self-empowerment. There are many people who have super strong egos, some of which have big ego problems and others who don’t. Generally it comes down to whether they truly give a fuck about other people or not.
What does a big ego that’s healthy look like?
A big functional ego is balanced; it can be a confident, crazy and creative extrovert, but at other times it can also be a playful and vulnerable introvert. See “Nurture Our Inner Child and Free our Inner Guru.”
It’s a big personality. It’s loud, even in silence. Yet it’s neither self-absorbed nor insensitive to the needs of the people around it. It is kind and loving. It genuinely cares for itself and others and will sacrifice its desires for another’s benefit. It lives on the edge and tests boundaries, but it does so as respectfully as possible. It’s definitely open to change and actually craves it.
And what about big ego problems?
“Let’s face it; God has a big ego problem. Why do we always have to worship him?” – Bill Maher
Generally, any ego with problems is consumed by itself or suffering from itself. And it also causes pain for others. So then, when problems emerge from a big ego, it can have an extremely detrimental impact on itself and those around it because a big ego already has a big impact on everything. Additionally, a big ego with a problem will usually worship itself above all others too.
If we think we may have a big ego as well as the problems, then we should ask ourselves the following questions:
- Do we make a scene over little things that don’t go our way?
- Are we so immersed in ourselves that we struggle to have empathy for others?
- Are we vane and do we excessively love our own ego?
- Is changing and evolving our ego difficult?
- Are we always pissed off or upset in our daily lives?
- Are we so self-centred that we always put ourselves first?
- Is our image of ourselves and how others view us one of our top priorities?
- Are we spiteful and generally disrespectful towards others?
- Does being overly competitive bring emotional dysfunction to our life?
- Do we aim to tear apart perceived threats with gossip and lies?
- When our ego is hurt, does it hurt really badly?
Answering yes to any of these questions potentially indicates problems with our ego. It may even be classified as narcissistic behaviour.
An unhealthy ego wants more. It wants to want more. It doesn’t fully embrace what it has and is therefore not content. Having resentment, jealousy or anger is an unhealthy attachment to our ego desires. It’s unhealthy if our ego says: “I should have had something else than what I got, so I’m going to fuck shit up.” That’s because itself is suffering during that process.
“I own and operate a ferocious ego.” – Bill Moyers
There’s nothing wrong with a fiery ego, yet most of us think that the guy acting all ‘road raged’ should chill the fuck out. The same goes with that mother going off her nut in the shopping centre because her children are being children. But what about the person obsessed with their own image? Or the people who believe they’re better than others and are always trying to prove so?
These are all examples of unhealthy ego self-attachment. Coupled with a big ego, the shit can really hit the fan.
A big ego with problems wants a particular outcome at all costs, or it may feel superior to its fellow man, so when it doesn’t get its ego fix, out comes the ego-monster to rip apart the seams of its injustice.
A big ego with problems loves to blame others for how it feels. I like to call it Blamism. “It’s my parents fault for the way they brought me up,” or “it’s the government’s fault for the policies they institute,” or “it’s my ex-partners fault because they broke my heart.” Blaming others is a cop-out; it merely justifies the ego feeling helpless and inhibits it from taking on the responsibility to change itself.
So, let me be clear: we think and feel the way we do because of ourselves and it’s only us that can change it. It’s also important to note that balancing out our ego and managing the aspects of ourselves that could potentially turn out unhealthy and dysfunctional will never end to the day we die. So let’s bloody own it.
Here’s a tip: the single most motivating factor to overcome big ego problems is that they cause suffering for everyone involved including ourselves! Do we really want to unnecessarily hurt ourselves and others? I fucking well hope not!
The simple fact remains that we have the power to control how we think, feel and act. I advocate for living the way of the v-three; that is, virtuous thinking, feeling and action. If we operate virtuously, we do ourselves and everyone else a service. It’s that easy. For more see my related article “Have We Achieved Real Success.”
Ultimately, we should aim to have a healthy ego. It should have a balanced attachment to itself. This means it should be attached in ways that is functional for its existence but not attached in ways that reinforces the pain and suffering of itself and others. That’s how to maintain a healthy big ego.
“A big bold ego leads itself into the depths of disconnection whilst knowing itself as fundamentally faux.”
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Editor: Renée Picard
Images: Pixoto / Elephant archives