“To serve your ego is to worship a false identity created by yourself. It is like someone suffering from amnesia reinventing herself because she has forgotten who she is.” ~ The Tao is Tao, 80
The ego is similar to an imaginary friend or what some people may describe as a second self. We can compare it to a character we dress up, assign a personality to and role-play as. It allows us to externally appear however we want to, regardless of how we actually feel inside.
Even though I personally don’t believe that as adults we need an ego for most things, I cannot disagree that they exist. Most of us use it to some extent as it creates a self-image that we attach concepts to in order to express ourselves in whichever way we choose.
The ego is manipulative. It is a false portrayal of who we are and it allows us to create a reality that falsely determines our self-worth.
Some people tap in and out of their ego, while other people exist cocooned within it—with very little, if any, connection to their core self. The core self is the essence of our authentic natural state and it does not require any external validation. The self-image that we portray through our ego is usually an inflated, alternative version of our core self.
The ego is nourished and grows stronger from external connection and validation, our core self is nourished and grows stronger from internal connection and validation.
When our ego is dominant we will struggle to reach a place of inner peace and harmony as we are aiming for a version of personal success that is dependent upon external validation.
Using the illusion of an ego is a way of separating our core self from the identity we display to the world. We mistakenly trick ourselves into believing that our ego is our true identity to protect our core self. Egos avoid having to face the fear of exposing our core self, fear of connecting to people from the heart centre, fear of being vulnerable and fear of being criticised.
The ego can fool us into feeling secure in volatile environments. It can also make us think we are safe when we are in relationships, in family dynamics, in the workplace and when we meet strangers, as we do not have to show our core self, we can show up as whoever we want to. We can act in whatever way our insecure self has convinced us we need to in order to get the desired response from our external world.
When we are young we need an ego, as we project to our caregiver certain behaviours in order to get our essential needs met. As young children we think the world revolves around us and that provides us with a sense of security that we will get what we need for survival. However, as we grow up and we learn how to survive on our own, slowly we can let it go, as it has served its purpose and we can navigate the world with all the skills we have learned and communicate authentically.
Our ego is not a required element that our mature self needs to survive or succeed, though many decide (consciously or unconsciously) to maintain it, as it can be a useful tool to easily gain whatever we desire. It allows us to mask who we are and put across an image that potentially helps us to succeed by marking success by how much external praise and validation we receive.
This encourages a dysfunctional relationship with our ego as it encourages us to seek out flattery, show off material possessions, become preoccupied with consumerism, be obsessive with our physical appearance, go to certain places to appear elite, believe our knowledge makes us superior, look down upon others and proudly show off about the good deeds we do—ultimately we are always trying to impress.
When our ego is thriving we will value material or financial achievements over rewarding or nourishing our core self as our need to be complimented, commended and valued often far outweighs our need to serve our unique soul purpose. We forget about our internal needs and our core self as society has manufactured an external world that places value and importance on materialistic and financial success.
The ego can cause us to become attached to other people’s opinions of us and this is partly the reason so many people don’t align to a life that suits them, and instead align with what they feel makes them successful externally.
When we exist within our ego we are also more likely to blame and shame other people by projecting uncomfortable attributions that we do not believe relate to who we are. So we are let off the hook and although we feel slighted when we are criticized, it is not to the same extent as if our core self were to receive the criticism, as then we would have no option but to accept it and deal with it, if of course the criticism was true.
Due to the separation we have created between our core self and our ego, we can deflect and reject criticism when it is aimed towards us as it does not resonate with who we are at the core—we don’t feel as hurt as it is our imaginary ego that is responsible for generating the criticism, not who we truly are at our core!
This is one of the reasons people defend and maintain their egos so forcefully as their core self is not confident and strong, so if the ego was to be torn down, they would then have to deal with blows directly on an intimate level. When we don’t know who we are at an internally, it is far easier to imagine who we think we are and relate to it as our identity, when really it is just an illusion.
Unfortunately, many people have totally lost touch with how they feel inside, as their ego has been so prominent in their life that they relate and consult with it far more than they communicate at their core.
Often, many people realise how great of an illusion their ego is when they have either reached rock bottom or when they only have days left to live and this is when they discover acceptance, compassion and profound wisdom.
When there is almost nothing to lose, people are faced with their own humanity and clearly see how the ego was nothing more than foolish pride that got in the way of living a life that is a true reflection of who they are or how they feel deep inside.
If we only had one week to live, the first thoughts that come to our mind regarding how we would spend our last week is most likely the truest reflection of who we actually are at our core, when our ego no longer has any meaningful purpose for long-term survival.
The difference between the ego and our core self is the ego requires our thoughts to keep it alive and existing in our imagination, and our core self creates our thoughts and inherently knows what it needs to align us on the path that leads to our highest potential. We often recognize the ego is in control when we become aware of a deafening, controlling and powerful voice that doesn’t feel or sound as though it is our own.
We can either continue believing all the nonsense it is feeding us to keep us there, or we can let go of the attachment we have to the bubble surrounding us that prevents us from seeing the truth.
The ego is a negative energy that creates stories in our mind, convincing us that we need its existence. When we accept that we are not these stories, we are not who we have repeatedly told our self we are and we are not who our ego has tried to convince us we are, we can accept ourselves exactly as we are at our core. We can then allow our self to just be.
Letting our ego go is not as easy as it sounds. It becomes a safety net and the more it is fed, the more powerful it becomes.
Once we find the courage to burst our ego’s bubble we can connect to everything and everyone on a deep and intimate level. It hasn’t been keeping us safe. It has been keeping us separated from reality. Reality isn’t something to be afraid of. It is something to embrace.
It can be an arduous task, especially when we believe it is a natural and inherent part of who we are. However, through introspection, paying attention and listening to ourselves through meditation and mindfulness it is possible. When we eventually take it down we can then come face-to-face with our true core essence, fully awaken and return home to who has been patiently and peacefully waiting for us on the inside all our lives.
Author: Alex Myles
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Kiran Foster