“Two people have been living in you all of your life. One is the ego, garrulous, demanding, hysterical, and calculating; the other is the hidden spiritual being, whose still voice of wisdom you have only rarely heard or attended to.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
I was under pressure at work, and I was impatient for results. I berated and belittled the efforts of an employee at the company I manage. I kept my tirade going for a few minutes until I realized that tears were flowing down her cheeks. I was overcome with sorrow and regret and, even though I was right to be frustrated, my response was over the top.
For the first time, I realized how I had portrayed an image of “the tough boss.” It was a mask that didn’t reflect my true inner being and the compassion that I have for my employees, but it was a role I just didn’t know how to let go of.
Ego is necessary and important because it defines our sense of self, clarifies our boundaries and develops our personality while protecting our fragile inner self from disappointment, rejection, and other harm caused by society and circumstances around us.
However, the ego is more often the false self-image that we represent, and we get trapped into living our lives in a negative way. It is built early on by the many conditioned beliefs we carry with us. All those paradigms, when not worked on, crystallize into limiting and self-defeating beliefs and so create the mask that we wear throughout our lives.
The ego always needs validation and identification with a form to remain nourished and to grow. Its growth directly opposes any feeling of inner peace and harmony we might feel, as it’s trying to conceal our truths. It’s manipulative and often creates a false and fickle self-worth.
The ego is the total of all our fears, worries and negative thoughts and provides the incessant inner voice that doubts us and holds us back from whatever opportunity of bewilderment, intuition and awe we might have come our way.
For us to acknowledge our uniqueness, power, and authenticity, then we must overcome and transcend the ego and go to a place where our truths reside. We can do so by letting go, and becoming aware of the false masks we often wear that lead to our egoic behavior.
These are 9 ways to tame the ego:
1. Letting go of the need to win, to be right and superior.
Winning, being perfect and becoming superior are unattainable, and as such, when we crave them, we are validating our ego and its behavior. We need to focus on doing what gives us contentment, embrace compassion and what brings peace to any situation.
The world is not divided into winners and losers, and in the eyes of God, we are all equal—to think otherwise will lead us to feel miserable, as we often judge ourselves the hardest. What starts as a superiority outlook quickly turns into feeling despairingly inferior.
In my example mentioned above, my need to be right was of little consequence when it meant hurting another human being.
“When the choice is to be right or to be kind, always make the choice that brings peace.” ~ Wayne W. Dyer
2. Stop identifying with “the perfect body image.”
Society, the media and consumerism want us to believe that people with six packs and great bodies are better than the rest of us. The reality is that the more we obsess with having the perfect body image, the less complete of a person we become.
I run and work out regularly, but I do so to remain healthy, and because I enjoy it. I listen to my body’s needs, rather than push it hard so that I can have a model’s six-pack. My body image doesn’t define who I am.
3. Stop identifying with achievements.
We are not our achievements, but rather who we become and how we feel when we achieve things. We quickly get bored with the millions we’ve earned, the titles we’ve accrued, the mountains we’ve scaled if they don’t give us a feeling of contentment.
There is a big game being played out in the universe, and we are just a minute part of it. There is a mysterious power that guides us to many of our achievements, and we are only observers meant to experience those journeys, but the ego in us prevents us from accepting this reasoning.
I broke my hand in a freak accident, and it led to me start running instead of going to the gym. Running a half-marathon race remains one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had.
4. Stop identifying with luxury labels.
Many equate their self-worth with the car they drive, the first class flights they travel on and the Chanel bag they own. As we become aware of our egoic behavior, we start to notice how futile it is to believe that a designer labeled item can increase our self-worth. Instead, we find that this route will lead us into an abyss that can never be satisfied—the mantra of ego is more.
I promised myself to buy a Rolex watch when I made a certain amount of money. I enjoyed the watch for a few weeks, and then suddenly stopped wearing it. I finally sold it, as looking at it made me feel very shallow and materialistic.
5. We are not our reputation.
Our reputation doesn’t create our success or serve us whatsoever, as it’s something outside our control. All the great people who made a difference in our world were headstrong and ignored all the criticism and acclaim of society.
Steve Jobs stayed on course toward Apple’s vision and did not allow the business world to influence his ideas. He met many setbacks—not the least of which being ousted from the company he founded—but returned triumphant, making Apple the number one company in the world.
6. We are not our thoughts or emotions.
“Rule your mind or it will rule you” ~ (not) Buddha
The livelihood of the ego is in fear. The more we worry or get anxious, the more we fall prey to the ego’s hold. We must recognize that most of our fears are unwarranted, and that worrying itself is an exercise in futility.
On the day that I travel, I’m usually anxious and worry so much because I don’t like change, and yet the moment the plane doors shut and it takes off, I lose my anxiety and laugh at myself for being worried the whole day.
7. Don’t take things personally.
When someone doesn’t greet us, or they don’t share our opinion, then our ego tries to convince us that they are attacking us personally. The reality is that life is not only about me, myself and I.
Most of the times we are not victimized—it’s our imagination controlled by our ego that leads us astray leaving us to blame others instead of giving our best.
8. Respond and don’t react.
We face many situations where our ego urges us to react rather than take a few breaths to calm down and see the big picture, which then enables us to respond in a more thoughtful way.
Why react to an angry driver who insults us for no apparent reason? If they act out of ego, then when we don’t react, we often bring out the rationality in them, and they see themselves as petty and often apologize.
9. Stop putting people down.
Putting people down continually and seeing the worst in their actions reflects poorly on us, as we only do so to make ourselves feel better. Criticism is sometimes important to motivate and correct, but it becomes devastating in its effect when it’s done solely to condemn.
Research suggests that a 5:1 ratio of positive comments to negative ones is the best way to motivate employees in the workplace, and that is something that can be extended to our relationships and our self-talk.
Once we find the courage to tame our ego and transcend toward our true authentic self, we start to connect with everything and everyone on an intimate level. We recognize that our ego is not keeping us safe, but rather separate from our reality.
When we come face to face with our true authentic self and awaken to the aliveness within us, we return to our “Hidden Spiritual Being.”
Author: Mo Issa
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Joshua Earle/Unsplash