Read any spiritual book, and you will probably notice that a lot of space gets devoted to the subject of the ego.
Is it a friend or a foe?
Most spiritual teachers would seemingly argue foe, portraying the ego as a spiritual adversary that at every turn blocks personal growth. And whilst the ego can create some pretty difficult hurdles along your spiritual path, I do not believe it is the ball and chain that it is often depicted as.
Instead, I believe it is something that needs to be brought back into alignment with our true divine essence, and when this is accomplished the ego can start to assist us on our path rather than hinder us. This, I believe, can be done by working to curb the unhealthy habits of our ego that are holding us back in our spiritual evolution.
Unlike many others who write about spirituality, I see the ego as not so much a stumbling block to spiritual growth but something that has healthy and unhealthy habits and can operate in either a healthy or unhealthy state.
In this article, you won’t find me advising you to eradicate the ego or condemning it the way some spiritual teachers do. Instead, I wish to give you tools that you can use to curb the unhealthy or unwanted habits of your ego that are preventing you from making the spiritual progress that you desire.
I treat it this way because I do not believe the ego to necessarily be a negative aspect of our being. When brought into a healthy state, it has the power to assist us on our spiritual journey by helping us to anchor the divinity, beauty, and talents of our true essence into physical reality. But in order for the ego to aid us on our spiritual path, we need to learn how we can manage the unhealthy aspects of it, and I am going to share with you how I have learned to do this on my own spiritual path.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to dealing with the shadow side of our ego, and it takes a great deal of patience and hard work to achieve this kind of spiritual growth. This is why I would advise you to practice these tools as regularly as you can.
Identifying the Negative Traits of our Ego
The ego can definitely be a pain in the butt. I am sure we have all at some point kicked ourselves realizing we dealt with a situation badly by acting from our ego.
How does it work itself so well into our behavior, thoughts, and actions in a way that can sometimes go unnoticed by us?
This is because it needs to survive. It pushes its presence into what we say and what we do because this is how it ensures its survival. In doing this, it disconnects us from the more loving principles of our being and isolates us from others. The dark side of the ego is concerned with “I” and what it can do to preserve and look after itself. This is the root of the problem with our ego in its most unhealthy state, and all other negative behaviors stem from this constant pattern that it performs.
In order to work on the negative habits of our ego, it is imperative that we identify what some of those habits might be. This will take some introspection on your part, but I have also created a list here to make it a little easier to recognize where our challenges with it lie.
A person with an unhealthy ego might do these things:
>> Fail to take responsibility for emotional hurt they have caused or for wrongdoings.
>> Blame others for their life situation.
>> In times of conflict, try to “one-up” the other person rather than discussing the issue at hand.
>> Act defensively when confronted about their behavior.
>> Say hurtful things when they are upset and actually feeling hurt themselves.
>> Be competitive with others in an unhealthy way.
>> Assert their own opinion as being right over the opinions of others.
>> Interrupt conversation and speak over other people.
>> Refuse to face up to problems.
>> Not attempt to grow or learn from their mistakes.
>> Struggle to be truthful with themselves and those around them.
>> Afraid to be themselves for fear of what people might think and is often prone to feeling embarrassed easily.
>> Put on a mask to cover up who they really are and avoid being vulnerable with others.
These traits all fall under the dark side of the ego, and no one is free from all of them. I am sure that there were one or two that stood out to you and you thought “Yes, I have done that a few times.”
I know that I am guilty of doing a few of those on the list myself from time to time, and I accept that and work on it. It’s okay to admit that sometimes our ego can get the better of us and that sometimes we find ourselves behaving in a way that seems contradictory to the spiritual growth we thought we had attained. No one is perfect, and trying to achieve perfection and ignore our ego is not going to get us where we want to go.
The goal is not to eradicate the ego but to bring it back into balance with our divine and true essence, so that it may help us on our spiritual journey instead of preventing our growth.
Practice Being Humble
Practicing humility is a wonderful way to prevent getting trapped in the pitfalls of your ego. However, this is sometimes easier said than done, especially when our ego is in full force—driving our emotions, thoughts, and behavior.
Whenever I find myself engaged in conflict or an argument and I can see that both me and the other person are hell-bent on trying to prove themselves right to the other person, I try to take a step back. I know that neither of us in that heated state of anger is going to resolve the problem, so I try to remove myself from the situation until I feel humble enough to apologize and recognize my part in the conflict.
This can be tricky, and sometimes in arguments, we are too busy trying to get our point across to realize that we are cocreating the situation and might actually be hurting the other person.
I have found that the best way of finding that point where you can take a step back is to learn to be aware of what the presence of the darker side of your ego really looks and feels like. How does it show up for you? Try to become aware of the signals that you might be acting from your ego. Again, this takes a good deal of self-reflection and observance, but if you are able to master this, then you will be taking a big step toward learning how to manage your shadow side.
I often notice, in myself, that as soon as I feel strongly about telling someone that they are wrong or trying to win an argument, I know this is my ego operating in full force. As soon as this realization comes about, I know that the best thing I can do is try to be humble and apologize.
Practicing humility is not always easy, and neither is recognizing the faults of your ego. Be patient with yourself and try to look out for the signs that your ego may be working to your disadvantage when it comes to your personal relationships.
Take Action and Get Rid of that Fear of Embarrassment
The ego often likes to protect us from embarrassing situations or situations where we might not seem the most beautiful, clever, or wonderful person that we usually like to portray. This is part of its survival programming, where doing something embarrassing or suffering rejection could mean some sort of “ego death.” Feeling embarrassed is a big indicator that our ego is suffering and is really just an emotion that is rooted in fear.
To get over this fear, do something that feels a bit out of your comfort zone that you usually would be embarrassed to do. It is most likely that every feeling in your body will tell you not to do it, envisioning the horrific outcome and possible laughter or ridicule that you might face. It is important that you try and move past these worries and don’t think about the consequences.
Letting go of what people think is a big step to overcoming the negative aspects of our ego, and putting yourself out of your comfort zone is a great way to do this. When you put this into action, wonderful things can happen in life, and you set yourself free from the prison that is built around caring what other people think.
I can remember a few times in my life when I have risked feeling embarrassed by doing some things that might be considered a little out there. But ultimately, I always found the experience invigorating, and it felt like a real accomplishment to step out of my comfort zone.
Get Rid of the Mask and Be You
Try practicing being yourself with others, and let go of the fear of worrying about what other people will think about your hobbies, interests, and personality quirks. This was a very difficult part of my journey, because for a long time I would never show who I really was to others.
I had always had a fascination with topics that many would consider as “woo woo hippy rubbish,” such as spirituality, angels, ETs (extraterrestrials), and past lives, and I always kept my interests to myself for fear that other people wouldn’t understand or would judge me for them. Now, I am proudly open about who I am and what I value in life. I wear crystals and spiritual symbols and talk openly about what I write about because it’s a part of who I am.
Take a moment to think about whether there is any part of your character that you hide from others. Being your true, authentic self and getting in touch with your own unique divinity is a big part of building a healthy ego, so try to work on being more up-front about who you really are.
Heal Competitiveness With Love
Competitiveness or jealousy is another negative tendency of the ego that often rears its ugly head. They are, however, feelings that humanity has experienced since the dawn of time. They are natural and often involuntary and in the past served to ensure our survival.
I am sure at times you have caught yourself asking, “Why are they more successful than me or better looking or more clever?” Or you might have found yourself engaging in unhealthy competition with another person. So how do we remedy such unwanted feelings when they are hardwired into us?
There is no simple remedy to take these feelings away, but what we can do is practice being loving to others and focus on our shared humanity with one another. When these feelings arise, try to remember that every person you come across in life is facing unseen battles just like you. This might seem like an obvious and almost cliché solution, but how often do we forget these simple truths when feelings of jealousy or competition crop up?
One practice I have found that really helped me to put things in perspective and deal with competitiveness is eye gazing. This is a spiritual practice where you hold the gaze of someone for an extended period of time in order to forge a deep connection with them.
I have done this practice many times in my life now, and every time I do it I find that such a loving connection is made with the other person that there is no place for judgment, jealousy, or competition. Instead, I feel an enormous amount of compassion for them, and I can sense the things they have struggled with in their life and see that deep down they are no different than me. Whenever I experience unwanted feelings of jealousy or competition, I remember this experience and think about what I might see if I looked into the eyes of those whom I am feeling competitive with.
Perhaps try and practice eye gazing with someone you feel comfortable with. It may feel a little strange and uncomfortable to start off with, but once you relax into it, it will become a really beautiful and loving experience.
Harmonizing the more negative and shadow side of our ego can be hard work, but with patience and persistence, spiritual growth can easily be made. There is no easy route to spiritual evolution where our ego is concerned, and it will take a good deal of self-reflection, observance, and willingness to make the progress you desire. But ultimately, it is well worth it if we can be a better person to ourselves and others.
Our ego is not our enemy; it is our awareness of “self,” and in order for it to act as our spiritual ally, it is necessary to bring it back into balance with the more divine and loving part of our being.
This is where the true spiritual growth that we desire lies—in harmony, balance, and acceptance of our whole being.