Hello! I'm so excited to share my next life lesson with you. Last month, we talked about becoming aware of the energy we’re putting out that affects our relationships. We worked on recognizing our emotions, our thoughts and our beliefs. This month, I want to dive deeper and challenge you to become aware of your ego. Like me, you may have had a traditional definition of ego. I always thought of ego as conceit or arrogance. Eckhart Tolle gave me a different perspective of what ego really is. In his book, A New Earth, he teaches that the ego is the unconscious attachment to the voice in the head. What does that mean?
Have you ever noticed yourself thinking out loud in your head? We all have a voice that speaks to us, and most of us believe that the voice is who we are. Eckhart teaches that our true selves are not the voice, but that when we’re attached to the voice and believe that the voice is us, that’s ego.
To understand the ego better, here are some examples of what it does.
The ego loves to complain. Oh my goodness! I think we all can recognize this aspect of ego. Do you ever catch yourself complaining? When I first became aware of my ego, I was shocked by how much time it spent complaining. I would constantly complain in my head about anything and everything that didn’t line up perfectly with my expectations for the moment. So many of us get stuck in this ego pattern. Just pay attention and see what you can catch your ego complaining about – the weather, traffic, our children & spouses are some favorites.
The ego loves to be right and make others wrong. Does it ever! My ego used to love doing this. I especially loved to prove my husband wrong. It didn’t even have to be something important we were discussing – which actor was in a movie, how to load the dishwasher…. Anytime I was right about something, my ego loved it. If you ever catch yourself saying, “I told you so”, that’s your ego! By the way, the ego really loves politics and especially enjoys thinking about how wrong the other side is. Starting to recognize your ego at work?
The ego loves to blame others. Oh boy. My ego used to constantly blame other people for things that didn’t go right in my life. If I felt a negative emotion, it had to be someone else’s fault. It didn’t even have to be a person - my ego would blame the weather for making me sad or traffic for making me angry or my kids for making me late. (It wasn’t them.) Who does your ego like to blame?
The ego loves to have grievances. When something would happen to upset me, I wouldn’t just forgive and let it go. Oh no. If I had a disagreement with someone, my ego would continue to play the argument over and over in my head. I might even choose to tell my friends about what happened so I could continue to relive it. Sometimes my ego would even continue the argument in my head and create imaginary future arguments! Am I alone here or has your ego done this too?
The ego loves to take everything personally. Yep. I can’t count the number of times I’ve witnessed someone else’s negative behavior and decided to make it about me. If my husband came home from work in a grumpy mood, my ego thought it had to be about me. Even something as small as a mistake made by a waiter could cause my ego to become personally offended. “Can you believe he brought cold soup?” What does your ego love to get offended by?
The ego loves to feel superior. Oh yeah, we all know this one. Although it’s normal to want to feel special and worthy of attention, the ego loves to take it a step further. The ego wants you to be more special than others, so it will be sure to put others down so you can be on top. Think of some of the ways your ego might like to do this. Does it like to be the first one to tell gossip? Does it like to dress a certain way or drive a certain car? Anytime we’re judging others, that’s ego too.
The ego also loves to feel inferior. How can this be ego? Have you ever noticed your critical voice - the one that puts you down, hates your body, feels doubt and self-loathing? That’s not you, that’s your ego. If you can’t be the best, the ego will settle for the worst.
Most of all, the ego loves to be in the past or the future. If the voice in your head is replaying something from the past, it’s likely creating feelings of regret, sadness or anger. If it is attached to thinking about the future, it’s likely creating anxiety and fear. The other alternative is for your mind to be in the PRESENT moment. The more we can be in the present, the less our egos will run our lives. Being present just means that we’re fully immersed in what we’re doing in the moment – not thinking of other things. If you can’t remember what that’s like, just watch a child playing for a few minutes – they’re not thinking about what happened yesterday or worried about what will happen tomorrow; they’re fully immersed in the present moment. Once you recognize what presence is, you can practice being in presence. Try being present while washing your hands or taking a bite of food. It’s really helpful to our relationships if we practice being present with those we love. Our spouses and kids are craving full presence with us. Try it!
You may be feeling overwhelmed learning about all the ways the ego has been running your life. Don’t feel guilty or start criticizing yourself – that would just be your ego again! The best way to get ego to step aside is to call it out when you catch it. Just commit to recognizing when it has taken over your mind. Say “Hello Ego! I hear you, but you’re no longer in charge of my life.” It also helps to laugh about ego!
Once you can do this, your ego will lose its power and life will become so much easier. Does this mean that you will be ego-free? Unless you're a truly enlightened being, probably not. I definitely still have an ego, and I catch it in action pretty often. But thankfully, it's not in charge as much as it used to be. Every relationship in my life has improved. I'm able to let things go a lot faster, and life without so much complaining, blaming, resenting and feeling superior is much more peaceful and enjoyable! Plus, when I'm able to be fully present, my happiness is magnified.
Finally, if you’re not your ego, who are you? Eckhart teaches that you’re the awareness that recognizes your ego. Some people would call that the higher self, consciousness, inner being or the soul. What a relief it can be to remember that we’re so much more than our egos!
I hope this serves you in your life. Let me know if it does!
Love and light,