One of the “spiritual lessons” I have had to unlearn was that the Ego is bad. That you should release your ego and live a humble life. That ego is your enemy on the path of soul evolution. But is it really?
What is the Ego? What comes to mind immediately is that it is that force that overly inflates your confidence, making you feel invincible and better than people or situations around you. A person with a big ego will not go certain places because it is “beneath” them. They will not mix with certain people because they are “not on the same level”. But is that really all that ego is? Negative? Bombastic?
Because of this, it took me a while to realize that it is impossible to rid yourself of your ego. The word itself comes from the Latin “ego” which literally means “I” or as reference to the self, so denying your ego means denying yourself, or at least a part of yourself. So why the emphasis on letting go of the ego? And if we cannot let go of it, what shall we do with it?
To start exploring this, lets first look at what the ego is. The ego is the mediator between the conscious and unconscious and is our sense of personal identity. Ego refers to our ability to be a conscious thinking being. It is the part of self that feels, acts, or thinks. It is our own internal measure of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-image. It is what gives us a reason to get up, take care of ourselves, eat well, hydrate ourselves, get dressed, clean our home, study for our tests, do our best at work, be on time for appointments, respect ourselves. All sounds important right? So, why would you want to let any of that go? Without ego we will lose our sense of identity, and as much as the spiritual mind would try and argue that there is no self, that we are all one, we are living an individual experience, with our own perceptions, feelings, lessons and interactions – hence we need an ego, a self, an identity.
The ego is often pointed out only when it is acting form the shadow, when someone is being “egoistic”. When a person exaggerates their achievements to draw attention, bragging, and trying to sound very important. Very often, when listening to someone like this, you will think “what is this person trying to accomplish? What are they trying to compensate for?” and that is exactly what it is – they are trying to compensate for being ignored, denied, abused, used, feeling incompetent, lacking self-worth, lacking knowledge, and the list goes on. It stems from the shadows of patterns and wounding that is being covered up, adorned with jewels and beautiful stories. The opposite is true as well, people who seem to be “without ego”, who deny themselves, deny their trauma, refusing to accept what has happened to them and ignores it with a coat of “positivity”, or denying their power and beauty by not accepting compliments and positive feedback because they want to be humble, saying things like “oh thanks but I’m just average” or a great one in the spiritual community “no need to thank me, it’s not me, I am just a conduit”. For you to have become that conduit you have had to work hard and face your issues, be honest with yourself, heal your trauma, which is not easy! Accept the gratitude because you have done the work! Unfortunately, we also see the other side of this spectrum in the spiritual communities too where there are so many “masters” and “teachers” who sit with this false sense of humility but absolutely drown themselves in the adoration given to them. Humility cannot be done, it just happens. It is walking a fine line between knowing, accepting and owning all parts of yourself, seeing it for what it is and acknowledging it, but simultaneously knowing that you are not special, that every other human being on this planet has the same potential as you, just different circumstances, which makes you only different, not better, not worse.
This is where self-awareness becomes so important. The ego is one of the aspects of self that very easily gets affected by our shadows, it flares up into egoism or retracts into a sense of worthlessness, depending on our trauma and wounding. It can make us bombastic, narcissistic, unyielding, detached, complaisant. Self-awareness is what can tame the ego, balance it, and make it healthy. Being aware of our strengths and weaknesses and working consciously to better them. Being aware of our actions and reactions to know when our ego is flaring up or being denied. Being aware of our limitations and having the humility to say, “I do not know” and then take it as an opportunity to learn and grow instead of becoming defensive, compensating, or feeling worthless.
The ego is a measuring tool and the spectrum of this tool ranges from pride to humility. The ego allows you to care about what you look like, where you go and what you do. Now why do you have to even care about what you look like? Because you deserve to look your best. You deserve to be in the best places and to have the best things in life. The thing is that when you let your ego take control, the reason for wanting these things is because you want to look good for other people, not for yourself. And herein lies the difference. Your ego can start pleasing others very easily, burning you out and having you do things that is no longer nourishing and fulfilling for you, but an entertaining show for others. Who is your ego pleasing?
Knowing that when you get out of bed in the morning, you are doing it for you. When you take a shower, you are doing it for you. When you study, work, exercise, you are doing it for you. When you eat, when you dress, when you put on your make up and perfume, you are doing it for YOU. For you to be healthy, for you to be strong, for you to feel and look good. And then when you are taken care of, you can take care of those around you. Support your family, support your colleagues, support your neighbours. This is when the “I” becomes the “WE” – when the Self becomes the All. And it all starts with the ego.