4 Steps to Befriending Your Ego (And Why We Should Do It!)
The ego… dun dun dunnnnn… no, really though, hear me out!
Table of Contents
The ego gets a bad rap in spiritual communities. At its worst, many spiritual authors agree that the ego is the root of many of the world's problems - namely greed and inequality, especially at the expense of others. An unconscious ego, when not checked, can seriously take over and convince us with its insidious programming to blindly follow what is not always in our best interests. Today, we will discuss the pros and cons of the ego and how and why we should healthily befriend it.
What is the ego?
Let’s get clear on the definition of ego that I am using. I am not using the ego as described by Sigmeund Freud, nor the general definition of having excessive pride or arrogance.
Eckhart Tolle describes the ego in two of his books, The Power of Now and A New Earth. He defines the ego as identification with form, primarily thought form, but also physical form. Aka labels and identities. The ego loves attachment to identities. Take the examples of daughter, sister, healthcare worker, dog mom, etc. all of these things are true for me, but they are external. Take out any of those things and the ego is crushed due to its attachment to things that are actually fleeting. Many spiritual teachers try to help their learners dissolve their ego, because it can be quite insidious and programmed in nature. Transcending the ego can help us live more freely, because underneath the ego is our true essence, our souls, and our freedom.
Why everyone hates on the unconscious ego:
- Takes things personally: the ego loves to be dramatic. It loves conflict and drama. It loves to be loud and take over. It loves to be offended and it loves to take things personally.
- Doesn't want us to grow: the ego loves to keep us stuck. it wants to keep you in the same place so that you don’t grow or move outside of your comfort zone. It loves conditioned programming - this message brought to you by the ego!
- Operates out of fear: There are two major forms of emotion, according to Oprah: fear and love. Fear emotions include jealousy, hatred, manipulation, disappointment, anxiety and well, fear itself. Love emotions include gratitude, acceptance, compassion, joy, and openness. The ego operates from a place of fear, which is likely to result in chaos.
- Wants to be superior AND inferior: the ego loves to be superior, it loves to brag, to compete with others, and to win arguments, It also loves to double down and make you feel bad about yourself. Win-win for the ego!
- Loves to play victim: the ego loves when people feel bad for them. "This always happens to me" or "woe is me". The ego loves this because it means we don’t grow, and we can remain stuck. When we realize we are responsible for our emotions and the conflicts that happen in our lives, we can empower ourselves beyond the ego. However, it has a tight grip on us, so it may take several tries before we realize what’s really going on.
- Addicted to pain: the ego will start fights, end fights, and repeat. It loves the cycle of drama. Think of a couple who loves to hurt each other, break up, and get back together (Ross and Rachel from Friends – am I right?) – that’s ego.
- Never satisfied: the part of our programming that tells us "we’ll be happy when ___ occurs", is the ego never being satisfied. The ego lives in the past and the future. It is always wanting more, and once you get the thing you wanted, it still wants more.
- Scarcity Mindset: It believes there is never enough to go around, when that couldn't be further from the truth! There absolutely is enough to go around. But the ego doesn't know this.
- Loves storytelling: this is a big one!
- Super Judgy
- The list goes on!
So the ego sounds terrible, right? It can be, if we fight it. However, it doesn't have to take us over, and we can recognize it for what it is.
In her book, Sensitive is the New Strong, author Anita Moorjani makes the case for having a healthy and developed ego. While her book is targeted towards empaths, her argument is that a healthy ego helps define our sense of selves and set better boundaries. She uses the analogy of our ego and our empathy as two dials on an old radio. Imagining our egos turned down and our empathy turned up high, we give too much and lose our backbones quickly. We are likely to overpromise here. We find ourselves getting taken advantage of as we ignore our internal compass. If both dials are turned down, we lose sight of our compassion and we have no backbone. Also not great. She argues for the need to turn up the dials on our egos AND our empathy. It’s a both/and situation. This type of integration can contribute to our wholeness.
When our egos are healthy (which takes a level of inner work) and turned up, in combination with our empathy, we have:
- Healthy sense of self: our identities are solidified in who we are at a deeper level. We know our capabilities and limitations, and we are able to communicate about our needs and our emotions in a mature way.
- Self- congratulations: we all deserve a pat on the back for making it this far in life, especially amidst all the world's dramas right now. A healthy ego will support positive affirmations, especially when they comes from a place of love and self-acceptance.
- Healthy Boundaries: as mentioned before, this is where we can step in or out of something that either aligns with our true natures or offends our true core. We all have boundaries and the more we honor them, the more we attract people who honor them, and let go of those that don’t. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the majority of people in our lives respecting our boundaries?
- Speak our truth with integrity: once someone has disrespected our boundaries, here is our chance to speak our truth, instead of suppressing our needs for the needs of others. Instead of making ourselves small for the sake of someone else's fragile ego, we make ourselves big (or life-sized) and honor ourselves. That’s the BEST thing we can ever do for ourselves. And honestly, others!
- We are more open to feedback: we are only able to grow as much as we are open to growth. Right? Sometimes that means softening the ego to truly be open. There is no getting rid of it. But a healthy ego will be less apt to take things personally, so that we can be in a position to reflect and grow.
4 Steps to Befriending Your Ego:
- Awareness of the Present Moment: the ego dies in the present moment. You cannot be present and have your ego talking simultaneously. Ever noticed that? Your meditation practice helps immensely with this!
- Name It, Acknowledge It: I attended a workshop recently where the teacher stated that she named her ego. She imagines her ego as a hardcore biker dude, and I can’t remember the name of hers, but it inspired me to name mine. I named mine Esmeralda. I love that name, I think it’s so beautiful. E for ego and Esmeralda!
- Thank Your Ego for sharing: I started thanking her for sharing whenever she got extra bitchy or judgmental. It helps her feel validated and she gets quiet very quickly.
- Return to the present moment or think about a high-vibe feeling like joy and come right back (you can ask your Higher Self, guides, angels, or the universe here). The more you do this, the better your energy will feel. This will help you become a magnet for your manifestations. I learned this from Gabrielle Bernstein's book, Super Attractor.
Keep in mind, the ego has no gender identity. I am simply using she because I identify with she as a female presenting human. Use whatever loving pronouns you like! And keep in mind, the ego can rear its ugly head to even the most evolved people. It happens!
To summarize, you can’t fight ego with ego. Much of the world's problems were born out of misaligned intentions. The only way we can realign is through healing and recognizing our power. The more we heal ourselves, the more we heal the world because at the end of it all, we are all interconnected. Changing the world starts with us, that’s why the work is so important. The more we stay in touch through our meditative practices, the more we can heal our egos and create better solutions with and for humanity. Are you with me?
Quote: "I deserve congratulations, cuz I came out the other side, I’ve been having revelations, and I’m gon’ let them shine...”
- Superbloom by Misterwives
Disclaimer: I get no financial benefits from mentioning the above books. I just simply love to read books about spirituality and life!
Sage Elephant Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.