All fear is the ego’s fear of death or annihilation. Eckhart Tolle
What is ego? It’s been passed down that our ego is a little, red cape-donning devil sitting on our shoulder luring us to do and say bad things. That it’s the voice keeping us tethered to judgment, compromise and mediocrity. That it’s the force that thwarts our aspirations and opportunities. That it’s the insecure, self-deprecating, name-calling, complicated jerk inside us all. Needless to say, it’s acquired quite a bad rep over the years. I’d like to offer up a different story on the plight of our dear ol’ ego in a series of 5 posts, beginning with this one.
What is Ego?
Ego, as Webster tells it, is
the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.
Simplified, ego is the ‘I’ that takes on distinction and separates itself from all other lifeform. That’s it. There is no id or superego as Freud philosophized to confound the masses. Just ego. Ego is identification with form and finds its role in thinking, emoting, moving, living, etc. It is our human self. More specifically, it is our human self looking out for itself (hence, its separateness and resulting competitive nature).
So it follows that we’re all egoists and egotists. (The subtle nuances of those two definitions make me chuckle because the person who wrote the former didn’t want to be associated with the latter…thereby confirming he’s both). This is not to be viewed as good or bad, it just is. Simply acknowledge that everything we do, day to day, minute by minute—as much as you may want to deny it because you place a negative spin on the word ‘ego’—stems from ego, our selfish self. When we chose to come aboard the earth dimension as a human, we accepted ego as our earthly vessel.
Ego perceives everything on this earth plane from a self-serving standpoint because ego’s aim is for its own advancement. Everything the body does is for progress, not survival. Contrary to popular belief, we do not aim just to stay alive, we aim to grow. From the moment we’re conceived, we hope, we look forward, we desire what’s next. We are insatiable beings and hungry for richer experiences. Every living creature for that matter looks out for its own benefit and evolution. Human, animal, plant.
Case-in-point? Ever said or been told the line, “What makes you happy, makes me happy?” Or how about the one, “I love to see you smile”? Decisions you make are made with one thing in mind: how does it make me feel? (We all intend to feel good, but few are aware of how they sabotage that effort. A future post.) What makes you feel good might differ one person to the next, which leads one to question, “What was he thinking?!” Or we might call someone else ‘greedy’. Don’t concern yourself with what feels good to another person; you many never come to understand. Besides, you’re both selfish in your own way. Comparing who’s more selfish is as futile as trying to keep dirt dry in a rainstorm. Pointless.
Action, too, is taken with the intention to feel good about yourself in the end. Help another or help yourself? Feed another or feed yourself? Save another or save yourself? It’s all ego perception of what it should do—because if you do what you’re supposed to do, you feel good and can brag about it, right? And if you do what you should do now, you won’t regret later? Growing up, my mom would always tells us kids that she wanted to keep us safe because she was selfish. Not for us, but for her; she didn’t want to sit in a hospital or lose a child and deal with the devastation that follows. At least she’s not lying to herself.
Don’t get bent out of shape because you’re ‘selfish’ by nature—if you do, it means you’re attached too much to the meaning of the word. Why? You didn’t make up the definition, but all of a sudden it’s going to make you uncomfortable with yourself? It’s going to tell you how you feel about yourself or this world? How about you tell yourself how you feel?
Accept it. Because you’re human, you’re selfish. Everyone serves their selfish purpose either way, regardless of if the outcome is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ ‘selfish’ or ‘selfless.’ The label itself is not real, it’s just a word ego used because it sounded appropriate at the time.
Tell me, how would your ego define itself now?
Photo by Crossfit
Click here to read Part 2. In order to not miss a part in this 5-part series, sign up for the newsletter below to have each update sent conveniently to your inbox.