Let Go Your Ego!

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I?” – Rabbi Hillel

Ego. When you consider that word, what comes to mind? Is it a part of your personality? Is it your whole personality? If it’s just one part, is it the part that acts selfishly? The part of you that thinks too highly of yourself? Is it the part of yourself whose feelings can be hurt? Is it your appropriate sense of self; that is, who you believe yourself to be. This is worth pondering, since the word, ‘ego’ may mean one thing to a given person and another thing to someone else. When that happens, miscommunication is likely to occur. For the purpose of clarification, let’s come to a common understanding of what the ego is.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ego as “the self, especially as contrasted with another self or the world”.

A well-adjusted person is right to want to sense herself as a separate and unique individual. It is also important for a person to know herself, to have a clear sense of her identity and to acknowledge that other people have the same need, more or less.

At the same time, we are not just separate individuals. We are also social beings, and most of us desire social connection in an orderly world. So that we may live together in peace, we must acknowledge our connection to others. Thus, we can say that a healthy ego is possessed by a person who appreciates his individuality, knows his strengths and limitations, his gifts and talents, and knows how to balance the need for personal space, defined by legitimate boundaries, with the need for social connection and respect for the boundaries of others.

An ego which emphasizes separateness and ignores connection to others puts itself at risk for becoming what we call “selfish, narcissistic, egotistical, ego-centric” and so on. Taken to an extreme this can lead to attitudes of superiority, excessive entitlement and disdain for others. Humility and empathy do not operate in such a person. Nor does the ability to respect others’ needs and rights. It goes without saying that such an ego can be a source of great unhappiness.

The harmful negative ego erupts in a person who holds on tightly to the distorted identity for which he has been conditioned, and to what he insists he is entitled and what others must give him unconditionally. He even comes to demand these things from others, sometimes without knowing he is doing so. He simply assumes that the world was created just for him. Due to rock-solid, twisted beliefs that underpin his sense of entitlement,  he vigorously – sometimes violently – rejects any idea, group or individual that challenges his identity and his reality.

I’m guessing you do not fit into that category. Even so, you and I – indeed all of humanity – are capable of allowing our hallowed sense of self to feel violated or disrespected. Ask any parent, teacher or religious leader. Ask any police officer or judge. If you think about it carefully, you will see that much of our emotional stress can be traced back to an offense against the ego. In fact this is such a universally accepted truth, that every major world religion teaches the importance of humility and denial of the self-important ego.

If this information resonates with you and you are under a lot of stress, it might be a good idea to identify the source of the stress. You may find that it is actually connected to an ego problem. If you’d like to address that problem, consider working with someone. Books and videos can be helpful, but using them rarely produces lasting change. If you are ready to check out some expert coaching in this or any other area, please feel free to call (219) 309-3928. I’d be honored to be of service.

For more thoughts click here Stubbornness

Thanks for reading!