We all have an ego. It’s part of the operating system that runs the human app. This is not a surprise. I’m certain that everyone has some varying degree of awareness of their own ego. Even if the old ego=pride definition is applied, it still shows some awareness that there’s a part of us that can be corrosive and destructive if we allow it. The sharp increase in the practicing of mindfulness has also brought greater awareness to the presence and influence of ego.
The first thing to know is that we need to stop trying to kill our egos. We need the ego. It contains a large portion of our identity. It makes us alert and situationally aware for threats and opportunities. It provides the drive to hunt, achieve, perform. It fuels passion and charisma. The issue is not that the ego is some sort of defect in the human app. The issue is that the ego is constantly in pursuit of trying to take control.
In short, the ego makes for a great employee but a tyrannical boss.
As such, it is an essential skill to learn how to be aware (quickly!) that our ego is running our lives.
I simply call this The Ego Test.
While there are certainly variances based on behavioral profiles and external conditioning, the red flags of ego are universal. They include:
- Comparison. This is the #1 indicator that the ego is the boss. To put it directly, all comparison is of the ego. And from it springs jealousy, attachment, insecurity, unworthiness and many other destructive reactions.
- Judging your feelings. “I should feel X.” “I shouldn’t feel Y”. Your feelings are just your feelings. Yet the ego puts a good-to-bad or right-to-wrong spectrum on them in order to label and to control.
- Self-Righteousness. This may be the most deceiving trait of the ego; where we become convinced in our rightness and everyone else’s wrongness. Skepticism and rational (two key elements of being a free thinker) can’t co-exist with self-righteousness. This is the essence of extremism.
- Lack of Compassion. By design, the ego doesn’t have compassion. It’s the primal side of us that is needed for survival. And compassion and survival are in direct conflict with each other. So if we begin to lose our ability to see our own humanity or soul and the humanity and souls in others, we know the ego is in charge.
- Self Absorption. The ego loves the role of Victim. By attaching our ego to our suffering, we become so consumed by our pain that the pain itself becomes becomes our identity. This means we spend our days in a personal hell of torment and lose our capacity for gratitude and compassion.
Once you begin to be aware of these indicators, you can then begin to learn how to make your ego a productive, efficient employee. But that’s a separate post.