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A gremlin on your shoulder – Ego a stressor of note

“The ego is only an illusion, but a very influential one. Letting the ego-illusion become your identity can prevent you from knowing your true self.” – Wayne Dyer

According to the Cambridge dictionary ego is your idea or opinion of yourself, especially your feeling of your own importance and ability.

How egos develop

The ego is a personal concept of who we think we are. It gives us a personal identity, a sense of self-worth and works to reinforce our self-image. In earlier times our identity was dictated by our place within the tribe and evolved in response to the demands imposed by our environment. Now, in our individualistic culture we are in many ways left to conclude who we think we are and how we will fit in.

We create our egos through personally biased opinions of what we believe our abilities are, and what we believe our character and personality is. As the ego exaggerates our sense of self-worth, it distorts our views. Problems arise when our sense of self is inaccurate, be it negative, or overly positive.

How egos work

As part of a defence mechanism, the ego sees itself as constantly under threat, which in turn drives an attack and defend mentality, always seeking the advantage and upper hand. This state plays a lead role in the part of us that judges. Judging lets us feel superior, and gives our ego freedom to feed our sense of self-worth.

The ego can feed our confidence, allowing us to take chances and risks, because we believe that we can achieve. It can also help set personal boundaries, drive excitement and creativity, while building self-esteem. But, when our ego goes into overdrive, it fuels our need to be right at all costs, the need to impress, driving an upsurge in aggression, or overwhelming anxiety. These thoughts and behaviours then impact on our interactions with those around us. Learning to manage our egos can be tricky as it comes from a place of fear and defensiveness, but it is important to find the balance.

Finding Balance

It is important to get to know your ego so you can tap into its state, and learn how to manage it. Self-awareness is necessary for us to assess our place within society, and when we effectively manage our egos it can be used as a tool to gauge and interact with the world. We all are in this game of life together, but the ego being self-centred uses our own personal interest as a point of reference. It creates a sense of separation between ourselves and others and doesn’t allow us to see the world from someone else’s point of view.

Using reflection as a tool we can begin to cultivate an awareness of our ego along with its patterns and trends.

A self-observation practice

At the end of the day spend 5 to 10 minutes reflecting on the arguments, conversation, or discussions you had during the day. You may want to write notes or journal, so you can begin to recognise patterns.

  • Reflect and evaluate each argument, discussion or conversation.
  • Did you notice your ego getting out of control?
  • Did you listening for understanding or to respond?
  • Were you defending or attacking?
  • Where you genuinely making a point, or were you trying to prove that you were right?

Later as your awareness develops, in the moment, hit the pause button and gauge your ego involvement and asses if it is serving you well.

In closing

Egos are an integral part of who we are, both the good and the bad. Our everyday challenge is how we handle it.

For us to succeed in life, a healthy ego is essential. It allows us to believe in ourselves and that what we are doing is worthwhile. It enables us to include others and have a relationship with them. We should always be willing to listen to others and consider their views, seeking out balance while standing true to our values and convictions. Turning our worst enemy into our greatest resource.

“The volume of the ego is turned down so that it might listen to others as well as the self in an effort to approach life more humanely and compassionately.” Jack Buaer, Heidi Wyment, Kateryn Sylaska

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