Is the ego the mind?
Actually the ego is a part of your mind. It is the part of the mind that says “I,” which is most popularly wrapped into a negative connotation of self-importance. It is the part of the mind that coherses with beliefs, personality traits, and habits. Ego, though an internal voice, primarily acts externally as a way of protection, admiration, manipulation, etc. in the world you live in. Though this unconscious part of you is separate from the inner critic, it may fan the same flame. Everyone has ego, but not everyone operates from the ego mind in the world all the time.
So my goal is not to throw around technical psychological terms and metaphysical theories of ego. Rather, it is to introduce you to ideas — tools if you will — so that you may become aware of how your ego lives within you, and thus, outside of you. Keep in mind that the ego serves a purpose, and your awareness of what it is trying to teach and instill is of great conscious value. Life is full of learning opportunities. So as you embark on this reflection exercise with me today, I ask that you set your inner critic aside and invite in your non-judgemental friend to observe yourself.
Let’s start here.
First, I want you to recall a time when your ego was evident. It can be a small scenario or a big one. It could be in an argument with your spouse, a lecture at work, or playing games with friends.
Second, ask yourself why is my ego speaking? What is it saying? Who is it talking to?
Next, ask what is happening outside of me as a response to my ego talking, i.e. how do others and the world around me react or respond? What is happening within me when my ego speaks? What feelings and beliefs are bubbling up?
Finally, ask what is the root of the matter? Why does my ego speak for me?
In vulnerability and humility, I will share a personal example to help you think through this for yourself.
I began my first job as a Wellness Director at a highly sought-after concierge medical practice. Upon my introduction to the practice physicians, I made sure that one of my first shares was my masters degree from one of the most well known, top 10 prestigious academic universities in the nation. They all did a slight jaw drop and their attention was more alert to what I had to say. I knew I would get this response from my peers after sharing this information. These physicians are not only exceptional human beings, but were, in my mind, of the utmost intellect. They have spent years earning a doctorate degree and specialties in addition to the innumerable years of experience in their field. They needed to know that I too was intelligent.
This was a clear ego stroke. I sought validation from others that I was smart enough to work alongside them and support our patients with lifestyle medicine and holistic behavioral protocols. Deep down, the root was that I did not believe that I was enough as I am, without the degree or the intellect. As a result, my ego held on tightly to the accolades, and less on who I am at my core: loving, caring, curious, determined, organized, empathetic, and knowledgeable. All of these traits are my value or worth to the world I wish to work alongside and serve. To believe I am enough, I simply have to be me. No ego needed.
Does this example spark any other times when your ego was present? Take a final pause to recall any other times you can now see that ego was living outwardly, and thus, inwardly. Feel free to review the above questions as an observer of self. What patterns are you noticing? With what frequency? Are you experiencing a root cause belief of lack, safety, lovability or likability, fear, etc? How are you meeting this unsanctioned need within you? Are you watering these roots or allowing yourself to become aware of the garden you wish to water?
Luckily, with a sense of humor and imagination, I now catch my ego from time to time like it is Stuart from MadTV:
In all seriousness though, no one is immune to the ego mind, for it is a part of you, not separate from you. However, awareness empowers you to change. So, how will you change today?
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