When I read Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’ (and especially ‘A New Earth’) I became fascinated by the ego / self esteem polarity; which is which and how do they affect my decisions in life and consequently, the lives of those around me?
This was the first (and only) book I read to properly de-construct and de-mystify what the ego was without ‘fluff’ words or new age lingo.
When I read what I am about to summarise for you, I was very open minded (which I will ask of you as well) and this caused me to re-evaluate how I used to think (I used to be very egoic). Soon, I started to think in a new empowering way.
What I ultimately learnt was this: whenever you have a thought, whatever it may be, where is it coming from and is it to the benefit of your ego or your self esteem?
Let’s examine the difference between the two.
Your self-esteem is an assessment of your self-worth; how much or little are you of value to yourself and to others?
Your ‘self’ concept is founded on a high self esteem; what are your self beliefs (I am confident, I am honest, I am loyal) and do they help you actualise who you want to be in other words, your ideal ‘self’?
As Maslow argues in his hierarchy of needs one needs high self esteem in order to self-actualise and realise one’s full potential.
We tend to like people with a high self-esteem; it is common for these people to be happy, non-needy and selfless in listening to and helping others. We describe these people as “down to earth”.
The ego is the opposite of self esteem. The problem with the ego is it can often ‘disguise’ itself as your self-esteem and it is important to become aware of this behaviour when it arises.
Your ego has a number of different definitions, but its most commonly agreed definition is it is your self-defence mechanism and more importantly, your false concept.
All the ego is concerned with is indulging itself in self-destructive behaviours (I want, I need and so on) and differentiating itself from others (you’re better than him / her, you’re cooler than him), whether it is talking about other people behind their back (often coming from a place of your own insecurity) or self-appraisal (I did this, I need to tell everyone about it).
The ego needs to be validated at all costs in order to ‘survive’ if it is not (even by your ‘self’, the it begins to weaken).
The ego could even be likened to your inner child, constantly in need of attention and if it does not receive is, lashes out.
The Ego In Practice
Egocentricity is very common in Pick Up; if you move from a place of scarcity to abundance of women in your life, it can become self-destructive.
Pick up can be liken to a ‘drug’ and with every new conversation you start with a beautiful woman, you become ‘higher’ with each hit, often neglecting other important areas of your life.
Men becomes idolised by their peers (wow, you’re becoming quite a lady’s man) and this fuels their new ‘addiction’.
A friend of mine once asked me “if you could sleep with the most beautiful woman in the world but you could not tell anyone about it, would it still be as impressive?” Most men are very egocentric when it comes to their dating lives, so the answer for a lot of men would probably be no.
This kind of behaviour can also be seen with materialistic people; buying more and more possessions to fuel their false self-concept (I must have this, I must have that, my friend’s will be so impressed); if you did not have these ‘things’ would you feel less of a person?
When I wrote why I do not feel homesick, this is what I was referring to: people who want to travel but own a lot have difficulty relinquishing it because they feel attached to it; it has become a part of them.
Facebook has become a haven for the ego driven; statuses are often nothing but false self-esteem increasers with each person racking up ‘likes’ to differentiate themselves from others.
The ego loves to feel what is called ‘otherness’ from others.
People who post pictures of themselves are often guilty of this, as this Huffington Post article justifies.
This is not to say that everyone does this, but it is undeniably very common.
Ultimately, people want to convey a narrative for a life that they may or may not be living; some people chose to show the bad and not good, others both, but what it comes down to is wanting to feel a place of belonging.
The ego will try and protect itself at all costs in a “us vs. them” mentality. For instance, if someone is going through a break up and a friend says to them to motivate them “come on, it’s been months now, get over it!” rather than take the sage advice, the ego will answer back “don’t let them speak to us like that, we’re ok with how we’re coping with this.”
However, the ego can also be self-destructive; it can make you feel worthless, lonely, depressed, and insignificant and all those other negative emotions.
So how to you dis-associate from egoic thinking and move to a more internally validated, self-esteem based way of thinking?
You have to re-direct you focus on yourself, your ‘true’ and not your ego or what others may (or may not) think about you.
Be honest with yourself, what do you like about yourself and what do you not like about yourself? Do not challenge it, just accept it. The ego is concerned with emphasising strengths and de-emphasising weaknesses.
It is okay to ‘love’ your ‘self’, this is not the same as inflated self-importance; what do you like about yourself that is of the benefit to others (are you a really good listener?) and what do you not like that you can work on (sometimes I can feel jealous of others people’s wins, why is that and how can I minimise it?)
I woman I was spoke to said “you’re very arrogant aren’t you?” and I said “no, I’m confident.” She said “what is the difference?” and I answered “arrogance is overcompensating for a known weakness; confidence is knowing your strengths but also knowing your weaknesses, that way you can improve them.”
There are a lot of people who prefer to ‘hide’ behind their strengths in fear that if the don not, their weaknesses will be revealed.
If you have a weaknesses, it is okay, it means that you are a human.
When you catch yourself having egocentric thoughts, become present; do not judge or condemn the thought (if you do this it will argue back) and just become aware of it, it will soon dissipate. To paraphrase Tolle, “once you bring it into the light of consciousness, the ego is unable to ‘survive’.”
You are not your thoughts.
When you become aware of these habitual thought patterns, you begin to become more self-aware of your ego and more importantly, how you can weaken it.
One of my all time favourite quotes, (if not my favourite) is one I posted on this blog but I will reprint it here: it is called The Two Wolves.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me” he said to the boy.
“”It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued “the other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you –and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “the one you feed.”