I’d like to tell you a story.
For a long time, I was entirely too reactive to how other people perceived me. I valued damn near everyone’s opinion above my own.
My frame/ego was weak.
I wanted people to like me. I lived in fear of what other people could be thinking about me.It was a negative confirmation bias where every single failure or misstep validated my low self esteem. My mind magnified negative opinions and ignored the positive ones.
The ironic thing is, my ego was completely out of touch with who I actually was inside. The ego acted as a police force that maintained my limiting beliefs.
You can’t do that!
That’s not part of your character!
The self I allowed others to see was a construction I thought they would approve of. It was immensely stressful dealing with the cognitive dissonance of having to uphold the socially conditioned false (beta) self. As much as I wanted to let go, I couldn’t bring myself to express who I actually was.
I had become attached to this false self, and was afraid what would happen if I started living authentically.
There was a war being waged within my mind.
Living with such a mindset taught me that your emotional identity is more important to your self-esteem than the image others may project upon you.
The Ego Is Simply A Tool To Connect With People
You project your sense of self into social interactions, where it communicates with other egos.
How do you know if your sense of self is “correct”?
The image of yourself in your mind may not be shared with others.
Every single person will perceive you differently.
It’s a losing battle to try to win the approval of every last one of them.
Your Ego Will Change Throughout Your Life
In my own life, I’ve experienced many different identities.
- The chubby baby.
- The curious and energetic child.
- The anxiety-ridden teenager.
- The hard-partying college student.
- The bohemian graduate.
- The ambitious young adult.
Are any one of these my real identity?
The truth is, all of them are.
Identity is fluid.
Their fragments make up my whole. They live on within me. I feel their presence when I encounter certain situations or environments.
The flow of time adds more layers to the ego.
Each stage has allows you to explore different aspects of yourself.
Ego Is What You Make It
I’ve tried to distance myself from past identities. I wanted to lock them in a box and forget about them.
Little did I know, it’s impossible to escape the past. It’s foolish to attempt something so useless.
Although it may not seem like it, your past selves have both positive and negative aspects. Try to see the positive side of the past and how you can bring it into your present. Even though your ego is ultimately an illusion, it still drives your actions.
How you view yourself determines your reality.
How can you ever expect others to love you if you can’t even love yourself?
All your decisions support your identity/ego.
However, egos are often created through circumstance.
You may not like your ego, yet still feel obligated to stay true to it. It can feel extremely unnatural to act out of the character you’ve grown accustomed to playing.
Since Your Ego Is An Illusion, How Should You
Deal With It?
The Buddhist approach towards enlightenment aims to dissolve the ego. Rid yourself of all your earthly attachments, desires, and pleasures.
I’m sure enlightened Buddhist monks experience tremendous peace, but I feel as if this approach is too extreme. You can still find peace without permanently killing your ego.
Why deny yourself of life’s finer pleasures?
On the contrary, obsessively expanding your ego will not lead to happiness. Many people inflate their egos much like a balloon to compensate for their low self-worth. The puffed-up facade does not reflect who they actually are on the inside. All it takes is one little prick (pun intended) for the unstable ego balloon to collapse.
A Healthy Solution Is Not To Permanently Kill Your Ego
But To Be Aware Of It
Create a positive image of yourself (via action).
Be aware that it may sometimes change. You may have uncomfortable relapses during moments of anxiety to past selves.
Align your ego with the person deep down inside.
My ego was my greatest enemy, but now I’ve made peace with it.
The ego can be very resistant to change.
This is why I encourage you to engage in experiences resonating with your true self – Experiences pushing your comfort zone.
Positive External Feedback Dissolves Your False Self
People think I’ve changed, when in reality I’ve simply become more congruent with my true self that was there all along.
It’s more satisfying to live authentically than to await the reactions of others.
Focusing your awareness on the present by living in the moment reduces your ego’s significance.
Your true self lies beyond your ego.