by Gustavo Razzetti
Change Instigator helping people and teams become the
best version of themselves.
Pic by Steve Halama
The ego has a bad rap:
it has become the
villain of self-help. We associate it to being entitled or
arrogant. That's why we want to get rid of this enemy...
However, your ego is not
the problem, your illusion of self is.
According to psychologists, if we don't have an ego, we would become
mentally ill. We need it to mediate between the unconscious and the
conscious. Your relationship with your ego can turn into either an
enemy or an ally.
The ego causes most of your suffering, but it can also save you from
The Ego Is a
"The ego is the worst
confidence trickster we could ever imagine."
Our ego is a curious
beast - most of us don't realize its existence, yet we are under
We usually associate the word 'ego' with being arrogant, proud, or
selfish. However, our ego is a different thing - it magnifies
either our best or worst side.
That's why the ego is the
worst confidence trickster:
we end buying the
exaggerated version of ourselves.
The illusory self is a
seductive fantasy - that's why we succumb to our ego. We let it
hold the reins of our lives without any resistance.
The ego hides in the last place you will ever look:
Disguised as your
thoughts or feelings, your ego tricks you. When you believe you
are your ego, you'll do anything to keep that illusion alive.
When you desire to be perceived as,
the smartest boss,
the beloved mom, the best negotiator, the kindest woman, the
funniest guy, the most creative writer... fill in the blanks,
...you allow your ego to
You self-identify with a
single aspect of yourself - preserving that perfect image becomes
a life-or-death matter.
By wanting to keep our illusory-self happy, not only we place hope
on an impossible goal but also harm ourselves and others. People are
willing to lie, kill, cheat, hide, or steal to protect their ego
If someone criticizes
that 'perfect side,' they take it personally - they feel their
entire identity is at risk.
Why is this happening
to me? Everyone wants to be with me.
Why is this person
attacking me? Nobody listens to me!
We are self-absorbed -
we make everything about "me-me-me!"
We believe that
everything revolves around us. We judge what happens through a
The paradox of the unhealthy ego is that, though it
seems like a confidence-booster, it creates more harm.
ourselves to others, we create self-doubt.
By pursuing endless
ambitions, we end disappointed.
By pretending things
always to go our way, we become bitter and frustrated.
The unhealthy ego is a
fraud - don't believe your illusory-self is true.
We Don't Need
"The bigger a man's
head gets, the easier it is to fill his shoes."
Henry A. Courtney
Most people believe they
know themselves, but less than 15% are truly self-aware.
Being self-centered or
having a distortion of who we are, turns us into a victim of the
The ego is you 'I-ness' - it captures your thoughts, beliefs,
memories, and emotions regardless if they are good or bad. However,
the problem is not the beast itself, but the role it plays.
Having no ego would be a disaster - we need something to mediate
between our desires and our beliefs and values. Without it, we would
become helpless or mentally ill.
The ego's relentless pursuit of attention and power undermines the
goal we want to achieve.
Dealing with an unhealthy ego is exhausting.
As we aspire to be bigger, richer, smarter, better, stronger or more
attractive than others, we are shadowed by a persistent sense of
weariness and self-doubt.
You don't need another
you just need to be
Our ego likes security,
certainty, and repetition.
It makes us feel
comfortable by reinforcing an idealized version of ourselves. If
people threaten that illusion, we turn them into an enemy. That's
why ego-driven people engage in constant battles - they want to
protect the fragile fantasy of 'who they are.'
The funny part is that we fight to keep an image of ourselves that
no one buys into, except us.
Your greatest enemy is your inner perception, not your ego.
An Ego is Born
"The ego is a way of
organizing oneself; it comes from the intellect as the mind
starts to click in."
You exist; therefore, I
exist - that's how the ego is born.
French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan developed the concept of
Stage' to describe the phenomenon when a child begins to
distinguish the 'self' and others - encountering one's image in
the mirror makes us realize we are autonomous.
The ego is born out of fear and isolation. It creates our identity
and separates us from those around us when we were a child.
The birth of ego, according to
Chögyam Trungpa, is the process
of identifying the self in term of opposing ourselves to others.
Before we recognize our own existence, we begin to see others
We want to conquer
others, creating a snowballing effect that feeds passion,
aggression, and ignorance.
Our ego not only blinds us but also makes others blind. We want to
impose our possibilities over other people - whatever we see, we
want others to see too. We believe our vision of the world is the
The illusion of self goes beyond having an unrealistic vision of who
we are. We want to stick to that image forever.
We want to hold to the illusion that our self is permanent, but life
is fluid, not rigid. We are continually changing - our sense of
existence is not permanent. We can't carry our personality to the
Many people believe that the ego is just a source of trouble.
American Buddhist author
Thanissaro Bhikkhu teaches that
a healthy, functioning ego, is a crucial tool on the path
Western psychology and Buddhism agree that the ego is as a
we must get it out
our head and learn to tame our mind.
of Being You
"You are who you are
when nobody's watching."
The illusion of self is
like a mask - we wear an identity that's not real.
When we feel under attack or panic, we create a world of duality -
Chögyam Trungpa refers to it as 'the world of ego.' This
duplicitous and unnecessary invention doesn't allow us
to see our true-self clearly.
Buddhists recommend egolessness as the antidote to deal with the
illusion of self.
Most people associate egolessness with getting rid of the ego.
However, that's a misconception - the ego is essential to
guide our decisions and behavior.
"Spiritual Bypassing" is
a term coined to describe those who use spiritual ideas and
practices to avoid facing unresolved emotional issues. We must
confront our ego instead of running away from
You must get rid of the illusion of who you are, not of the
Photo by Fares Hamouche
Let go of the constructed ideas of who you are.
Most of them were created
when you were a kid. You turned something very good or bad about you
into your identity - balancing your ego is accepting all your
sides, rather than exaggerating one.
Egolessness is a healthy state of
The ideas that we've constructed about our self are fixed. Most
people overreact to criticism because they've built their
'reputation' on one idealized trait - if people dislike it, they
feel their whole identity would collapse.
Most of us will do whatever to protect our illusion of self. When we
experience something unpleasant that might hurt our idealized
identity, we fight back.
Becoming more mindful is essential. Mindfulness helps us neither to
cling to what's pleasant nor to condemn what's unpleasant. We don't
buy into the illusion of the ego - we are more than that.
You can separate the
stimulus from your emotional reaction - you choose how to react,
not your ego.
Turn Your Ego
into an Ally
"Yesterday I was
clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I
am changing myself."
Many elements that define
were inherited - we can't do much
about them. But, we can change how we deal with them - just like
with our ego.
To stop being
at war with reality, we must flex
When we let go of our idealized-self, we become free. Conversely,
when the ego runs our lives, we suffer. The "me-me-me" approach is
draining - forcing the world to revolve around us is mission
Psychologists recommend empowering the observing "I" - make room
for self-reflection and watch yourself from a distance.
Confront all aspects of
who you are - especially the uncomfortable ones. Make room for
yourself. Observe your thoughts
rather than buying into them; let
go of perfectionism.
Buddhists invite us to watch our mind - to observe our thoughts
Mindfulness is the ability to be
present, to be with what happens in the here and now. It's a journey
to abandon the illusion of self for the sake of well-being and
Egolessness doesn't mean to get rid of the ego, but of the illusion
self. We must undo habitual patterns that we've developed for years.
Egolessness means freedom - we liberate ourselves from the anxiety
to defend the illusion of who we are.
The Antidote to Illusion
"You yourself, as
much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and
Your self is fluid, not
Our natural tendency is to view, not just ourselves but also others
as permanent things. Understanding that everything is interdependent
and everything is impermanent is essential.
The illusion of the ego means thinking that our identity is a
finished product rather than a work in progress. Grab some pictures
of yourself from different moments. You probably look different now,
Look at how your
personality or lifestyle has changed through those years.
Are you still the
Or have you changed?
integrating both that we are different and the same.
Everything changes and nothing stands still.
"No person ever steps
into the same river twice, for it's not the same river and one
is not the same person."
That's the paradox of
We, the same people, are
not the ones we were in the past - yet, we are still ourselves.
The antidote to the
illusion is facing your true-self.
yourself too seriously. The world
doesn't revolve around you.
Don't be attached to the illusion of self. Embrace
well-being and happiness.
You are fluid,
not fixed. Don't stick to an illusionary self - one aspect
of you is not you. Avoid being defensive when someone hurts
one side of who you are.
People are not
your enemies. When you are at peace with who you are, you
don't feel the need to fight others.
self-consciousness. Egolessness is insight gained from
meditation - we dive deep into the emptiness or
illusoriness of self and habitual patterns.
not your image. Accept your wholeness - both the good and
bad. True self-love is appreciating that others feel
Stop trying to be
perfect. I'm not suggesting you lower your bar - realize
you are not a finished person, but a
work in progress.
is being strong. You don't need to sustain an idealized
version of yourself to be accepted by others.
Masks are fragile, but
nothing can beat your authentic self.
The ego is not the enemy
- the idealized image of yourself is.
Defending an illusion is
a draining and useless battle. Stop pretending and start accepting.
This time of the year rather than just reflecting on your
achievements, spend some time reflecting on who you are.
Get rid of the illusion of the perfect self.