Today, the word ego is thrown around casually. Many people use it to mean "self-interest," but ego means something entirely different in psychoanalytic terms.
Ego refers to one's sense of identity. It is also referred to as the self-concept, a collection of beliefs that come up when one asks the question, "Who am I?"
Letting go of ego is difficult because it is made up of many different beliefs that a person acquires over their life, which can also be contradictory.
Essentially, your ego is a self-constructed identity that often includes a name, personality, and story. It's based on memories, beliefs, ideas, and sensations about "who you are," "where you came from," "what you're good and bad at," and "what you've experienced."
What Truly is Ego?
Ego is the Latin word for 'I'. In philosophy, it refers to your' self.' It's your belief about who you are. You slowly build this self-image with time, and as you grow, it grows with you too.
It starts with thoughts like, "I am great at coding," and includes inhibitions like, "My colleagues don't like me." You build your self-image by having both negative and positive perceptions.
The problem begins when your mind gets overly negative or positive in constructing that image.
In the professional world, this becomes, "I have performed well this year, and I deserve a promotion." Your ego takes a hard blow if you don't get that promotion.
When you practice reflective activities like meditation, you get closer to the spiritual idea of ego. It manifests into a small voice in your head that tells you what you're worth and fosters to letting go of ego.
Jim Carrey eloquently summed it up in his commencement address at the 2014 M.U.M. graduation, “If you listen to the ego, there will always be someone who’s doing better than you.
No matter what you gain, ego will not let you rest. It will tell you that you cannot stop until you've left an indelible mark on the earth until you've achieved immortality. How tricky is this ego that it would tempt us with a promise of something we already possess?”
Letting go of your ego can be a difficult task, but if you’re feeling tired or worn out by ego-driven decisions or thinking, it may be time to start to take an action.
How Can You Tell Whether Your Ego is in Charge?
Your ego is sly. At first, you may not notice that your ego has taken over.
If you've noticed that friends and colleagues are taking steps to avoid your energy, it may be time to take a hard look at yourself and work to letting go of ego. Are you exhibiting any of these behaviors?
- You always pitch your ideas but discredit other people's contributions.
- You take on tasks as a challenge to be won. If you’re not winning, you lose interest.
- You don't attach much value to experimenting, learning, and growing.
- Your feelings get hurt at the slightest pretext.
- You're not open to criticism.
- You feel the need to be right in all arguments.
- You find reasons to feel superior to others on every occasion.
- You're jealous of other people's success.
How to Let Go of Your Ego
The ego-self wants attention, acceptance, validation, approval, and love from others. As a result, you get attached to your version of the truth and obtain self-awareness. How to let go of your ego?
You must take conscious action to letting go of ego in order to make room for other realities.
Here's a practical and actionable approach to follow:
Learn to forgive and forget.
- The most effective way of eliminating ego is by forgiving, forgetting, and moving on. Forgive everyone's mistakes, and most importantly, forgive yourself. Don't beat yourself up for not excelling in a few things; at least you're trying your best.
- Don't let your ego get a boost when you prove people wrong. Break this cycle by not fighting with people just to win, and start by not participating in arguments that are useless.
- Exercise empathy and make purpose-driven decisions.
- Accept responsibility for your actions. When you’re not looking to blame someone else, you’ll feel happier and more content.
Break out of your echo chamber with civil discourse.
- Participate in discussions without dominating the conversation.
- Practice civil discourse to mindfully listen to and understand diverse opinions.
- Ask for permission before interjecting into any conversation.
- Politely present your opinion without disregarding anyone's experiences.
Introspect to see when your ego takes dominance.
- Ego is destructive only when you don't know it's in action.
- Take responsibility. Understand which circumstances trigger your ego-driven reactions.
- Maintain composure when you feel hurt or things don't go according to plan.
- Stop trying to control people. Offer suggestions adhering to civil discourse.
- Take a deep breath and pause. Ground yourself by paying attention to your surroundings.
- Meditate to still the mind and free yourself from mental chatter.
- Live in the moment. You can choose to bring an open, accepting and discerning attention to everything you do. Find joy in simple pleasures.
- Be thankful for everything you have. Start maintaining a gratitude journal. Write three things that you're grateful for every day.
Beat your inner voice.
- Don't give in to your ego even when it plagues you with negative thoughts.
- Build courage. Don't be afraid of taking a leap of faith.
- Focus on character development. Attach more value to the core intent rather than superficial emotions.
- Always strive to learn more from every experience.
Accept the pros of having an ego.
- Your ego is a part of who you are. It doesn't have to be entirely negative. Manage your ego such that it never gets dominant over your other rational emotions.
- Through introspection, you can even leverage your ego to stay away from pain and negative feelings.
- Be true to yourself and don't suppress your emotions. Have honest conversations with those around you.
- Let go of the absolute need for perfection. Keep your ego under control and exercise it to deliver the best you can.
Letting Go of Ego Leads to Gaining Independence
It's as important to exercise your mind as it is to exercise your body. Once you get out of your head and start accepting a broader perspective, you break free from ego. The journey of letting go of ego is not easy, but it's a fulfilling one.
Remember: In order to know how to let go of your ego, you should not fight against your ego. If you try too hard, your ego will only become more assertive.
So instead, add more gratitude, compassion, humility, and politeness to your demeanor. Keep at it, and soon you can break free of your ego as subtly as it had crept into your life.