HOW TO TAME YOUR EGO THROUGH BEING PRESENT.
Ahh the ego. It’s that SOB that tends to get in the way of doing the things we actually want to be doing with our lives. I truly believe there is a massive misconception of what Ego really is. So I want to talk about my personal experience with ego and what I’ve learnt about it over the last few months. More so through completing my yoga teaching course.
It was almost like my ego began to construct itself by mimicking my very reality and deepening a sense of separateness. Gradually, the person I became when I stepped outside my home was different from the person behind closed doors. My true self was slowly being taken over by a created sense of self: the ego. This process of adapting to our surroundings and adhering to society’s expectations happens to all of us. Over the last few years, I’ve become more curious about the little girl I used to be before I blended in like camouflage into a society I didn’t even really believe in. Because the girl that came into this world did not have any ego—she was free from any mental conditioning. She was a living spirit, expressing boundless energy, enthusiasm and extreme levels of curiosity and wonder.
When you’re born, like literally an infant - you have no ego, no fears, no worries - you are your truest self. Things like fear, stress and anxiety are learnt as we get older and the world starts to get it’s hands on us. And our ego begins to grow through experiences we have and the things we see and hear that surround us constantly, from family, friends, media etc.
But Let’s back it up quickly and talk about the word ‘ego’. I always thought someone who had an ego was self-absorbed and narcissistic. This is true in a sense, but a big ego can also be found in the quietest, shyest person in the room. Mostly because this person has such a high image of themselves in their mind that they don’t want to look foolish in front of anyone if this image is not attained. Feeling inferior or superior are all signs of ego.
The ego can be described as a kind of shield over our spirit that consists of all of the things that we learned through socialization. The result is a refined and polished adult, a soaked sponge of an ego containing all that was experienced. Every last bit of trauma and beautiful childhood memories stored away, filtering through the lens in which we see the world. This ego is what creates our personality or our personal reality. It reinforces the feeling of separateness from others and strengthens the stories we have about ourselves. It is our name, job title, interests, marital status, how many kids we have, religious affiliation, etc. But none of this is actually who we are.
Eckhart Tolle says, “We are just the universe expressing itself as a human being for a little while.”
Our ego is never satisfied—it’s always hungry for more. It is the reason you feel anxious about the future and depressed about the past. The best way to know you are being controlled by ego is when you need something outside of yourself to feel good (money, sex, alcohol, fame, food, a fancy house with a pool), and after the excitement of getting it wears off, you realize it wasn’t enough to satisfy and you still feel empty. So you continue on your mission of searching for happiness as if it’s a destination or a place outside yourself.
While I’d love to destroy the ego entirely because that would make my life a hell of a lot easier, I can’t imagine living in this world without one. It plays an important role in our society. For example, If I’m at a party or a job interview and someone asks, “Hi, nice to meet you. What’s your name?” I can’t exactly answer with, “I’m an immortal spirit, a divine soul. Just like you, we are all connected.” They will think I’m insane and probably run away. I need to reply with an appropriate answer that signals who I am according to my ego, because that’s just how current society works. Maybe someday, such as in Tolle’s idea of A New Earth, people won’t introduce themselves anymore, at least not in the way we’re used to with handshakes and business cards. Instead, they’ll just look into the other’s eyes and find the answer.
At the moment, I still feel like I need to have one foot in the current earth, and one foot in a new earth in order to get by. My ego plays an important role in being a sponge and record of all that has happened and everything I’ve learned in my life. It’s also been a source of connection to other egos. Having an ego is not necessarily a problem though. It only becomes a problem when it’s left to roam without awareness and discipline, something that takes practice - every single day.. An untamed ego is like a monster —it can be extremely destructive but equally as powerful when controlled.
So how do we tame our ego? By being engaged and present to the current moment. Presence is like kryptonite to the ego. Ego can’t survive in the present moment. Unfortunately, being present all the time sounds a lot easier in theory. It’s a moment to moment, second to second activity. It’s work, hard work sometimes. And the reality is that every single day from the moment you wake up, you need to start again.
But what is presence? It’s drinking a coffee and being completely engulfed in the sensations of the bitter taste that hit all the walls of your mouth. It’s washing your hair in the shower and focusing solely on the feeling of the shampoo on your skull, it’s not focusing on that shitty comment you co worker made last week or that thing your friend did to you 2 years ago that you still haven’t gotten over. It is eating a meal and tasting every single bite, not smashing it down as fast as possible so you can move onto the next task. It is actively listening to someone speak, watching their lips move and allowing each word to enter my mind without assumptions or interruptions or thinking about what you will say next.
The most frustrating experience I know I used to encounter and truthfully, I still do now was witnessing my mind jump from the present moment to the future, feeling instant anxiety about something that hasn’t happened yet. I always think back to the last year of my long term relationship. I honestly don’t remember that year of my life - I was 22 and couldn’t tell you a single thing from that year. Looking back at it now, I can see how not present I was and how much of my life up until that point was being led on autopilot.
Have you ever heard someone say, “You need to get out of your own way”? I remember the first time I heard that and I was confused. ‘Get out of my own way? What does that even mean? How does that even happen?’. But I finally get it. It means your ego is standing in the way. It is the untamed monster reeking havoc all over your life. Your thinking mind has taken over and you are no longer alive in the moment—you are caught in a thinking storm that has left you out of touch with reality. Your ego and pain-body are having this passionate love affair and you are just a robot, you flicked the switch to autopilot and are now going through the motions but not actually participating in real life, which is happening right now.
It’s funny when I hear people say, ‘oh someday it will get better’ - I almost have to laugh at that comment because it’s like - how do you expect some day to get better if you can’t make today better? If you can’t even bring yourself to be here right now and make the most of whatever it is you’re going through now to set up your future self for positive success.
That way of thinking is just a hurricane for disaster because someday won’t be someday, it starts to become everyday and you become so blinded by the fact that you’re living in it right now.
So I’ve given you a whole lesson on my understanding of what the ego is and why it can sometimes be our biggest obstacle to overcome, but where do you even start to tackle the monster that is standing right infront of you? I always get asked this (which is still wild to me) what did you do to break through it?
You’ve heard it all before - journal, meditate, breathe etc. I started by journaling and trust me, I was the biggest skeptic as well when I wrote that first journal entry. I only wrote 3 lines and once I’d finished it I literally said out a loud, this is stupid. But I kept at it and would start every entry with ‘today I’m thankful for’ and it was something as simple as ‘i’m alive, my mum and dad, my cup of coffee’
Everyone always things theres this magic formula on how to journal the right way - there is no right way there is only your way. Whether that’s just scribbling a bunch of words in a book or writing out well thought out ideas and thoughts, however you find it best to get those thoughts out of your head - do that.
There’s a statistic I read somewhere that said 90% of the thoughts you generate throughout the day - stem from the day prior. Which is why they say journalling first thing in the morning is the best way to let go of whatever bullshit you’ve been telling yourself from the day before.
Breathwork has helped me lately create the space in my head to give me clarity on every choice or decision I make. If you knew me from a few years back, you’ll know I was an angry, frustrated and snappy shell of a human who could go from 0 to 100 real quick. Now my reaction time to anything that actually triggers a negative reaction is slowed right down and instead of reacting in a hostile and angry way, I can now flag the trigger and respond rationally then come back to the thought or situation later on and actually try to understand why what someone said or did made me feel what I felt.
In saying all of this, it’s taken me 3 years of consistent practice. Do I get it right every time? Hell no. Does my ego sometimes get the better of me, yes it can. Am I a constant work in progress? 100%. Inner work, is work. It becomes a job that you have to wake up too every single morning and face head on. Some days are good days and some days out right suck. But you get better and at understanding the ‘why’ when you are conscious enough to bring awareness to it.
Understanding the ego has led me on a powerful journey within myself. It has lifted the blinders over my eyes and has me living, even for just a second, in a world free of labels. It has opened the door to something inside of me I didn’t know existed. It’s helped me to understand that freedom is all we’re actively seeking in this lifetime. And the only way you can truly experience freedom is if you free yourself of ego.