Ego. The three-letter word that just about every spiritual practice or personal development system tells us to try and let-go of and transcend.
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Often associated with traits like arrogance, conceit, competitiveness, condescension, and judgment, these attributes typically mask a person’s low self-esteem or the smallest version of themselves.
Let’s face it, few people would describe someone with a big ego as pleasant, and few people who exhibit these traits seem happy, so it’s a wonder why so many big egos exist at all. Yet, they do – all around us.
So, how on earth are we supposed to transcend our own egos, when big egos surround us everywhere? They prance around us at work, within our communities, all over social media, and even within our own governments and families.
How are we supposed to ‘keep up’ without building a big ego of our own?
The answer is don’t. That’s right, don’t even try to keep up. The last I checked, the world is filled with millions and millions of people, and the longer we try to ‘keep up’ with the desires of every big ego out there, the more we’ll find ourselves disconnecting from ourselves, or at least, what some people call the “essential self.”
In her book Finding Your Own North Star, best-selling author Martha Beck describes the essential self as, “always focused on our best lives, and will actively resist anything that is not genuinely in our best interest.”
This resistance often occurs in subliminal ways – perhaps we hear a little voice inside that says “no” or “move away,” in any given situation.
Yet, so many of us have forgotten to tune-in to our internal senses of resistance because we are too consumed with chasing pathways that are set-out for us by other ‘important’ people.
And, amidst all of this business to satisfy the needs and desires of every big fat ego from here to kingdom come, we lose connection with how we really feel, or better yet, how we really want to feel. Instead, we numb-out to allow people, with presumably the biggest egos, set our pathways for us.
So, how do we stop this madness? How do we stay connected with our “essential selves,” when it feels like doing so will involve a game of Space Invaders to shoot down the big ego battleships that are flying all around us?
Let’s face it, it’s hard to play this game without a thick armor of our own big ego.
Well, if you find this sort of game exhausting, then here are a few things to think about to end them.
1. Notice what is it about you that attracts your surroundings?
So, when we find ourselves pointing out all of the egotistical lowlifes and jerks that are living, working and driving all around us, then we have to be willing to address ourselves at the very same time.
What does our own ego need from these people to pay so much attention to their shortcomings in the first place?
Perhaps we need to feel noticed, important or accepted. Perhaps by catering to another person’s presumed judgment, condescension, and complete disregard for us, it’s a way for us to achieve the very things we think we are lacking.
When we find ourselves running towards the very people, places and things that hurt us the most, it’s time to recognize a very harmful dance we are doing. It’s called the dance of low self-esteem, and it involves their egos and our egos.
By recognizing this dance, we can begin to focus less on the pain points of our own needs not getting met, and more on compassion – for ourselves and for other people.
Why? Because nobody takes part in the dance of low self-esteem without a need to mask their own painful wounds.
This is what makes the beat of the dance so attractive, and it’s why so many of us continue to dance with the biggest egos we can find.
Ask yourself this, what sort of dance would you be doing, and with whom, if you took a moment to notice how you genuinely felt about somebody or something?
In other words, if we allowed our true feelings to guide our actions more often, many of us would find ourselves surrounded by fewer big egos, and many more authentic people and uplifting causes.
2. Be responsive versus reactive
People with big egos often radiate a lot of charisma. You can often feel their moods the moment they walk into a room, if not miles away.
Given the natural pull of their influence, they can easily steer a situation to serve their own motivations, using tactics like false promises, charm, flattery, bribery, or blatant intimidation.
Yet, their own motives rarely consist of what’s best for anyone other than themselves.
When we merely react to a person’s big ego, we are allowing their moods or behaviors to alter our own. This just further drags us into the draining sphere of their influence, where we are more vulnerable to doing our low self-esteem dance.
For instance, we might find ourselves catering to what they want, despite what is best for us, or even at the deficit of what we want.
On the flip side, when we respond to a big ego, we allow a person’s own mood to remain solely with them, while we stay connected to how we want to feel, and focus on big picture objectives. We can do this by reminding ourselves of the purpose or intent of whatever it is we are doing – the outing, the meeting or the event.
For example, we might silently ask ourselves something like, did we attend this meeting to adopt someone’s bad mood, or need to prove something, or did we come here to deliver our research findings and establish next steps?
Or, did we attend this outing to carry the load of someone else’s jealousy or judgement, or are we simply here to have fun and connect with genuine and interesting people?
3. Maintain your own energy in the presence of energy suckers
We’ve all heard the term “energy-vampire” before. Sometimes, we just feel like certain situations, people or tasks are purposely trying to suck the life out of us. The reality is that we are actually allowing energy suckers to take the wind out of our sails.
To stop this, immediately, we might take steps to notice the power we are handing-over to other people. Perhaps we need to redirect our attention towards more inspiring things, or at minimum, adjust our approaches.
For instance, maybe instead of taking another person’s rude comments personally, we could choose to understand that something painful might be going on for them behind the scenes, in which case, we can either seek further understanding and listen curiously, or simply move away, while giving that person some space to process their own feelings and outlooks.
That is, without dumping their loads onto us.
4. Have the courage to move on.
It can be tempting to continuously engage in a habitual dance with someone’s big ego, simply because people who have them might project their own sense of influence over us.
Just remember, simply because someone displays an extreme level of self-importance, does not mean that they are a critical to us, our happiness, or our goals.
In fact, more likely than not, these people are doing nothing more than distracting us from the things we want.
And, if we observe that the only effect another person has on us is to drain our own energy, then we can pretty much bet that we have a compatible impact on them.
Either that, or they are so disconnected from their emotions, that they don’t really care how we feel anyway.
It’s clearly not serving anyone to stay in close contact with people who constantly rub us the wrong way.
So, having the courage to let go of people with big egos, no matter how influential or impressive they may seem, while staying focused on what feels genuinely right to us, is quite possibly the most powerful way that we can transcend our own egos and connect with our “essential selves.”
Now for the most important part. What is so liberating about transcending our egos anyway? The simple answer is that when we do, life becomes a lot less stressful and a heck of a lot more enjoyable.
While the big egos around us continue to care about what everyone else thinks of them, we begin to release such concerns and worry – and, it’s pretty darn liberating.
On the flip side, when our egos are inflated, we are more focused on serving external needs and perceptions. This is a draining and exhausting climb to ‘keep-up’ with what everyone else wants from us.
It’s also an endless pursuit of futility, where we hit the panic button and continue to work ourselves into overdrive, simply to climb a mountain that leads us to nowhere. Nowhere, at least, but a peak of pure stress with a big view of pressure and other peoples’ expectations – surrounded by none other than, you guessed it… a lot of big egos.
Restraining ourselves from climbing such a mountain involves keeping our own egos in check.
This requires our ability to recognize why and how we engage with people. And, when we do, we may find ourselves choosing different mountains to climb altogether – mountains that connect us with our purpose, potential, and where we find different people with big things other than egos – such as big dreams, big personalities, big curiosity, and big hearts.
Now, that sounds more like mountains worth climbing – where the views are simply limitless.