My first introduction to the Ego was from Ryan Holiday’s book The Ego Is The Enemy.
I didn’t know a lot about the ego, but it made sense that it was the enemy given what I knew about the word.
Being egotistical essentially meant you had your head up your ass. Amirite?
Yet as I began to learn more about the Ego and reflect on my own experience, I started to see the Ego as less of an enemy and more of an ally.
Today I’d like to share my experience, perspective and what I’ve learned about the Ego. I invite you to develop your own conclusions.
According to the Oxford language, the Ego is a person’s sense of esteem or self-importance.
If we are aware of the ego, it’s actually neither good nor bad. The ego is detrimental when we allow it to operate subconsciously, without actively observing its thoughts.
Note that the ego’s thoughts are not your thoughts. The ego is not you, it’s just a part of you.
Freud’s personality theory saw the psyche as three parts: Id, Ego and Superego
- Id: The primitive and animalist aspect of us who operates unconsciously. It’s impulsive and instinctive, responding directly to our basic needs & desires.
- Ego: That ‘part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world.’ The ego is the bridge between the external world and your ID. The ego in this sense is acting out the ID’s demands, in a more rational way. Whereas the Id is more impulsive, the Ego acts more careful in considering how the world will respond to your actions.
- Superego: The conscience which punishes the ego through guilt and the ideal self, which is your interpretation of how you should be, based on your values & perceptions of the world.
I share Freud’s Personality Theory to prove a very important point – there is a lot more going inside your head than you think. At any given point, there are multiple parts of your psyche all competing against each other.
How the Ego Can Be the Enemy
While there are many different definitions of Ego, one thing we know is that it’s tied to self importance and self esteem. Neither of those are bad, but if not kept in check they can cause us to judge and minimize ourselves and others.
Typically when we think of Ego, we think of the really smart and/or good looking person who has their head far up their ass. The person who thinks their shit doesn’t stink, if you will.
Yet this idea of self importance is also tied directly to the victim mentality. You victimize yourself when you believe that your issues (whether weight, family, personal etc.) are particularly unique and especially unfair. The victim mentality looks at others and minimizes their issues, while firmly believing their own issues are far more important and complicated!
If we obsess over our self image, whether too positively or too negatively, we allow the Ego to run the show and distort our reality.
How Do You Know When the Ego Will Assert Itself?
- When you aspire to do something new:
- Common to worry about what others will say, what if it doesn’t work out as we want to.
- It can cause us to overthink and therefore distract us from doing the work.
- When we reach a level of success:
- The ego can convince us that just because one thing went well, that everything else must too.
- A side effect here is to take on too much and dilute our energies. This commonly happens when you achieve success early on.
- Confidence vs. Arrogance:
Confidence: Healthy self-belief in your abilities. Knowing that not everything is going to go your way but that there is opportunity for growth in every attempt.
Arrogance: I am the shizz and everyone will know it!
- When we experience a setback:
- Because the ego is about self importance, when something doesn’t go our way, the ego will attempt to protect you.
- This shows up as being defensive and blaming others.
Make Your Ego Your Ally
Build your self esteem so that you act with confidence, not arrogance. Consider the following filters:
- Discernment over Judgement: Discernment involves your insights and understanding what’s going on, whereas judgement tends to happen automatically based on our own wounds.
- Kindness over Being Right: Wanting to be right or the “Woe is Me” mentality are the negative aspects of the ego protecting your self-importance. Yet there is nothing to protect because there truly is nothing to fear. Nothing in the outside world can deter your sense of self or determine your self-importance. This is an inner game. As long as you love yourself for who you are, you are able to be kind and not feel the need to defend.
- Self-Compassion over Perfectionism: Self compassion is accepting where you’re at, knowing it’s exactly where you should be and appreciating your life. Perfectionism puts you in a state of constant chasing, where you think you should be and do something other than what you already are.
The Ego will put you down or lift you up. Yet if used with intention, it will empower us as illustrated by the Frank Shamrock “+ – = System.” Frank is one of the most successful mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters of all time. His “Shamrock System” is based on the ideas of Plus, Minus, and Equal. For you to be great, you must:
- Plus + : Learn from someone with more experience than you. There is always someone better or bigger than you. Use their expertise to gain perspective and reflect on something bigger than yourself.
- Minus – : Teach someone with less experience than you. When you teach/mentor what you know, you will learn even more and discover many ways to improve yourself.
- Equal + : Engage and connect with someone with the same experience as you. A peer will give you valuable, honest feedback and joyfully support your journey.
Humility is the key to working this system and finding success. Arrogance will be your stumbling block.
So is your ego your enemy or ally? That is the question of the week! I would love to hear what YOU think!
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Joe Carabase is a fitness expert, lecturer, entrepreneur, and the author of
Get UnStuck Today: The 90 Day Journal To Get Out Of Your Head & Into A Better Body