I am delighted this week to publish a guest post by Alex South about the dreaded ego. Delighted because this gives me more time to
eat fruit loops work on the big changes that are happening here at Rebel Zen and because I’m a fan of Alex’s musings and have no doubt they will add value to your life – enjoy! Seamus
By Alex South
“Hell yeah! Do not pass go, do not collect £200 pounds – get your ass in jail. Urgh! I am the Monopoly master! Where’s your precious Mayfair hotel now huh?!”
We all get competitive – but why do we care so much? In a board game such as Monopoly there is no intrinsic value to winning. Once the game is over, everything goes back to normal; there is no prize, no advantage, no difference in our lives.
Yet a victory feels so good; even if it doesn’t gain us anything physical, there is a joy we get from being better. Whether it be a better Monopoly player, a better tennis player, a better Pokémon theme tune singer – we wanna be the very best.
It all stems from one thing: the ego, which, very simply, is what makes you care about you. Your ego makes you care that you win. Your ego makes you care that you do well in life. Your ego makes you care that you’re well liked – by those around you and by yourself.
In fact, at its very core, your ego’s main function is to make you care that you exist. It’s a strange notion indeed, the idea that we could exist without caring. However, without an ego, we would be inconsequential to ourselves.
We would view our body with the same detachment as any other container. Just like a man trapped in a box, without any notion that the box belongs to him, so too, we would be trapped in a body without any feeling that it is ours.
In fact, without an ego, nothing would belong to us, and the word ‘us’ would become meaningless. After all, human beings are made out of atoms and energy – and so is the world. Where we draw the lines is arbitrary. At what point does the protein in our food become a part of us? At what point do the ideas we’re taught become our knowledge, or the light in our eyes our vision? In your lifetime, every cell in your body will be replaced, so which collection of cells are you? The first one? The old one? Both? Neither?
We Make Meaning
The point is, the boundaries between us and our environment are not clear cut. What we call us, and what we call something else is more to do with our ego’s need to own something – to be something, rather than any kind of logic. It’s our ego that makes us draw these boundaries.
And it’s a good fucking job! As a skilled meditator will tell you, losing the false boundaries between ‘us’ and the world – so that ‘you’ become one with the whole universe – is very cool and a lot of fun, but it’s not very practical for day to day life.
It’s all very well feeling like you have been absorbed into the air, and that the walls are part of your mind, but that’s very distracting, and probably won’t help you concentrate on washing your plate, or turn up to your doctor’s appointment on time (or at all). So for everyday life, we are not all one; that guy is someone else, and you have to beat him at scrabble!
So thank you ego. You help us keep our minds on us, and our well-being. You make us care that we are who we are. However, you can also be kind of a pain in the ass.
You see, sometimes our ego filters certain information and takes out the bits it doesn’t want us to see. For example, after a Monopoly victory, you might not remember that you had amazing luck with the dice, or that your friend let you off 50 dollars because you started crying, and it was embarrassing.
Your ego may claim that you didn’t fail at giving up smoking because of poor will power, but, instead, that you just made a clever tactical decision to quit at a latter, more convenient time, which is ironic, because good will power comes from learning not to make excuses.
Our ego keeps us safe, it celebrates our accomplishments, and hides us from feelings of inadequacy. Unfortunately this is the antithesis of the attitude we need to achieve great things.
You’ve probably heard that famous piece of advice, endorsed by accomplished entrepreneurs, actors, artists, writers, architects – and anyone who’s chased unrestrained, raw ambition: Embrace failure.
It’s simple, if you want to get better at something difficult, you have to be willing to fail (and you will) again and again and again. It’s not about how many times you get knocked down, it’s about how many times you can get knocked down, but still stand up again.
So we have to get past our egos. We have to get outside our comfort zones. We have to be willing to look foolish as many times as it takes.
So then, it’s clear that those with the most to be proud of, are the ones who can ignore the seductive reassurances of their ego and say, ‘You know what? I’m shit at this. I’m going to keep being shit at this for a long time. I’m going to keep failing for a long time. I’m going to be constantly reminded of how I’m not good enough (yet) – and I’m okay with that, because that’s part of becoming the best me I can be’.
Your ego may not like failure or inadequacy, but you can learn to embrace it.
For this reason, I’d like to invite you to go through two exercises with me, which I use to get beyond my ego.
Ego busting exercise number one
Concentrate on your thoughts, allow them to become calm. Observe the raw processing power you have, the way you can hold multiple ideas or concepts, the way you can rip them into the parts they’re made up of, the way you can draw connections between them as fast as the electricity in your brain jumps from neuron to neuron – your running on the same power as lighting – you’re a living storm. This raw power is capable of amazing things, if you can let it run wild and free.
But that ‘if’ is the key. Feel your ego, the way it want to hold you back, keep you safe, keep you blind. Now take it away. Think of something big you’re trying to achieve in your life. Now float up, out of your head. Look at where you are now. Look at where you want to be. Now ask, are you doing enough?
Don’t let your ego drown you out, don’t let it try and protect you with excuses. This is not a personal question, this isn’t an analysis of your dedication, or strength of character. This is a pure question, aiming for pure truth.
What are you doing? Are you doing enough? Are you being the best version of you that you can be? Are you fighting as hard as you can? Are you kicking ass with your true ass kicking potential?
Perhaps you are, or perhaps that last exercise raised some doubts. Maybe you suddenly worried that you’ve become complacent, or that you simply don’t have good will power, or that you’ve been procrastinating.
If you did have any thoughts like that, maybe they were accompanied by a heaviness in your stomach and a very small feeling of despair – that’s your ego!
Your ego doesn’t deal with bad news very well. But that’s okay. Think about those thoughts that you had, and embrace them as something positive. It’s information, it’s truth, it’s power.
Ego busting exercise number two
Imagine you are an angel. Now imagine you know everything there is to know about the human you are watching over. This human has all the problems, thoughts and aspirations that you used to have before you became an angel. Imagine you could wave your hand and make the person do anything.
You desperately want them to achieve their dreams (as long as it doesn’t break the laws of physics), and so are going to think of one thing you can force them to do (as often as is necessary), that they aren’t doing already, that will increase the chance of them realizing their dream.
What would it be?
Why aren’t you doing it?
Without our ego we are only left with an honest assessment of things. Pride, fear, insecurity – none of those can hold down our amazing raw potential. Now is the time to see everything clearly, and unleash the potential of the world with prophetic insight.
And, paradoxically, that will bag you some amazing accomplishments for your ego to munch on in your moments of reflection.
With open eyes and an open mind you can set the sky on fire.
Thank you very much for reading, and thanks to Seamus for having me over to visit. I write a blog for square pegs, for people who defy categorization, summation and explanation – and are damn proud of it. Check it out here.