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SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim explains what ego is, how it functions and how not to let it drive your life.
I've received many questions from readers about behavior that is described as "ego-driven." I want to explain what ego is, how to know when it's in control and how to tame it to help you become more balanced and wise.
Some people think "ego-driven" just means one is arrogant or conceited, but ego is actually more encompassing than that. Imagine an apple, for example. Think of the real you as the fleshy white part on the inside and the skin that you try to keep shiny and free from bruises or nicks as the ego.
Your ego is who you believe you are or the face you show to the world. It is made of what you believe your story is. That includes your image (physical and not) and your performance. It is the part of you that you compare to others. Ego tries to protect the inner you from mistreatment and may behave reactively to defend you too.
Your ego is not the real you, though. The part on the inside called your consciousness is who you really are. This part has the ability to step back and watch the ego thinking and functioning on your behalf. It's possible to step back and watch your ego run through your reactions and behaviors. You have the power to talk to your ego and tell it to "settle down now" or "stop being afraid," or you can let your ego run wild and watch the emotions and behaviors it might be encouraging.
Your ego isn’t bad or something to get rid of. It actually serves you since its goal is to protect you. The trick is becoming more and more consciously aware of your ego so you can see when it's serving you and when it’s not.
Whenever your ego is experiencing fear and reacting to a situation with anger, shame or other negative emotions, you need to step back and ask yourself if the rest of you agrees with that response. Your higher self (the real you inside the apple) is the source of peace, truth and love. When you learn to tune into this part of you, you discover wisdom and compassion.
At any given moment, if you find yourself wondering whether your ego is driving or if you're functioning from your higher self, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you feel jealous of other people’s lives, appearance or property? (Your ego might think you have to look better and have more to prove your value)
- Are you talking more than you are listening? (This might be your ego needing attention and validation to confirm its value)
- Are you afraid you're not good enough or are you feeling less than other people? (This might be your ego being afraid because it has forgotten that all people have the same value)
- Are you standing in judgment and seeing yourself as better, in some way, than other people? (This is the ego's way of creating self-esteem)
- Are you creating rationalizations or justifications to allow negative, fear-based emotions to drive your behavior? (Ego can argue that bad behavior is justified to protect you)
- Do you have to be right or have your way? (Your ego thinks you do, but the real you might not)
- Do you need to post things online so others know what you're doing? (That might be ego needing validation or attention to feel good enough)
Has ego has been driving your life? If so, here is a simple process to help you check your ego at the door:
Stop overthinking by coming to your senses. Focus on what you can see, smell, hear and feel right now. Then sit back and feel the way your current feelings are affecting how you feel inside. Are you angry, scared or feeling unsafe? Why is that? What could this experience be here to teach you? Could it help you grow and be a better person? This situation might not be a threat — it could be a lesson. This is processing a situation without story or ego.
Remember everything you feel is coming from your perspective or the way you're looking at it. Feeling insecure, angry, protective or controlling could mean you're seeing this situation as threatening. This is ego that experiences fear over truth. Remind yourself that the classroom of life only brings you experiences that serve you. So, no person or situation can ruin your journey or take from the quality of your life unless it's part of your perfect classroom to have that experience. This means you're always safe in the journey and can trust the universe. Let go of your ego’s need for control. Do only what's in your control to improve your situation and trust the universe will take care of the rest.
Give up jealousy of others. You are getting your perfect journey and they are getting theirs.
Remind yourself that your value is infinite. You have the same unchangeable value as every other person on the planet and you're not better or less than anyone else. You don’t need recognition or validation to have value. Ego worries about your image and what others think. Set all that ego-driven neediness aside and just be the love inside you. Your love (not your ego) is who you are.
Give up all judgment of others. It's ego that needs to judge others to feel of value. Choose to let every person be on their perfect journey (how and where they are) and remember they have the same intrinsic value as you. No one is superior and no one is inferior, we're just different. This is seeing others accurately without ego.
Ask questions and listen more than you talk. You have to set aside ego and your own needs to do this. Do your best to make the other person feel equally important in any conversation.
Avoid the need to post everything you do online. Practice not needing attention from others and know that you alone are enough.
The truth is taming your ego and showing up authentically will be a life-long effort and that none of us will master it completely any time soon. It may be a daily battle with small victories and many defeats. Don’t be discouraged by this, just keep watching and choosing love for others and yourself every chance you get.
You can do this.
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