What is ego? Ego is a very common topic for discussion, yet not many truly understand what it is, how it works and why it plays such a big role in our life. On the one hand, people often say that ego is “bad” and that it is there to slow us down. But on the other hand, it exists, and there must be a reason for it, just like there is for everything else in life.
What is ego?
To begin with, let’s try to understand what is ego and why it exists.
From the moment we are born, we begin to develop our ego. The more we look around, the more we realize one simple truth – there is I and there is the rest of the world. We crawl around and explore the surroundings by putting things into our mouth, but as soon as something is taken away from us, we burst into tears demanding it to be given back to us. That is also the work of our ego, but in its early stages.
As we get older, our ego evolves with us. We are told by our parents that we cannot have everything we want whenever we want it, but if we behave well, we are able to earn it. That teaches us to be responsible, but it also expands the ego. Now we clearly see that certain actions bring desired results. And if someone then tries to take away something that was rightfully deserved, that is when we feel the need to fight for it, verbally and/or physically.
Almost anything you can think of in your life has been affected by your ego. Relationships, education, work, hobbies, food preferences, the way you walk, dress and talk – all are a consequence of your ego. Your ego shapes who you are and how you see the world. It is the ability to see yourself as an entity separate from others. It allows you to have a different, from everyone else, identity.
The ego paradox
What is ego: Benefits
We have more or less described what is ego and its purpose, but let’s go a little deeper.
As you can probably understand, the ego is something that we cannot survive without. It is as much a part of life as eating or drinking is. It protects us from strangers that want to hurt us and motivates us to become better. The desire to work harder in order to get a higher salary, or to become a better musician, are both examples of our ego pushing us to improve.
It really wouldn’t be possible to grow up in this world if we would have absolutely no ego. We would simply not be able to function in the society. Making money, going to school or protecting ourselves from wild animals would be pointless to us. And to others, we would look like someone that has gone insane. Therefore, it would be logical to think that the ego is actually a good thing. But that’s, of course, our ego thinking. 🙂
Moreover, the ego is not only about “me-me-me” as some people prefer to think. There are phases in life when the ego has the ability to expand. For example, we naturally care for our parents and siblings, and we are willing to help them at our own cost. As we grow, we get into a relationship and experience love.
Love is the easiest way to experience partial ego loss (not ego death, which is the complete loss of subjective self-identity). When we fall in love, we forget about our own needs and wants, and are willing to do extreme things for the benefit of another person. To a person that has never been in love, your actions may be completely irrational or even dangerous.
The birth of children expands the ego as well. The kids are yours, and you, therefore, care for them as you would for yourself.
Some would argue that the ego can be expanded even further by loving your country, but this is where the ego often gets out of hand.
What is ego: Dangers
Recommended for reading: What to Do When Someone Is Better Than You? – Dealing with Jealousy
Although some think that loving people and being nationalistic are very similar, there is actually a very big difference between the two. One is driven by love, and the other by ego. One is about seeing all as one, and the other is about seeing the differences – me vs. you.
The example above is extreme, but anything driven by the ego is harmful to us.
People that have high ambitions and a lot of success in life can become proud and arrogant. The feeling that one has put in a lot of work and achieved more than others causes that person to look down on them. The feeling of love towards your own children can raise the feeling that they are superior to other children. This is also a common scenario and is caused by the ego.
One can read a book to become more intelligent, but then use that information to make others feel as if they have less knowledge. This is ego. One can do something good for a friend, but then expect something in return. And if it isn’t returned to them on time, the friendship may be damaged or even ruined. This is also ego.
Making better art than others or composing better music also is ego. Being in a relationship and not wanting to say “I love you”, or saying “I love you” and wanting to hear the same in return – both are examples of what is ego.
Being easily offended or not giving something up, are examples of ego. Buying a new set of clothes and feeling better about it also increases the ego. Addictions are ego.
The list is infinite. It can go on and on.
You may now think to yourself – so what? These examples make up life. That’s who we are. How is ego bad for us?
The ego causes you to cling onto things. And the more you cling onto things, the less happy you become. You begin to experience more stress and you don’t want to lose those things that were not easy to attain in the first place.
The bottom line is that ego causes suffering. This is visible when you don’t get you lollipop as a child, when you receive a poor grade in school, when a girl tells you she doesn’t like you, or when you don’t get a follow-up call after a job interview. Finally, even though you need that fear for self-preservation, fear of death is created by your ego and causes you to suffer.
Should something be done about it?
Many people prefer to think that ego is something that is inherently bad and that we should get completely rid of it. Some religions address the ego directly, while others do it indirectly by teaching us to be humble. At the same time, religions are often the reason why ego takes more control over a person’s life than anything else.
People that have a very strong ego are often called egotistic. They judge others, are arrogant, never wrong, always right, never listen and always talk. That is definitely something that could be improved, and it’s not too difficult to do it. Being aware is the easiest partial solution for fighting the ego. The realization that everything is subjective causes our ego to lose its grip.
Meditation is one of the most effective ways to fight your ego. When we meditate, we quiet down our mind and simply contemplate the things around us. Silence holds a tremendous amount of wisdom, and if only more people would meditate and live with awareness, the world would be a much better place.
When we are able to silence down our ego, that is when we allow our mind to open up for new experiences. We are able to see the world with clarity and without prejudice. Most of us can experience this from time to time, but not for long. If we don’t practice dissolving the ego, it will only become stronger with age.
That being said, you don’t have to be like a monk that meditates day and night to get rid of the ego completely. As I mentioned earlier, removing it completely will not allow you to function properly in the society. If you still have some plans for the future, then living in awareness will be enough.
There is nothing wrong with living a normal life. Some of us can immensely benefit the world by helping and serving others. Even the Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil, not the money itself. You can live life without clinging onto things, regardless of where you are at.
I hope you now understand what is ego, its dangers, and how complex the topic is. The ego protects us, but it also prevents us from being genuinely happy. It’s not right or wrong. It’s just there, a part of our life, just like breathing oxygen is or eating food.
Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject with me in the comments below. I appreciate your input.
Thank you for stopping by and good luck!
Please click below to subscribe and to follow us on social media:
Click here to follow us via E-mail!
Click here to follow us on Facebook!
Click here to follow us on YouTube!
Click here to follow us on Instagram!
Click here to follow us on Twitter!