Does ego work with us or against us? Friend or foe on our journey through life?
Ego or something else?
Being egotistical is often thrown outwards towards others. Often ego in that context is mistaken for outwards selfishness rather than being about true ego. Equally if someone goes about their business with certainty or confidence they can be mistaken for being ego-driven.
It seems easy to wrongly categorise externals with the ego label. Does the ‘insult’ of ego make sense when we are judging others?
Our own ego
Within ourselves ego seems to dance a fine line between driving us forwards and at the same time causing dissatisfaction and grasping. I’m a great hardworking person so I deserve a house just as big as he has ….
Anyone who enjoys inner peace is no more broken by failure than he is inflated by success. – Matthieu Ricard
Matthieu Ricard is great influence of mine, both a great intellectual and someone with huge compassion and a great knack of presenting challenging concepts in an approachable way. Highly recommend checking out his website, TED Talk and Google discussion.
Matthieu hits the nail on the head in the quote above. Not overtly about ego, it leads to the great question of how to enjoy inner peace. Inner Peace can likely be interpreted a number of ways. For me it refers to an ease and contentment, not too laid back, not too driven with a great awareness and appreciation of what we are experiencing.
So how does ego get in the way of our inner-peace or happiness? Buddha talks of the sense of self-importance getting in the way, we think we are special, yet we are the same and only here for a short while (lets bypass the rebirth concept for now!).
But we shouldn’t get dismayed, Buddha isn’t saying we are worthless, quite the opposite. If we can remove our grasping of self-importance we will use our time to help and have compassion for others. For Buddha that compassion without need for external reward or recognition to pacify the ego will bring about our inner-peace.
Ego is fragile, fickle and requires external validation. Rather than doing things to please or impress, we should as the Stoics say ‘Do what is right and virtuous’. That will bring the contentment and ease we usually call happiness.
Seneca can be relied on to provoke our thoughts of self-importance. Again, the intent isn’t to depress us, rather than for us to realise and laugh at our own nature
You should not estimate our worth by our funeral mound; or by these monuments of unequal size which line the road; their ashes level all men! We are unequal at birth, but are equal in death – Seneca
Seneca here is referring to the privilege (or otherwise) we might be born into. That privilege shouldn’t be carried as ego or a sense of greater value or worth. In the end we all face the same fate.
If ego contributes to our discontent, how do we deal with it? Matthieu Ricard suggests (and I’d agree) that compassion is a great route. Doing things because they are right is a great step. Gratitude is a great way towards compassion.
Other habits I’m finding help are holding gratitude. Either in the way of keeping a gratitude journal, meditating on gratitude or making sure to just pause throughout the day, look around and acknowledge what is around you.
A great habit (one I’m working on) is to simply acknowledge with gratitude the time people give you. After a meeting or discussion simply saying with sincerity that you appreciate the time or discussion seems to create a mutual momentary contentment. Don’t let the ego get in the way with an expectation or acknowledgement for your act though!
So how do you manage your ego?
Featured image from petful.com