How and Why You Need To Shed Your Ego (Yes, You Have One)
When I talk to women about ego, their reactions are often defensive (did your shoulders rise when you read this?). Before the millennial generation and the explosion of social media, we were taught that ego is bad, falsely believing that ego and egotistical are the same thing.
According to Merriam-Webster, egotistical is “characterized by egotism: having, showing, or arising from an exaggerated sense of self-importance.” If this brings to mind the jerk in your office who, no matter what is going on with your team, finds a way to talk about himself, how much worth he brought to a project, or some nefarious accomplishment he achieved over the weekend, yeah you’ve nailed egotistical. But that’s not ego.
Ego is not being selfish although it can be…which is a little confusing. Let’s dive deeper.
What Is Ego?
Ego is the conscious part of our self that encapsulates our identity. It’s the “me” or the “I” inside of us. The piece that says, “I like cookies” or “will you go to the movie with me?” It’s your identity. It’s not just the braggart piece (although you can identify that way). It’s not the guy in the office who always turns the conversation to him. That’s egotistical. You having an identity that is expressed as I or me, is an ego. Without it, you aren’t you.
The ego is often referred to as the homunculus, the little person inside of you. It reinforces beliefs about you, the positive and the negative, and can contribute greatly to those stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. So ego is a part of you, but it’s not ALL of you. As Freud identified, the ego, ID and superego are our personality trifecta—they work together so that we show up as…ourselves. The ego in particular is the piece that helps our internal unconscious communicate with our external world.
Ego also helps protect us. When your boundaries get violated, ego is the one that says, hold on a second, this doesn’t fly.
You’ve got an ego
That doesn’t mean you’re egotistical
You need an ego or you don’t have a you
Your ego serves to protect you
The Why and How of Shedding Your Ego
So why and how do you shed something that is critical to your existence? Something that helps define you and helps you make sense of the world? Something that protects you? Shedding ego is delicate. Women of this generation (self included) often have a really hard time leaning into social media. All of that promotion feels so…egotistical. Yet it’s necessary if you want to be “part of the conversation”, i.e. sell your stuff and make people pay attention. In addition to needing ego to exist in an ego-heavy society, the old saying that you can’t help others until you help yourself, is true. Putting yourself first is important! Moving into the divine feminine requires being strongly rooted in who you are.
We need ego to exist both within ourselves and within society. But if we continue to lead with ego, it’s hard to put the collective first, the collective being the collective conscious or the greater good. When you start thinking about the collective consciousness (well-being) over meeting the ego’s needs first, there’s a shift in how you use your energy. A simple example:
If you’re at Walmart and you’ve just emptied your cart into your car, you’ve got two choices. One, you can put the cart in the space between your car and the car in front of you OR you can walk 50 yards to the cart return holder. The first decision is dedicated by ego, the second by collective consciousness. What is best for you vs. what is best for the collective consciousness.
Another example that I’ve experienced (and I’m guessing many of you have, too) is when you're overwhelmed. You’ve had a bad day, you’ve got to get to your friend’s baby shower, you’ve got something you have to read when you get home and it’s your night to cook dinner. Poor you, right? While it’s easy to fall into the poor me mentality, that’s the ego. Feeling poor me because of situations that you’ve put yourself into like being too busy—that’s your ego taking over.
Here’s another ego takeover. You feel great in your new shoes, but you can’t stop thinking about what others are thinking. Who cares? Ego, pure and simple. Once you drop your ego, stepping into the moment and just flowing with life is a lot easier.
You can let go of ego when:
- Doing so benefits the collective good
- Ego starts taking over everything else
- Ego has you more concerned about what others are thinking than it does having you live in the moment
How to shed your ego:
- Thank your ego for getting you here. Without your ego, you wouldn't be who you are. You wouldn't be on this journey
- Recognize when it starts to take over
- Swap out your needs for those of the collective conscious
I gave you a few examples above regarding how to recognize ego. We’re all guilty of hosting pity parties and engaging in thoughtless acts so start with those. If you’re still struggling, turn to nature.
One of the largest manifestations of ego in humans is thinking we’re separate from nature—we’re not. So if you’re having a hard time recognizing ego, think about nature. Did you throw a glass bottle out that you could have recycled because recycling was too inconvenient? Do you live by the mountains and only acknowledge them every once and a while? How’s your interaction with your environment? Is it something you participate in or something you just pass through?
Once you start recognizing how your ego shows up in a non-protective way, start thinking about the collective, not the individual and you’ll find yourself enjoying life more.