The ego is a sneaky, little devil that lives in our minds. There are a multitude of ways in which our egos wreak havoc in our self-talk (“what will they think?”), behaviors (“just one more …”) and decisions (“sure I will host Christmas”). The ego is never satisfied, is outwardly focused and wants power and control. And when we are feeling ‘less than’ or small or flat, then the ego is right where it wants you. When we can free or separate ourselves from our egos, we feel energized, peaceful and authentic. Here are 5 ways to nurture genuineness and tell the ego your dance card is full.
- Be generous.The ego will tell us that we have to “get while the gettin’s good”, that there is only so much to go around. When we can shift the mind from a place of scarceness to a place of generosity, we can beat back the ego. Instead of operating out of paranoia or fear that we won’t get ours, or worse someone else may get more than us, we can let go and feel the freedom in both giving and receiving. We can recognize that we all have our own innate gifts. By tapping into ours and asking others to tap into theirs, we are generously sharing our talents with each other, which just breeds more generosity. The poor ego cannot compete in this environment. Try giving someone the benefit of the doubt or driving nicely or holding the door open for a stranger and see how it feels to be generous.
- Take care of you. The ego feeds on low self-esteem and not being good, skinny, rich, intelligent, blah blah blah, enough. It takes advantage when we feel unworthy, and then looks for outside solutions, like drinking, eating or some other self-loathing activity. When we don’t take care of our essential needs, like rest, nutrition, and emotional wellness, the ego has a heyday. We can put a halt to the ego when we get a good night’s sleep, eat healthfully and mindfully, and take breaks throughout the day to recharge both our minds and our spirits. Try a new healthy recipe, go to bed earlier, or try meditating for 5 minutes and see how it feels to take care of yourself.
- Tattle on the ego. The ego loves to operate in secret, dark corners. If we tattle, or tell, someone what we are thinking, then the ego will run and hide. For example, if my ego is telling me that I deserve that second piece of chocolate cake because I earned it by having such a rough day (and I wholeheartedly agree!), then I can tell someone that my ego is jerking me around. When the ego is exposed, it typically hightails it. Try telling someone what your ego is whispering in your ear and see if the ego recoils.
- Talk about your shame with a trusted confidante. The ego can live forever off a tidbit of shame. Shining a light on the shame helps diminish it, thereby reducing the ego’s effect. A useful way to expose shame is to talk about it with someone we can trust. Even though telling anyone about our shame is incredibly uncomfortable, like a burpee, you will be stronger when you are done. And the wimpy ego will be no match. Try to find a safe confidante and share one of your shame triggers and see if there is a sense of relief and peace afterwards.
- Forgive yourself. The ego likes to tell us what we are, and by beating us down, it can gain control of our mind. Here are some of the ego tapes that have played in my mind. “You are unlovable, that’s why you got rejected.” “You are a terrible mother, how could you lose your cool in front of the kids.” “You are a loser, why can’t you fit in your jeans.” If we can treat ourselves with kindness and compassion, then the ego loses its thunder. Because the ego is focused on what others think of us, we can instead concentrate on what we think of ourselves. We can intellectually agree that we know we aren’t perfect and we will make mistakes. When we can forgive ourselves for being a wonderfully flawed human and trust that we are doing the best we can, then the ego’s voice becomes harder to hear. Try treating yourself as you would a child by forgiving yourself for a mistake and instead seeing the slipup as an opportunities for learning.
It is important to note that quieting the ego is a lifelong challenge. Even when the ego has gone into hiding, we can remind ourselves that it’s doing pushups in anticipation for the next moment of weakness. By practicing the 5 actions above regularly, we are better prepared to oppose the ego and unlock our true selves.