Ego Death – How to Get Rid of Your Ego
I’ve said it before on this blog and I’m not alone in saying it: your ego is your enemy. Usually, when we think about our own suffering, we tend to stay at a superficial level. You tell yourself that your suffering is caused by things such as a lack of money, mean people around you or past failures. All of those things have a root cause which is much deeper, and that is the fact that you keep clinging to your sense of pride, or your ego.
The term “ego” refers to everything that gives you a false sense of pride. Your ego is what makes you care about trivial things such as your wealth or the way people think of you. The process of “ego death” is one where you cease to care so much about those things. When you’re able to “kill your ego”, you become immune to other people’s opinions that could lead you on the wrong path. You are able to differentiate good from evil without having second thoughts. Also, your average stress level decreases in the process.
This article will give you a few tips on how to achieve such a state. I’ll begin by further expanding on how your ego makes you suffer. Then, I’ll explain how one can get rid of his ego. Finally, I’ll end up by giving my own perspective. Let’s get started.
Why Ego Is the Enemy
This is mostly a Buddhist perspective, and although I’m not a Buddhist myself, I must admit that this religion seems to have it right when it comes to the concept of ego. Bear in mind that most religions defend the idea that humility is key, so there’s nothing heretic here whether you’re a Wiccan or a Christian.
The Sanskrit term for ego in Buddhism is “anatta”, which is usually translated as “no self”. Buddhists believe that what you think as being your “self” is a lie. There is no such thing as the self. Well, actually the Buddha never said it that way . The idea defended by the Buddha is called “anatman”. In ancient India, people would believe in the concept of the “transmigration of the soul”. The idea was that after death, your soul would just transfer to another body depending on your past karma.
The Buddha objected this idea, as it would give inherent characteristics to one’s person that could make it harder to get rid of your suffering. Anatta means that what you call your “soul” is always changing. Nothing is inherent to your person. You only live through temporary states that change through time and during your spiritual practice.
Seeing yourself as having inherent qualities is very counterproductive. If you make mistakes and feel wrong about them, you might ask yourself if there’s anything you can do about it. Fortunately, there’s always something you can do. You should never ask yourself : ”Am I a bad person? Am I a loser? Are people proud of me?”
The right questions would be: “Did I make the right decision and if not, can I find a way to make it next time? Am I happy of what I do and do I think that it gets me closer to some ideal? Am I proud of myself?” In those questions, you give yourself room for improvement. You acknowledge that you are imperfect but also that you can improve yourself.
Now, that is my perspective, but what I find is that it seems that people with the biggest ego also show signs of having very low self-esteem. They don’t give themselves the right to fail, and thus, believe that a failure means that THEY are failures. To avoid feeling that way, they try to show themselves strong and able at all cost. They refuse criticism as they see it as direct attacks against themselves. If you feel that you always have to prove yourself, it might be that you don’t know your real worth. And (spoiler alert), you’re worth more than you think.
Getting Rid of Your Ego
Ok, you want to get rid of your ego and feel good about yourself. Now, how does one achieve this?
The process needs time and dedication, but most of all, you got to want it. It goes hand in hand with developing a better control over your emotions and asking yourself questions about what you think you understand in any given situation. For example, if somebody criticizes a piece of work on which you have given yourself 100%, you need to be able to stay calm and resist the urge to get angry and retaliate. Then, listen and try to analyze. The criticism you received might make sense. Perhaps there was something that you didn’t know, or were inexperienced with. Or it might not. The other person might be jealous, or there might be something that he or she doesn’t understand.
You need to be honest with yourself. Don’t conclude the latter every single time, as you might very well be wrong most of the time. Now, in that situation, having failed doesn’t mean that you suck. Well, you might suck at the time, but if people criticize what you do, they’re not criticizing you directly. It’s only an occasion to improve yourself.
I am very well aware that some people are parasitic. They will do anything possible to spit on your work. They might even try to put you down. In any case, you don’t need to worry about those people. It’s usually because they feel bad about themselves of because they lack self-esteem. What they say doesn’t mean anything and you don’t have to prove yourself to them. You will want to, though. Your emotions have been hurt because of that. Don’t. You have nothing to gain from it. Learning to develop control over your emotions is necessary for you to be able to stay calm and be happy.
Basically, what I’m saying is that you need to focus on the positive in order to improve. Enjoy the process. Applaud yourself when you did something you’re proud of. Don’t think that making mistakes means that there is something that is inherently wrong with you. It’s not the case. The best of us usually have the longest story behind them.
Enjoy Yourself, You Deserve It
Our culture, at least in North America, puts a lot of emphasis on results, career success and money, as if those things were a) everything there was in life and b) easy to obtain instantaneously. Those two things are completely untrue.
Take this example, loosely based on real life persons that I know. Two fathers live two very different lives. The first one works in a car factory and has a technician job. He works 9 to 5, makes a decent living and then gets home to his family. He spend some time playing with his children, makes jokes during diner and then they watch TV together. During week-ends, he gets his son to his hockey practices and stays and watch. Later, he brings his daughter to karate and once again, stays and watch the course. He might go to church on Sunday with them, who knows. The point is, father 1 spends his free time with his children.
Now, father 2 is the CEO of Global International, a big company specialized in making a lot of money. His job and his responsibilities toward his company require him to work 80 hours a week, week-ends included. His sons almost never see him. He’s divorced, as it’s hard to keep your marriage in one piece when your wife is always second after your job. His children basically never see him.
Pop culture would show the latter as being an example of success. In some ways, he is. But is he “superior” to father 1? Being a good father isn’t something that is often used as a mean of feeding your ego. Being of a lower social class of having a less prestigious professional occupation are often the things that we associate with being a “loser”.
I’d like to break this mentality once and for all. We are all of the same specie and we have a very short life span. In a few million years, what mankind did in this century will be of no importance whatsoever. Worse, in the short term, father 2 might be good for the economy, but his children will have issues to deal with because of the fact that he wasn’t there.
Most people believe that father 2 has more to be proud of than father 1. It’s not the case. Both have things to be proud of. Father 2 has things to be ashamed of too, though. So, why do people feel bad for being more like father 1 than father 2? Father 2 might show off his wealth and try to brag about himself, but what good does that do him?
Don’t feel bad for having a less prestigious job, having been in less prestigious schools or having less of what our culture deems worthy of being proud of. Feeling that you have to work towards those things in order to feel proud of yourself can lead you on less desirable paths. And it will not improve your self-esteem in any way whatsoever.
Enjoy yourself, you deserve it. Be proud of your victories. Accept your failures. Do what you think is best. Don’t let your pride get in the way. You’ll be much happier.
The Bottom Line
Nothing within you is permanent, and you can improve about anything. Letting people influence you by playing on your sense of pride is a sure way of making terrible decisions. You need to learn to control your emotions in a way that lets you improve yourself and avoid being put down by people who just want to make you suffer.
Even our culture might lead you to making bad decisions by putting emphasis on the wrong things. A desire to feel proud of yourself according to what society shows as being things you can be proud is a dangerous thing. Feeding your ego will make you suffer. Try not to do it.
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