Like a lot of things that rise in popularity and become an almost societal pop-culture in and of itself, riddled with opinions and ideas of how certain things should be done – there are certain elements of the spiritual/self-help genre that I feel have become heavily infiltrated with the same type of behaviours. Specifically speaking – THE EGO.
Sadly, the EGO has been given a really bad reputation, even so much as being referred to as the false identity that we create of ourselves. It is something that we are inadvertently taught to fear so that we don’t allow it to rule us, our thoughts, or the way we construct our life. Many in the spiritual world teach that the ego is limiting, that in order to be able to live a truly balanced life, we must be able to transcend the ego – the all-consuming energy that has been blamed for everything from destroying relationships to creating insecurities. We become riddled with guilt when we dip into our ego, making ourselves feel better by posting memes on social media that go something like “my ego made me do it…” and label it insecurity, arrogance, EGOtistical.
But what isn’t spoken about the EGO is that it is, in fact, the MOST crucial element in the development of the Self and can be used as our greatest source of motivation. This misrepresentation of the ego is what keeps us stuck in what we think we’re supposed to be doing, as opposed to doing what we know we can do. The only problem with the ego is not that it is limiting, but that we let ourselves be confined by it at all times.
The word ‘ego’ comes from Greek roots e (I) and go (earth) meaning the most grounded part of the individualised consciousness. The ego is born during the ages 18months – 4 y/o, when the Manipura Chakra, the third Chakra, begins to mature and comes as a result of the realisation that we are a separate entity from our mothers. This stage in a child’s life is also referred to as the “terrible 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s…
The ego becomes the anchor of our experiences, forming our identity as we begin to explore our self, our world separate from our mothers, our boundaries and new paradigms – as we begin to separate from our innate support system (our mothers), the ego filters which experiences to hold on to and which to reject, it drives our movement toward discovering new things within our environment and all the while balancing the energies in our system, maintaining homeostasis, and ensuring that we are self-sufficient, safe, engaged, and effective enough to grow and develop. If we want our children to grow up as autonomous individuals, to have power, and to accept responsibility, we need to supply guidance without suppressing the delicate, emerging ego.
“Like a new blade of grass, the ego is bravely but tenderly pushing its first shoots above the ground, reaching for the light of the heavens. May we tread carefully, with patience and strength of will, giving it the nourishment, it needs to grow.” Anodea Judith.
As we grow into our lives and experiences different things (both good and bad), this begins to shape the ego – as well as the reactions (impulses) that it holds on to. As with all things, the ego also has polarity, a shadow side, and when the ego becomes weakened or damaged, it can become controlling, self-sabotaging, fearful, uninspired, rebellious – or any of those other negative connotations we associate with the go – in an attempt to restore homeostasis. When we become trapped in this weakened ego state, it can indeed over-shadow us when we allow it to take the wheel, to be in control. This ‘shadow’ side of our ego is called the SMALL EGO. The small ego is what keeps us stuck in what we think we’re supposed to be doing, as opposed to doing what we know we can do. The only problem with the small ego is not that it is limiting, but that we let ourselves be confined by it at all times.
In our early years, the ego becomes the mediator between our developing personal identity and all that we experience in our world. A healthy ego is where a strong will, healthy self-esteem, personal power, and confidence are established – these of course benefitting us later in life in achieving our goals, manifesting our desires, being proactive, successful, and responsible adults. A healthy ego is the fire in our belly that ignites the action, that motivates us to strive forward, to take on new challenges, and to continually be the best possible versions of ourselves.
A healthy ego can be our best friend, if we truly understand it and understand how and why it responds the way it does, because, at the end of the day, our ego is us, we are our ego. Sure, it can be a little over-protective sometimes, but aren’t all best friends like that?