The concept of the ego is often misunderstood. Sigmund Freud’s definition of the ego is that part of us that keeps us from acting on our more primitive urges. A more main stream conceptualization of the ego refers to that part of us that wants to feel important and be recognized. When we say someone has a ‘big ego’ we aren’t talking about Freud’s ego that is the way station between acting on animal urges and aiming for high aspirations. We are talking about someone who is very wrapped up in themselves.
The ego likes to make things difficult. But why? The bottom line is that the big ego part of us is afraid of rejection – our greatest fear of all. We are intensely social creatures. So much so that the same part of the brain associated with physical pain is activated when we feel socially rejected. It feels like we are in mortal danger when we are rejected, especially when that rejection comes from parents, and later on, peers. So the big ego actually develops through our attempts to feel safe, but it keeps us from self-acceptance.
“You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!” – Paul Tillich
However, if we come from a place of self-acceptance, we can let go of many of the complications that our big ego brings to our lives. Mindfulness fosters greater self-acceptance.
Here’s today’s letting go exercise: Let go of your big ego
- Take a few minutes to ground yourself physically and mentally by breathing, or breathing with gentle stretching.
- Think about your big ego by examining where your make your life especially difficult. Perhaps there are several aspects of your life that seem overcomplicated by your efforts to be accepted.
- Now think of a time when you have felt accepted. Did this come as a result of planning and scheming of the big ego? or was it a more simple, natural moment?
- See if you can let go of your big ego for a few moments today. Trust that mindfulness will shrink your trouble-making ego, and grow your self-acceptance.