The concept of the ego is often misunderstood. Freud defined the super ego as that part of us that keeps us from acting on our more primitive urges (the Id), and the ego as the more logical, in-control part of our personality.
Typically, when we say someone has a ‘big ego’ we aren’t talking about Freud’s super-ego – the weigh station between acting on animal urges and acting in a socially sanctioned way. We are usually talking about someone who is very wrapped up in themselves.
It’s true that a wrong-sized ego can 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. After 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 experience rejection, especially when that rejection comes from care givers, and later on, peers and collegues. So the big ego actually develops through our attempts to feel safe, but it can keep us from self-acceptance, and truly feeling like we belong.
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. Grab your letting go journal.
- Think about your big ego by examining where you make your life especially difficult. Is there an area in your life where you have to be right, even at the expense of hurting someone close to you…. an area where you spend too much of your physical, financial, or emotional resources so that you can “fit in?” Perhaps there are several aspects of your life that seem overcomplicated by your efforts to maintain self-image.
Here’s a great quote about 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
- 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. Take a 20-minute break where you turn off planning and scheming. Trust that mindfulness will shrink your trouble-making ego, and grow your self-acceptance.