Downsizing the ego

In my last post How the Ego Works I described the Ego as an internal watchman that has been installed in you by the people you grew up with.

So long as you live in society you can’t live without the watchman because it is through her that you navigate your way around the social order. And even if you left for a monastery you would still need an ego to find your way around the rules in there.

At the same time we should be wary of gurus who claim to be living beyond the ego. That is impossible. But we can work towards ego reduction. if we do that we are likely to be less phoney, less frustrated and less conceited.

The list that follows isn’t comprehensive but if you are sincere about personal development then practicing all of them will take you a long way.

Don’t take things personally

The ego is, by definition, paranoid. It relates everything that happens around you back to the self. As if you are the centre of the universe and more important than you in fact are.

In the same way, the unkind remarks others make about you have very little to with you at all. It has much more to do with their own ego: their delusions, frustrations and self-importance. Don’t be fooled.

Don’t gossip

This means refraining from talking about your own misfortunes and trivial concerns and not criticizing others’ behind their backs. Above all, don’t name-drop or brag about your wealth, possessions, sexual conquests and achievements. It’s not only egocentric but makes you look ridiculous.

Don’t use religion as an ego-booster

Thinking that you are nearer to God than other people – or that you are doing God’s will – is the most insidious form of egoism there is. It also makes you just part of the guru pest I have written about elsewhere. It’s a sad fact that many religious (though not all) are some of the most unkind, judgmental, and inhuman people on the planet.

Don’t hide behind false modesty.

This is a subtle one because it makes it easy for us to camouflage the ego. ‘English irony’, in which someone claims to be simpler than they are usually hides a very opinionated person. In the same way, a dependent person who says they are ‘useless’ at something is usually after more attention, not less.

Unegoistic people are, as a rule, very matter of fact about their strengths and weaknesses.

Don’t identify with group-egoism.

This is another insidious ploy used by the ego to give itself a false sense of superiority. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your family, the neighbourhood you grew up in, your nation or the cause you stand for. But things get nasty when you join in group attacks on outsiders.

Don’t dress, or put on an act, to impress others

Somehow, we always seem to know when we are working from ego. There is a fine line between dressing smartly and dressing to impress – and we always know when we have crossed it. The same applies to being nice to others – and flirting with them.

Do things for their own reward

If nobody knew you were giving to charity, would you still do it? The answer for most of us is – probably – yes. The same criterion should apply to every thing else you do. The things you do to make money, or praise, or to acquire status, all of these feed the ego.

Doing things purely because you achieve fulfilment through them, or because they satisfy the personal genius in you, reduce the ego.

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