Why Your Ego Calls the Shots, and 7 Ways on How to Tame It
Does this sound familiar?
You’re at the gym or in a yoga class. The person next to you is doing more reps or balancing in a challenging pose with ease, and something inside of you roars and pangs with jealousy. Even though your body is tired and spent, you choose that extra weight or push yourself to do another pose. Your mind angrily races with the thought: “no pain, no gain.”
Or how about this one?
You’re in a meeting at work, surrounded by your colleagues. One of them gets a recognition award for all of the hard work they’ve done on a recent project, and even though you clap for their achievement, you can’t help but feel a touch of resentment deep in your belly.
Welcome to your ego. Sometimes, it’s a quiet voice that sounds reassuring and steady. Most times, however, it’s loud, demanding, and maybe even downright mean. Its original intention was to help you, plain and simple. By being assertive and a go-getter, the ego was meant to propel you forward into work, activities, ideas, and innovation. Its entire modus operandi was to ensure you’re on your toes and at the top of your game, with confidence to boost! It calls the shots because, behind its intimidating facade, it wants to protect you from being bullied, pushed down, thwarted, and made insecure. From a healthy ego grows a powerful force for good.
However, if left unchecked, your ego can walk down the wrong path and become what you’re familiar with: jealousy, envy, and negative self-talk that leads to unproductive and unhealthy habit patterns. These shots are now coming from a place of poor self-confidence and a heap of triggers wreaking havoc in your subconscious. Now that you know this, it’s time to learn how to tame the wild ego and put it back in its place.
- Become aware of your ego throughout the day — like a doctor checks up on his patient, get in the habit of doing the same with your ego. We’re presented with a plethora of interactions throughout our day: work, family, errands, activities, etc. Naturally, our ego is going to be front and center for all of these events. Before you do anything to fix how the ego reacts, notice how it reacts at all! If you can become aware of it, you can easily steer it where you want it.
- Pause and contemplate where your thoughts go — for most of us, becoming jealous at the gym or in our workplace stems from a deeper issue we haven’t dealt with. Perhaps you feel like you don’t measure up next to the super fit instructor at the gym or your colleague who just won an award. Maybe the thought pattern that pops up is “I’m not good enough. I’m not strong enough. I’m not smart enough.” Notice where your thoughts go, and undoubtedly you’ll notice how they make you feel.
- Dig deeper into where these thoughts come from — this is almost like becoming your very own therapist. Your thoughts stem from events in your life that either caused direct or indirect trauma. Perhaps you were bullied at the gym when you were younger, or your family wasn’t supportive in celebrating your life achievements. As we turn into adults, we don’t consider how heavy such events can be, long-term; but until they’re acknowledged and dealt with, they follow us and alienate our ego. Your task now is to bring these events to the forefront so that you can cut the cord that still ties you to them.
- Discharge the negative energy that binds you to your negative thinking — whether this is expressive, like writing it all down or talking with someone and venting; or more energized, like screaming or punching a pillow or even going for a long run — discharging that energy is incredibly cathartic! We’ve carried it with us for years, and it no longer serves us. So, it’s time to go. Remember your time at the gym or with your colleague; in those moments of jealousy, did you feel like you just wanted to scream? I AM strong enough! I AM smart enough! I DO deserve to be recognized and seen, damn it! These are the bursts of energy we need to discharge in order to move on and let our ego settle in its rightful place.
- Replace the negative habits with positive ones — the truth is, you are much stronger and wiser than you give yourself credit for. This is where the shift can happen, and we can step from our habitual negative thinking into a positive turn in the right direction. You may start each morning with an affirmation or an intention on how you’d like that day to go. When you catch your ego going astray down the negative path, pause and break the chain: remind yourself that your traumas do not define you anymore, even if they rear their head now and again. If you see that burst of jealousy arising, give yourself credit with gentle reminders — “I am strong and aware of my healthy body; I don’t need to compare myself to others. I am capable and abundant in success, and am an integral part of my team at work.” Creating new thought patterns is like growing a garden. Give it attention, intention, love, and most importantly, time.
- Understand that taming your ego is a constant ebb and flow — this practice is not linear, nor is it focused on destination. Some days, catching yourself and correcting toxic behavior will not be so easy. Trust the process anyway, and return to it when you’re ready. In the meantime, take away the lessons learned when you struggled.
- Forgive yourself in moments of self-sabotage — you’re going to have a relationship with your ego like a parent has with their just-turned-teenager child. Patience and persistence are key, but so is forgiveness. You are not meant to change yourself overnight, nor should that ever be your goal. You are meant to reclaim every part of yourself — troubled ego included — to remind yourself that you have always been, and will always be, wholesome and worthy.