I tend to blog about things that show up as themes. The theme of the week is the idea that we need to transcend the Ego. I am not sure where this idea comes from, but let’s explore that.
Transcend means to move beyond, so transcending the ego means to cleanse yourself of the ego. The reason for this is because the Ego “binds the negative qualities of darkness to the person.” The ego concerns itself with survival and can thus show up as selfishness, control, and playing the victim.
Wow. That’s heavy. No wonder people want to get away from their Ego! Let’s do a reframe, shall we?
Every aspect of yourself is natural. There is nothing to transcend. Even your “darkness” is normal. It’s called the Shadow and it is there to reflect back to us when we are out of balance so that we can move back to balance. The darkness is where mystery, transformation, and discovery lie. It’s where sleep and restoration happens. You could never grow or be healthy without this energy.
It’s true that the Ego is concerned with survival. How lucky we are that some part of you is always keeping you safe! While your Ego may resort to unhealthy strategies like becoming self centered or playing the victim, these aren’t the only choices. The Ego is present from birth, so often young children with no life experience choose maladaptive behaviors because they haven’t yet learned any better. As we grow, we learn, and as Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.”
I’d like to invite you to consider that the Ego is not something to get rid of, but to develop into a healthy partner.
Signs of a Healthy Ego
You posses childlike innocence. One of the first challenges kids face is to their innocence. They get hit with something – this could be anything from finding out Santa Claus isn’t real to a natural disaster – and they realize life isn’t a safe place. It happens to all of us. The trick is to experience this while keeping your innocence intact. If you’re curious, adventurous, humble, and truthful, you’re probably doing just fine. If you have issues of trust, blaming, denial, or irrational optimism, you have some work to do. This isn’t a failure. We are all growing throughout life.
You can balance independence with interdependence. Some people respond to finding out the world isn’t safe by becoming super responsible. They figure that if they do it all, things will get done and they can’t get let down again. Some respond by becoming dependent. They feel helpless and find a way to get someone else to do things for them. The healthy middle is to be able to care for yourself while accepting help from other and aiding others.
People are social creatures. We need social interaction to stay emotionally well. We can’t produce everything we need on our own, so we also need to share labor and resources to survive. If you can get cynical, engage in complaining, self harm, or hurting others, you can still grow in this area.
You know when and how to fight. Most of our “fighting” is more like advocating, but being able to stand up for yourself and those you love is one of the functions of the Ego too. Some take on the world. Some become pacifists. The healthy Ego chooses the middle path again and knows when to fight and how to fight to preserve connection. It’s hard to be a protector if you can’t stand up for yourself. If you are overly passive, get easily offended, or get overly aggressive, your Ego is still a work in progress.
You know how to care for others. The healthy Ego isn’t egotistical. It knows the value of others and nurtures relationships without being co-dependent or dominant and controlling. It’s has good boundaries so will say no when no is the more empowering answer. If you use guilt, martyrdom, or enabling to control situations or need the love or admiration of others, your Ego is still growing.
See? Once you know the function of something, you don’t have to fear it. You can use it as it was designed to be used – as a protector.
What About Being Egotistical?
Egotistical means that you’re overly concerned with yourself. As you can see from the description above, this is impossible if you have a healthy Ego because a healthy Ego demands that you balance your relationship with yourself and others. It’s all about balance. Self-love is good. Conceit or arrogance is overkill. Confidence is great, yet not when it means that you give little credit or regard to others. A touch of humility tempers confidence and self- love.
The other thing is, be careful not to play too small. It can be tempting to never ruffle any feathers or not speak up because you don’t want to annoy or offend anyone. You have a right to be seen and heard. Having a healthy Ego doesn’t mean you blend into the woodwork. It just means that you have a sense of yourself as part of the community. We all have different gifts, yet we’re all equally lovely and valuable.
Developing a healthy Ego lays the foundation for the creation of Self and Soul. Without the Ego, there is no container for this. This is why you can see some people who seem to have it all together, then they fall apart over what seems like elementary things. You’ve got to have a strong foundation or everything you build upon it may crumble under the tiniest stress.
So if you’ve been working on transcending the Ego, I invite you to stop. Sink down into self acceptance. That’s a good place to take a rest before doing the real work of just being your highest and best self given where you are today. It is enough.