At this point, everyone has heard the concept of ego death. This idea has been prevalent through contemporary western philosophy and in people who take a bunch of acid. Ego loss has been said to be the end of suffering by Buddha and is exemplified in many other teachings from people like Eckhart Tolle. The idea of dropping your ego sounds nice, but ultimately results in more downfalls than you may realize.
Ego is said to be a set of beliefs that we hold to ourselves about our talents, skills, appearance, status, and everything else we think of when we think of ourselves that are totally untrue and harmful to our mental health.
These beliefs can include:
“I am bad at basketball.”
“I am very smart.”
“My nose is too big.”
“I’m the best member of this team.”
These little self-evident truths can be in the positive or negative. They vary in severity. They come in all shapes and sizes. They are basically self inflicted statements of belief that are thought to be the root of all suffering in humans. Many think the solution to this is to just throw every ego belief in the trash?
NO EGO MEANS NO GOALS
Do you know what would happen if you got rid of every ounce of ego within you? You would have no aspiration to do anything with your life. No more goals. No more dreams. No more working toward promotions. No more achievement in general.
Ego is what gives us the desire to accomplish new things. It makes us hungry for more. Not to say we can't appreciate what we have, which we should even if we don't think we have a lot.
The reason ego gets such a bad reputation is because sometimes is does discourage people from productive behavior. One kid who says that he is bad at basketball might take that as an excuse to never play again; however, another kid with the same thought could see that as a reason to practice everyday. It all matters the action taken as a result of the ego belief.
Even in love, if we were totally self sufficient, there would no need for us to find a romantic partner. There would be no need to have friends. There would be no need for anything outside of yourself. This is why Buddhism is considered to be a very individualistic practice.
POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE ACTION
Take sex drive for example. It is obvious that a high sex drive has steered people to commit obscene acts on others. This is the bad side of ego, but there is an opposite side. Napoleon Hill says is best:
“Sex desire is the most powerful of human desires. When driven by this desire, men develop keenness of imagination, courage, will-power, persistence, and creative ability unknown to them at other times.”
One of the most common traits among great entrepreneurs is an extremely high sex drive. It’s all about how the ego is used.
This is why I do not dismiss all of the wisdom of those to teach ego death. There are many lessons that are immensely valuable. Meditation, self-awareness and living in the present are very helpful.
Self-awareness helps identify the ego beliefs that are harmful and beneficial to our life.
There are people who glob on a pound of makeup, become addicted to plastic surgery, and throw up every meal they eat because of a BELIEF that they are ugly, even when it could be so far from the truth. Some would say those are not healthy responses to the belief. If you believe you’re ugly and begin to focus on your values and character because of how much more important they are, you are doing a lot better. -- On a side note, you can practice the belief that you actually are beautiful. There are studies that suggest the belief of beauty causes beauty to actually happen in the body to an extent, but I won’t go too deep into that.
There are people who believe they are out of shape, and that causes them to starve themselves, throw up their meals, or give up and eat crap for the rest of their lives. There are others who have the same belief, and is causes them to go the the gym more, eat healthy foods, and adapt an overall healthy lifestyle to accommodate for their perceived self image. It’s easy to say that one of these options is better than the other, at least from my perspective.
EGO IS A TOOL
EGO IS A TOOL. Like all other tools, it can be used in both constructive and destructive ways. Social media is a tool. You can used is to build a business and stay connected with friends, or you can use it to mindlessly surf to escape pressured social situations and waste hours of your time in general. Self-awareness helps you see what areas ego is and is not working. When we find out what is not working, we adjust and better our lives through positive action. You can gossip about those you envy to make them seem lesser to yourself and others, or you can work to get what you are envying. It all is just a choice.
PEACE OR PURPOSE
Overall, there are two options that are totally variable depending on your preference. The choice is between PEACE (no ego) or PURPOSE (ego). The upside of dropping your ego is that it does result in a sort of peace if you can sustain it. The upside of keeping and learning how to properly use your ego is a purpose in life. Those with a purpose often have the feeling that something is lacking in their life, which causes them to take action. Neither ego or no ego is right or wrong, it’s just important to know how they show up in your life and choose accordingly.