What Is Ego

By Leo Gura - January 28, 2014 | 6 Comments

The critical influence that ego has on the quality of your life and how you can take back control.

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Hey, this is Leo for Actualized.org. In this video, we’re going to talk about what is ego.

Let’s talk a little bit about what ego is. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. I’m sure you’ve heard people talking about the problems that the ego can cause for you. You’ve probably heard about ego death. You’ve probably heard about both positive and negative sides of ego.

Let’s talk about ego and, specifically, about who how you can understand this concept and relate it to success and personal development. It’s how to get more success in your life by understanding ego.

What is ego? Ego is basically that aspect of yourself that you consider to be “you.” When I say your name and you think, “Yeah, that’s me,” that is ego. Ego is your self-image of who you are.
Ego is a complex construct in your mind. It’s sitting both at the conscious and the deep subconscious level.

Ego is that “I” that you think you are. It’s the thoughts and emotions that you are identified with. It’s the beliefs that you think are rock solid and completely true. It’s what you think reality is like.

That whole construct is a big and deep iceberg. It’s like gigantic iceberg and only the tip of it, like 10 percent, is sticking out of the water. The other 90 percent is all submerged and you don’t know what it is. It’s just operating. It’s just working.

The ego is you. The ego has a couple of features.

The fundamental thing that the ego does is separates itself from everything else that’s out in the world. If you’re coming from the ego – and this applies to 99.999% percent of people, including myself – you say, “This is me,” and you look at everything else as not you.

That desk is not you. That other person is not you. That other country is not you.

You are distinct. You are just your mind and your body. You’re the skin that you have and everything beyond your skin is something else. You have that clear separation.

This is something that you get as a biological entity, as an organism who that needs to survive and depends on survival and reproduction.

We, as a species, and every living organism, has a sense of this. It’s the sense of “I”-ness. It’s the sense of “This is me.” This is what’s important and the other stuff is not so important.

Sure – you can love your spouse and you can love your kids and the business that you built and even your iPod or your iPhone, but there’s still a big difference between that and being identified with yourself. The ego is that identification with yourself.

Why are we even talking about ego? What’s the big deal? It seems as if this is an intuitive notion.

The problem there is that the ego is clingy and the ego is self-preservational. What it does, especially if you’re trying to get to higher levels of success, achievement, and consciousness in your life, is it tends to hold you back because it has a lot of inertia and weight to it. It doesn’t always want to go out there and explore reality for what it is.

What’s happened is that ego has been built up. Regardless of how attached you are to yourself right now, the fact is that you and your notion of you is illusory and fictitious.

I know that you don’t want to hear that and I don’t want to hear it. The ego doesn’t want to hear it. However, it’s an arbitrary way in which the ego came about. It just came about through the experiences that you had in early childhood and early adulthood all the way up to now. Every experience that you had, through your whole life from birth to this current second, has added something to your ego.

It’s create this giant yarn ball of all of these different strands that are all tightly interwoven. Now it’s like an object. It’s a thing. It has its own mass to it and it’s hard to reorganize that. It’s hard to go in there and pull a strand out and create something that’s actually useful and something that’s going to get you a better level of performance.

A lot of personal development is about working with your ego. Sometimes, we say, “Yeah, he has a big ego.” What does that usually mean? It means he’s a jackass, stubborn, and not open-minded.
That’s what it is, but that’s a surface-level understanding of ego. A much deeper understanding of ego is that you have these beliefs and you have this big network or ball of yarn. tThat is responsible for all your behaviors, actions, beliefs, and thoughts.

This is an arbitrary thing. We think that this is so precious that we can’t change it and if we did change our most cherished beliefs, then something horrible would happen and the world would collapse.

In reality, what happens is that the world would not collapse. Only your ego would collapse. What would happen is that your ego would evolve to a higher level of consciousness and a new state.
If you do this process correctly, then that ego will be lessened. It will be less judgmental. It will have less boundary between itself and the rest of the world. It will be more calm. It will be less neurotic. It will be more comfortable. It will be in a position to perform better.

You get better results out of your life when you numb that ego down and you rub it out and you kill it.

The ultimate end of this is the process and the state of enlightenment. You can reach it like, for example, Buddhist monks reach it after decades of meditation and contemplation.

What happens is that through a rigorous training process, they have numbed down their ego so much that they dissolve it and they no longer have that boundary between themselves and the rest of the world. They feel a sense of oneness that we cannot even imagine.

I have not gone through this process. Although, it’s something that I’m working on actively right now. It’s going to take me some time to get there.

They go through this process and then they have this sense of oneness with the world and the universe. That’s what they talk about. It’s that one-pointed mind. It’s that enlightened Buddha mind.
You are no longer distinct from anything else. You see yourself as part of everything else. You’re connected to everything else. You no longer judge things as good and bad. You no longer cling to your beliefs so much. You no longer resist suffering or pain. You just go with the flow.

When you do that, you get a tremendous sense of personal power. You have control over yourself and emotional stability. Nothing can shake you because what do you care? You are one with the world. You do not care because you see everything as being part of you. You see you as part of everything else.

There is no good and bad. There is nothing that needs to be corrected. There is nothing that is distinct from you. Your body getting cut or even death are not a big deal because you’re just part of the system.

This is a deep notion. The first time you hear about it, you might think, “That’s wacky and far out there and metaphysical and not the thing for me.” However, the fact is that this is what happens.

I would argue that this happens to everybody. It’s just that most people do not reach that complete state of enlightenment.

What happens is that throughout your life, whether you even undertake this process or you don’t, you’re going to be forced to adjust your ego to the circumstances that are happening to you. Except what’s going to happen is that there’s going to be a lot of resistance.

For example, maybe you have a horrible break-up like a divorce and that just has a big traumatic scar on you and your ego. Now your ego has had to change to adapt to that pressure that was put on it.

Maybe you do a little bit of meditation every day and meditation makes you feel a little bit more calm and relaxed and connected to the world. You’re not completely connected. You still have your ego, but it’s a little bit rubbed out. It’s a little bit numbed down.

Through this process of just living life and learning about life and experiencing the ups and the downs, your ego evolves. It changes from the ego that it was when you were a kid when it was “Me, me, me, me, me.” You were yelling at your mom to come help you and give you some assistance, pleasure, safety, and comfort.

You go away from that and become more responsible, independent, and open-minded. Slowly, as you’re exposed to more experiences in life, you become more open-minded. You start to see that good and bad is a more relative thing than you ever thought it was.

As you’re getting that notion and your ego is expanding out and dissolving, you start to notice that it’s easier to control yourself. You start to notice that you’re not so neurotic, anxious, or worried all the time. Your thoughts do not have a grasp over you. You don’t identify with certain thoughts in the way that you used to in the past simply because you’ve suffered too much from that.
That’s what Buddhist monks do. They sit for hours and hours every day for tens and tens of years until eventually, their ego just crumbles under its own weight. Then they get this relief.
I think that all of us are going through that process. This is a gradual process that you go through.

That is what ego is and I think that all of us mortals, unless we’re Buddhist monks, have a strong sense of ego. I’m not expending expecting all of you to go out and solve that problem right now. I just want you to be aware of it.

I want you to understand how judgmental you are. This is huge. How many judgments are you making per day?

Track this. Just spend a day monitoring how much you’re judging things. By “judging,” I mean putting a value on it.

There are two ways to go about life. It’s a spectrum, but we’re going to talk about the two poles of this spectrum.

One end is where everything is judged according to some sort of metric or some sort of value. I’m like the Terminator. I’m scanning everything and have a target in my mind. This target is saying, “Target acquired. Good. Bad. Do this. Do that.” That’s one way.

The other way is to just be in life and be totally in the moment. Everything is okay. Nothing is bad. Nothing is good. Everything just is. It’s being.

Those are the two far ends of the spectrum and most of us are somewhere in the middle. Although, I would argue that we’re much further towards the scanning and judging type of mindset.

In this mindset, you’re judging and evaluating everything you look at. You’re thinking, “He didn’t do that. He just threw a cigarette butt out the window. He’s littering. That’s bad,” or “She told me that she didn’t like my shirt. She was rude. That’s bad.” You might think, “She didn’t approve of me because of what I said. That’s bad,” or “He did something here which is good.”

We go through our whole day and our week and our whole life like this. We’re judging. Everything has some sort of purpose. We love things that happen to us that are favorable to our ego and we’re excited and happy about them. We’re depressed about or miserable about or frustrated about the things that are unfavorable.

What happens is we go through life playing this up and down game. It’s a game of chasing after things that are good and avoiding the things that are bad.

As your ego is dissolved and you see yourself as part of the universe and you just start to take in the being and be more in the present moment, you start to dis-identify with that and you move away from the judgment. You become more at peace, more calm, and more of your natural “you.” You raise your level of consciousness.

That’s ultimately what ego is about. It’s about raising your level of consciousness.

I’m going to wrap it up here. I’m signing off. This is a deep and fascinating topic. Please leave me your comments. Also, “like” this and share this. That’s why I release this content for free.

If your curiosity is piqued by this and you want more tips, techniques, and strategies for how to work with your ego and shape it into something that makes you have a happy, awesome, and successful life, then check out Actualized.org because there I have a lot of exclusive content. I update it weekly with free videos that are similar to this one. You can go and sign up for my newsletter there. It’s free and you’ll get them every week.

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Billy says:

Thanks for the video, Not sure I grasp that concept but I really try to have an open mind and look for what’s positive to receive from different things that happen in life. I know that I need ego deflation is something I need to go through because I have been very judgmental and have issues dealing with anything I precieve as negative. Let’s face it , bad shit happens to good people and most of the time , (in my life 99%) I caused the problem. I would just assume that ego would play a big role in helping someone feel good about who they are and give them motivation to ackolmplish things. If you didn’t have an ego what would prevent the world from using you as their door matt ? Seems like ego would allow you to stand up for what you believe but are willing to look at both sides? Not let someone shit in your floor and walk around it like it is not there! Being confident without being a asshole. I do like meditation but don’t see benefit in mental blank spots that allow for you to pretend you don’t have a pile of shit in you living room or be naive about how it got there? Can you tell me if and what part if any the ego plays that is positive?

Aleksa says:

It passed 3,4 months since i started watching your videos and i can see deep benefits on personal psychology.I started to develop ”healthy” (not positive or too optimistic) way of thinking just because i ran into very deep ego exploration.I investigated where each of my beliefs come from and found out that most of them were coming from my ego game.What i figured out is that my ego is constantly trying to give me false ”protection” and false sense of being secure.

More interesting is that i noticed that ,as your grow up and start experiencing problems , you develop beliefs that you are special case and your problem is unique and that there is no way how to solve them.But when you do that , i have a sense that you are feeding your ego just because ego wants you to protect you and just gives that false sense of relief in order to feel some comfort.

What i think everyone needs to understand that each problem you have , everybody else has something similar to it (just some factors that make that problem happen are different from person to person and you response differently to them ).Those problems share a same source or core and most of them are coming from beliefs that are so hardwired into your brain.

Worst thing to do is to do is let your ego be a ”problem solver.”But i noticed how ego can be powerful doing just that.I can feel secure and confident when i face some problem just because i know that ego is fucking with me and i can develop better perspective and clear thinking about the problem (and also practising mindfulness ) , but interesting thing is any information that does not support that mindset will be used by your ego to fuck you up and it can make you feel so insecure in the moment , and it is very powerful and i can see how ego is very dangerous for our lifes.

Maryam says:

Hey Leo,

1) In this video you are saying that the problem is that we label things as good or bad, we give value to things. But in another video of yours (How to stop caring what other people think), you said that we should make our own visions and values in life. We should find our own philosophy of life to feel fulfilled and satisfied.
Well, these two are very contradictory. Explain to me, what you mean.

2) You are saying that we shouldn’t say something is good or bad.
But well killing someone is bad! we all know that…
Or helping an elderly to walk through the street is good, we know that too.
Aren’t you kinda implying to be indifferent or sth?
This kind of mindset gives me the exact opposite feeling you are saying. It’s like you don’t exist with this mindset instead of being in existence…

David says:

Hey leo. Im wondering about the buddist munks. At complete oneness do they still have a disire to create. Say music or art.

Hengameh says:

Hi Leo, As you see I’m going through all your videos because I started to follow your videos lately, that’s why I missed most of basic of them.

But anyway I can follow your points which I am dealing with this EGO everyday and try to reduce its power over me as much as I can if I achieve this point, I hope and I wish because EGO is killing me with all nonsense and judgments. Thank you so much for guiding and sharing all your valuable research and experiences with us.

Neil says:

Yes, we are always going through this. Just like you “think”. It is always tending toward equilibrium. Except when it’s not! The buddist monks you mention have to isolate and work on themselves to keep this. Many things in the world draw us from this equilibrium. That is just the nature of life. The better each of us are the better each of us will be. It’s the greed, the control, the lack of self control or better yet, the lack of values as a reference point for the self control.

With no ego or identity one has to discover for themselves what matters. It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s filled with so much hatred. That’s what hurts us.

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