Death to the Ego … or Not?

Let’s face it. The ego gets a bad rap.

We are told that our ego is inflated or too big. We have egomaniacs and egotistical people and . . . You know. There are a million ways that the word “ego” is used in very negative ways.

Therefore, it’s a logical misconception that we need to “kill” our egos because our egos are behind all our problems.

However, it’s simply not true.

According to Joseph Campbell, Sigmund Freud, who popularized the term ‘ego’, defined it very differently. Freud said that the ego is the ‘reality function’.

Yup, that’s right. The reality function. It’s what anchors you in time and space and allows you to evaluate and interpret what’s going on around you.

In fact, the ego is very, very important. It’s the bridge between your inner self and the outer world. You really couldn’t function competently in the world without it.

The real problem is what “inner self” is the ego connected to? *

It is your true self, your pure, unadulterated self that is full of love and compassion and knows that we are all interconnected? The one that sees endless possibilities?

Or is it connected to what I’ll call the “conditioned self”, the one that is full of fear and fighting every day for survival and control? The self that has been conditioned by society, your family, your experiences, and your internalized thoughts to believe the worst about everything – especially yourself?

Hey, we all have both. The problem is that our true self often gets buried beneath all the crap that the conditioned self learns and believes. Things like: “I can’t trust anyone”, “The world is out to get me,”, “There are not enough resources to go around”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not loveable”, “I’m incompetent”, and all the other negative things we tell ourselves.

And then our ego gets connected to THAT stuff and interprets reality through THAT lens . . . and no wonder we think we need to kill the ego.

So, how about we kill that “conditioned self” instead of the ego?

Because that’s what the great sages of the world have meant by “dying to self”.

Ahhh, now there’s the magic! There’s transcendence!

It’s not easy to do, but it’s not impossible either. The key is to recognize when our ego is connected to the conditioned self and believing all those negative things that ARE NOT TRUE! In the coaching world, we call those limiting beliefs, and they do limit us.

But they do more than limit us, they damage us. They harm us.

I guess this is on my mind today because I had a short period this week when my ego got reconnected to my conditioned self. It reminded me again how easy it is to slip into that conditioned self, to see the world – and the people in it – through that lens of narrow possibilities and fear.

It hurt. It really didn’t feel good, and I was reminded again just how much we need support and love on this journey we call life. I was reminded again how valuable objective feedback is from our trusted advisors.

I’m truly grateful. Because connecting again to my true self … wow, it felt amazing, even after just a brief diversion.

That’s why I’m so committed to the path of Transcendence, for myself and for all the women leaders who have such beautiful true selves to share with the world – men too, of course! It’s why I get out of bed every day with a smile on my face and the excitement to start a new day, to take another step toward my passion and purpose.

Because that’s what my true self loves and believes. That’s where my ego gets its instructions – most of the time!

Today’s challenge is: What self is your ego connected to? Your true self or your conditioned self?

I’ll give you a hint – If you’re joyful and fulfilled, you’re on the right track. If not, it might be time to check that connection.

*Paragraphs 5-8 are paraphrased from “The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work”, digital edition, p. 241.


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