Yesterday I wrote about ego. I looked deeply at how we see ego and how ego manifests in our lives. This post is about the ways that ego shapes our understanding and approach to the world. In my previous post I argued that our egos arise when we begin to believe the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. We tell ourselves we are more important than we truly are, that we have more skills and abilities than we actually do, and that we have some intrinsic value that sets us apart from everyone else.
Author Ryan Holiday further describes ego in his book, Ego is the Enemy, by writing, “It’s when the notion of ourselves and the world grows so inflated that it begins to distort the reality that surrounds us.” The important thing to consider here is that having a big ego gives us a false sense of reality. Rather than taking an objective view of the world around us and our place in that larger world, we risk seeing a distortion that we want to see, and not a reality that truly exists in front of us.
It is easy to see how our ego can inflate our view of our position in the world. We make ourselves feel more important than we are and assume that people are truly interested in what we say or do. This leads to us moving through our lives as though we were performing for others, rather than just living for ourselves. An inflated ego also risks the potential of allowing us to believe that what we think is always right, and that we have the world easily sorted out. With a large ego, we can flatten debate and reduce the world the black and white, making it easy for us to cast judgement on the world while praising ourselves for being so smart and insightful.
All of this is to say that our ego gives us a false view of the world around us and how we relate to that world. If we let our ego go unchecked, we can easily begin to adopt views and understandings of the world that promote ourselves and our positions in the world at the expenses of others. It is easy to discount the concerns of others when we are focused on ourselves and focused on always obtaining and achieving more personally so that we can continue to feed our hungry ego. This is why it is so important to build self-awareness into our lives and to be aware of the stories we tell ourselves to prop up our ego.