I have an ego. I didn’t think I did, but I do. Most of us don’t think of ourselves as having an ego, but it becomes apparent that most of us do as we begin to understand just what an ego is and how it acts.
It is easy for us to spot the person who we think is egotistical, but that is just one very loud way the ego manifests itself in our lives. There are many other ways that are often so quiet we don’t even know they are there. The ego has many facets and shows up in myriad ways.
So what is an ego? It is the culmination of a collection of stories that were taught to you about you as you were growing up. These stories are who you think you are. The stories about you and how the world works were told from the perspective of someone else’s view and their view was taught to them from someone else’s view and so on. In effect, we are the projections of other people’s view of the world through their eyes and, often, their pain. This story of who you think you are is your ego, also referred to as the False Self. We weren’t born with the ego, it was learned.
How does an ego act? Like a child. Why? Because it is in childhood that we shifted from our True Self, the person we truly are, to our False Self which means we haven’t developed emotionally much beyond that point. I remember becoming aware of this many years ago when I was with a group of friends playing Pictionary. We were all in our late 20s then. Although none of us was a fantastic artist, we managed, except for Mike who was completely frustrated that no one was able to get his drawings. About twenty minutes into the game, it was Mike’s turn to draw. Again, no one could get his drawing no matter how many times he traced it over and over. You could feel his frustration building, his temper rising like a bomb about to go off – and then it did! He stood up, pushed all of the papers, pencils and the entire game off the table and stormed out of the room. Child-like. Ego.
What is the difference between the ego and the True Self? The differences are stark in a side-by-side comparison:
What Do We Think Comfort Foods Comfort?
Earlier this year as I was preparing to teach a workshop, I added a section on Comfort Foods. Since the workshop explains that the way we have been taught to think directly affects our health and is a major cause of our illnesses today, I wanted to clear up a little known myth that comfort foods are comforting.
The first question I asked was, “What does comfort food comfort?” There was a silence in the room as people began to formulate their answers. It took a little thinking. Then one person shouted, “A break-up.” Another person added, “Feeling bad about yourself.” Then a flood of reasons came pouring out.
- A tough day at work
- When you are sick/unwell
- When you are angry
- When you are feeling low
- When someone says something mean to you
- When you think you made a bad decision
- Worries you have
The list was long, but there was a basic theme in all of the answers that was apparent to me. Comfort food is popular if we feel jealous, angry, belittled, unsure, wronged, worried, unhappy or unwell. So, the real answer to the question what does comfort food comfort is, “Your ego.”
What Can We Do?
If you feel like you need food to be your comfort, you are not alone. And you don’t have to spend your life searching for comfort foods when things aren’t going your way. The first step? Be aware — start to notice your patterns. Awareness can help you see things differently and then make choices to change what isn’t helping you or working in your favor in your life.
So much of what we have been taught as children, in the context of the ego, isn’t helpful to us in our lives today. If something you think or something you do does not work in your favor, you don’t have to keep thinking it or doing it. That is easier said than done, but it is not impossible because nothing is impossible. With practice, you can take anything you want to change in your life and change it. It is time to shift back to your True Self.
So where to begin? As a suggestion, start with one area at a time. As you uncover and master one area, another will be waiting for you to uncover and master it. Take judgment for instance. Start to be aware of how much you judge yourself or others. This will be apparent with comparisons and negative language such as “can’t”, “never”, “won’t”. When you are using these words, check to see if you are using them in a negative way against you or someone else. If you are then a judgment isn’t far behind. When you become aware of this pattern of the ego, stop, take a breath and let it all go. The truth is that everything and everyone is already okay the way they are. There is no person, place or thing on the planet that deserves to be reacted to.
If you need another avenue to get started, you can notice when the words “should” and “shouldn’t” are being used. The use of these words automatically points to a judgment of some sort being made. When you become aware of the use of these words, stop using them and let go. For some reason, there is no shortage of unsolicited advice about how to live one’s life through someone else’s eyes (and pain). No one knows the true journey of another, what experiences are needed or lessons are required. When we tell someone what they should or shouldn’t do, we are saying to them that we don’t trust them to run their own lives and to grow as they need to grow. We are also saying that we want them to life by our standards. However, our standards may not suit someone else. In fact, our standards only suit us. Someone once said, “Live and let live.” Sounds like a plan.
You can also work on smiling more, making an effort to be more understanding, more patient, and to be kind to those around you. Allow yourself to spend some quiet time alone. Replace 15 minutes of TV per week with 15 minutes of meditation or peaceful music and see how your life changes. A benefit to this is the potential for weight loss and improved health. As a challenge, see if you can practice meditation 3 times this week. If you do that, try it again next week, but add an extra day and so on. Pretty soon you will be on your way to more peace, less ego and a healthier mind and body.