Benefits: Discover who your greatest enemy is and gain an understanding of them.
So That You Can: Use this knowledge to redefine who “you” are.
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The Simplest Way to Conquer Your Greatest Enemy
You already know who your greatest enemy is, right? You’ve heard this line before. Yes, it’s you; you are your greatest enemy. What can I say? Search engines like cliche headlines. (Don’t hate the player; hate the game 🤣.)
But seriously, who is this “you”? Why are “you” your greatest enemy? Why would you want to conquer yourself? And how the heck would you go about doing it?
Stick with me, and I’ll attempt to answer all of these questions. Then, after we answer these questions, you can begin to redefine who “you” are. Sounds pretty complicated, right?
Actually, it’s very simple. Notice I didn’t say easy. It’s going to be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do in your life, but it is simple.
Now that you’re intrigued, and maybe a bit suspicious, let’s get into it.
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Who’s This Enemy “You”
Who you believe “you” are will depend on your religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, but there’s one thing that we can agree on. We all have an inner voice, maybe even multiple inner voices, and one of those voices is your enemy.
The enemy voice that I’m referring to goes by a name you might recognize — Ego. Actually, to call Ego your enemy is a bit unfair. She’s really not so bad. She means well, and perhaps she’s just a bit misunderstood. (My Ego is a she, so we’re going to stick with that pronoun for simplicity’s sake.)
That may be the first step toward conquering Ego — understanding her. Then again, maybe we don’t want to conquer her; maybe we just want to learn to work with her toward a common goal. More on that later.
Meet Your Ego
You can think of your ego as your intellectual, logical voice. Your voice of reason. The voice that plans, predicts, and keeps you on the straight and narrow so you don’t get hurt.
However, all of this planning and predicting can turn Ego into a negative, anxious, stressed-out voice. In this state, Ego will start telling you that you aren’t good enough or that you don’t have enough.
On top of that, Ego does her very best to make sure you remember who you are supposed to be and what you are supposed to do. Because of this, some psychologists theorize that Ego is directly responsible for your mental health. Clinical psychologist, Gregg Henriques, Ph.D., defines Ego as:
. . . the self-consciousness system. The self-consciousness system is the narrating portion of human consciousness that reflects on one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions and inhibits or legitimizes them to one’s self and to others. In this sense, ego is very similar to what is meant by the term identity . . .
Ego thinks she’s in charge of your identity, and she takes this responsibility very seriously. She’s there if you start forgetting who you’re supposed to be and will step in to say, “Who do you think you are? Get back in your place!”
Yes, Ego’s a Helicopter Mom
Why is Ego such a nagging jerk? Because she loves you, and her sole purpose is to ensure your survival, just like any good helicopter mom would.
So . . . when you start to stray too far from home — too far from who you’re supposed to be — Ego starts filling your head with fear, doubt, and worry. “Honey, careful, you don’t know how to do that. It looks dangerous. You might get hurt.”
But you’re curious! You want to grow! You want to try new things! So you rebel against Ego and end up in a pointless battle against her; a vicious circle that leads to heartbreak and resentment.
You see, Ego doesn’t realize that, by protecting you, she’s crippling your confidence, personal growth, and, ultimately, your sense of fulfillment. That’s not her goal; her goal is to keep you safe. But we all know that confidence, personal growth, and fulfillment come from taking chances, being challenged, and, yes, from getting hurt a few times along the way.
Ego Creates Your Expectations
As I mentioned, part of Ego’s job is to plan and predict the future. She wants to make sure your days run as smoothly as possible. So before you do anything, she pulls out her notebook from the last time you attempted that “thing,” develops an expectation, and either says, “The last time we did X, we had great results. Let’s do that again!” or “The last time we did Y, it was a disaster. We are NOT doing that again!”
Ego also looks around at what everyone else is doing, paying attention to the people who seem to be surviving the best, forms an expectation, and says to you, “We should do X this way because So and So is doing it that way, and they’re surviving in the way that we want to survive.”
In the process, Ego is actually shaping the way you see the world, as illustrated by an excerpt from our philosophy (click here to read our full philosophy):
Our expectations create the lens through which we see the world. This lens shapes our thoughts, feelings, and ultimately our actions.
This is a powerful realization, and we’ll add it to the arsenal we’ll use to conquer Ego.
Let’s Get to the Specifics
Dr. Wayne Dyer, “an internationally renowned author and speaker in the fields of self-development and spiritual growth,” referred to Ego as an illusion, and he identified three aspects of Ego that lead us to become ambitious.
Now, ambition in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. But, if your ambitions are based on Ego’s expectations, you will never be able to live the fulfilling life you were meant to live because you will never know who you really are. That’s why it’s important to be aware of these three illusions that Ego has created:
- I am what I have.
- I am what I do.
- I am what other people think of me.
Examining these illusions and, in the process, redefining who you are is “The Simplest Way to Conquer Your Greatest Enemy.”
Like I Said, It’s Not Going to Be Easy
Let’s take a look at each illusion.
I am what I have.
Of course you’re not. Yet we all try to keep up with the Joneses, to varying extents. Why? Because at our very core, we want to be like everyone else so that we fit in. If we fit in, we survive. Simple as that. Only, that’s not as true as it used to be thousands of years ago, but Ego doesn’t know that.
And we don’t just want to survive, we want to have a higher chance of surviving than anyone else. So we don’t just want to have what the Joneses have; we want to have more than them.
It’s a natural instinct, people, and nothing to be ashamed of. But, you are capable of recognizing that it’s only an instinct, that you don’t have to listen to it, and that you can choose to redefine yourself and how much value you assign to your possessions. This post might help you start down that path, 3 of the Most Valuable Things Money Can Buy.
I am what I do.
This one’s a bit tougher to get past. Almost everyone defines themselves by what they do because that’s how other people define us. Think about it; what’s the first question people typically ask when they meet you: “What do you do?” In other words, I need to know what you do to get a picture (form an expectation) of who you are.
This is a dangerous belief though because you can very easily lose your identity if you can no longer “do” what you do for whatever reason.
In my opinion, this is going to be the hardest one to detach yourself from. I think the most effective way to get started is to break what you do down into specific skills/traits/characteristics. For example, I could say that I’m a writer. Then to break that down, I could say that I’m a Deliberate Thinker, an analyst, and a creator.
This puts the focus on you, and your “All-Natural Privileges” (click here to find out what that means), because these skills/traits/characteristics can be transferred to just about anything. Let’s say that I lose the ability to write for some reason. I can still use my Deliberate Thinking, analytical, and creative skills in some other endeavor because they are a part of me. And my identity will stay intact.
So you see, you are not what you do. What you do is a result of who you are and how you define yourself. Whoa…mind blown! Check out this post for inspiration to separate yourself from what you do, Spoiler Alert: Meaningful Work is Not What You Crave.
I am what other people think of me.
How? Every single person you meet will think of you in a different way. So how can you possibly be what other people think of you?
Yet, this is another trap that we fall into, isn’t it? We want to fit in, and we want to have a good reputation. Again, this comes back to our deep-seated survival instinct, and the need to be part of a group in order to increase our chances of survival. Our Ego doesn’t realize that we don’t need other people to survive in the same way that we once did.
In order to redefine who you are, you’re going to have to embrace this fact: you cannot change other people’s opinions of you. You just can’t. Their opinions are based on everything that they’ve witnessed and experienced in their life, and you can’t change that.
What you can do is focus on being the kind of person you would like to be around; the kind of person you would have a good opinion of.
If you’d like to learn a little bit more about our need to fit in, this post is for you: Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid: 3 Cautionary Tales of Group Influence.
Let’s Summarize a Bit Here
You’ve already conquered your greatest enemy, Ego, by realizing that she is not actually your enemy. You now understand that she’s only trying to protect you, which is great because she’s pretty wise. But you also realize that you don’t have to listen to everything she says.
The next step is to redefine who you are so that when Ego speaks up, you can say with confidence, “Thank you, Ego, but the direction you’re pointing me in doesn’t align with who I am. I want to take this road. I know we’ve never been down it before, but I have faith that we will find our way one step at a time.”
You’re going to redefine who you are by Deliberately Thinking about why you are not what you have, what you do, or what other people think of you. (We have a worksheet to help with that.) And you’re going to start figuring out who you are by naming your core values. Start here.
Simple, right? It is, but as I said at the beginning, it will be one of the hardest things you will ever do.
That’s why you need support. That’s why you need to practice Deliberate Thinking every day. That’s why I’ve made building a community of Deliberate Thinkers my mission. Won’t you consider joining us? What do you have to lose? Invest 2 more minutes to check out all of our Member Benefits.
And, as always, comments are welcomed and appreciated!
Until next time . . . STAY CURIOUS!
Only Have 1 Minute
How to tell the difference between your ego and your intuition, posted to YouTube by GabrielleBernstein on 1.26.14
Creating From Presence Instead Of Ego | Conscious Manifestation, posted to YouTube by Eckhart Tolle on 9.12.19
Ambition – Aspects of the Ego – Wayne Dyer, posted to YouTube by Spiritual Mind on 4.24.19
WHAT IS THE EGO’S PURPOSE?, posted to YouTube by Mark Haughton on 2.16.19
The Elements of Ego Functioning, Gregg Henriques, Ph.D., Psychology Today, 6.27.13
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