by Linda-Ann Stewart
Many people believe that one of the main goals of their spiritual system is to destroy their ego. They have the mistaken idea that the ego is bad, and must be done away with to be able to advance spiritually. But that’s not actually the aim of these traditions. They’re simply trying to get their followers to give up the false sense of self, a form of psuedo self-esteem, which consists of narcissism, conceit, self-importance, greed and self-involvement. These are ways we use to fool ourselves to create a false sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, they don’t work and are actually self-destructive. But people who misinterpret the goal, and attempt to dismantle their sense of self, not just the false ways, can actually destroy their ability to function and make decisions.
I’ve known people who did just that, and began following a charismatic leader who thrived on power and control over his disciples. They gave up everything to him, including their ability to keep themselves safe. I remember one gentleman who abdicated his responsibility for himself and others, walked out of a marriage and alienated all his friends. He went from being a really nice guy to being self-righteous and obnoxious, which is exactly the opposite of what the spiritual traditions are aiming for.
There are so many trap doors that we can fall into when we believe that a sense of self is wrong. A belief in and respect for oneself is necessary not only for spiritual development but for personal growth. Our ego is our rational mind, simply allowing us to distinguish ourselves from others and make conscious choices for ourselves. When it’s in its proper perspective, the ego helps us determine what issues are ours and what problems don’t belong to us. If it’s not present, it can mean that we can’t understand when we’re being lied to or taken advantage of.
For instance, an abused wife is falsely told over and over that she’s stupid, and is to blame for her husband beating her. Her ego has been so battered that she can’t realize that it’s not her fault that her husband is taking his anger and frustration out on her. Once she gets out of that relationship, and begins to recover her self-worth and put her shattered ego back together, she’s able to understand that the problem was with her husband and his issues.
The ego allows us to have a sense of identity and be able to make healthy choices for ourselves. It depends on how much we value ourselves, or “esteem” ourselves, which is where the term “self-esteem” comes from. If we don’t appreciate our own worth, then we can’t fully recognize our connection to the Universe, or set boundaries to differentiate “us” from “others.”
Our feeling of self-worth is based on how we think about ourselves. It’s a thought process that we were trained in as children. We believed what the grownups told us about ourselves, whether we were stupid or smart, graceful or awkward, and a good person or not. These ideas were programmed into us before we had an ego, or could think independently. As we grew up, we took those judgments with us, added onto them, maybe changed some, and created a habit of how we viewed ourselves.
The good news is that we can improve our self-esteem. We can learn to change the way we think about ourselves and feel competent, self-assured, and have a strong set of values that works for us. When we no longer judge ourselves harshly, we can believe that we’re worthy of all the good the Universe has in store for us. Our decisions will be based on what’s for the Highest Good of all concerned, and not on fear of what could happen if we don’t do what someone else wants us to do. We’ll be able to live more authentically, and be more aware of our connection to All That Is.
My ego, which is my rational mind, allows me to make healthy choices for myself, evaluate concepts and make decisions, and establish boundaries. I give myself permission to feel good about myself. Any old, negative ideas are reassessed and delegated to their proper place. I establish values that are appropriate for me and that give me a sense of peace. As my self-esteem improves, I recognize my true worth to the Universe.
Copyright 2007 Linda Ann Stewart
All Rights Reserved