Measuring up to the world’s standards…is living the ego’s life.
The game of measuring up is the ego’s trick. It’s a distraction that never ends. So, don’t fall for it. When we do, we end up holding ourselves to an unrealistic standard that was someone else’s measurement for themselves; yet, we assume it’s right for us. It’s not. You can be sure that these expectations, comparisons, or the world’s ideal…only have the power you give them.
This behavior is a symptom of living the ego’s life. It’s a life hidden behind the ego mask, based on a lost identity, the dysfunction of codependency, or society’s norms that no longer serve us. When the false ego self becomes the dominant way of expressing ourselves and experiencing life, we don’t live our life; instead, we live through the ego and suffer without knowing why.
During our formative years, we were taught to live the ego’s life. Our behavior goes all the way back to childhood when we were growing up and learning to measure up. When you were young, do you remember a time when you cried for something you wanted such as a cookie, and your parent got angry? Do you remember being afraid that they might not love you anymore? We’ve all been there at one time or another. This can be traumatic when we’re young because we’re so vulnerable and naturally dependent on others to survive, to be safe and protected.
It’s important to know that we all do the best we can with what we know at the time, and so do our parents. Yet…we still believe the voice of fear and doubt and as a result, we try to be a “better self”, as if we aren’t good enough already. Over and over again, we’ve try to be a more acceptable, false self.
When a person is living through their ego self, it can bring about much unhappiness. Know that most people are unaware of this false defense mechanism active inside themselves we call the ego self. Notice this is the ego’s life, not ours. As adults, our natural state is not…dependent, weak, needy, lonely, unworthy, insatiable, etc. This way of life has been passed down from one generation to the next. It’s a habit and it’s time we say “no” to the ego. The ego self should not be in charge of our life, period.
Once we’re adults, we rarely learn to reverse this behavior even when we are quite capable of taking care of ourselves. Thus, our protective response can turn into a lifetime of unhealthy behavior. This clearly demonstrates the need for every adult to know what their needs are as well as their unmet needs, and to learn to be responsible to meet those needs themselves.
Let’s be clear, the ego will never take care of you nor will other people…because that’s your job. Of course, it’s important to be there for other people, but never at your own detriment. When we give from this place where we give too much…because we believe it’s the right thing to do, know that it’s not. As Ernest Hemingway wrote, “The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much and forgetting that you are special too.” When we put other people’s needs and happiness above our own, we fail ourselves and others.
Unfortunately, we’ve learned to live in a made-up, psychological world as an alternative self…that’s not only unhealthy, but it’s certainly not our natural state. It’s just a habit we can change once we understand it. Yes, it’s a learned behavior, and we can also learn how to step out of it, to live in the joy that was intended for us all along.
The original intent of the “false ego self” was to create a “better self” than the true self in order to measure up to the world’s standards. When we were young, we had good reason to live up to the world’s standards, judgments, and expectations. As we all know, young children are dependent on the world to keep them safe until they can take care of themselves.
Because of our natural instinct to protect ourselves, we created this alternative self also known as the false ego self. In 1960, Donald Winnicott, a pediatrician and psychoanalyst, introduced the concepts, true self and false self, to the world in an article he wrote regarding his theory of the infant–parent relationship.
Dr. Winnicott helped us understand that when a parent doesn’t respond to the needs of a child, yet expects them to respond to their needs, the child learns to focus on their parent’s unmet needs, rather than learning to connect to themselves inside. As a result, the child is left feeling unsafe to express their true self. Thus, we try to be a better, more acceptable self by hiding behind the mask of the false self.
This behavior can quickly become unhealthy. Often it means putting other people’s needs above our own even to our own detriment. In fact, when the child meets the parent’s needs instead of their own it becomes unhealthy because this is when we lose our connection to ourselves, thus our ability to meet our own needs.
Our “real” true self is the spontaneous and natural self-expression of our sense of being and aliveness that allows us to be genuinely close to others. Therefore, it’s important that we maintain a healthy balance in our life, so we feel safe enough for the true self to show up, be in charge, and oversee all 3 identity resource areas (mental, emotional & physical).
This is a reminder to make it a habit to ask yourself the 4 clarifying questions:
- What am I thinking?
- What am I feeling?
- What do I need? and
- How can I get it in a healthy way? …then do it.
Remember…even Jesus, although perfect, didn’t live up to the world’s (i.e., ego’s) standards. So, don’t spend your life chasing what’s impossible and not even relevant. When you abandon yourself for the ego’s idea of perfection, everyone loses. It’s never a good idea to leave yourself behind.
If you want to learn more about our predicament, read Chapter 4 in my book: Breaking Free from the Ego: A Course in Finding and Freeing Yourself. In this chapter, I talk about our origin and how we got into this place where we live in a psychological world that’s not serving us well.
Exercise: Let’s apply what we’ve learned…
Learning how to quiet our mind is the best way to step out of the ego’s life. When we’re in the present moment, we’re able to notice things as they are, without making a judgement. This is how we discover a higher state of consciousness and experience inner peace all the time. As we work on changing our behavior, it is helpful to write about our thoughts. Consider using a mindfulness journal to regularly answer the 4 clarifying questions previously mentioned. It’s a great way to be more aware of what the ego is up to in your mind, i.e., the voice of fear and doubt, so you can seek the truth, and overcome the ego’s lies.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog. Please share it with someone else. It may be exactly what they need to hear to be free too. Come back for next month’s blog and…
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About the Author – Trina Carroll-Houk is a spiritual teacher, counselor, and founder of Breaking Free Boundaries, LLC who specializes in self-awareness, mindfulness, and the spiritual dimension of being. Her goal is to help people improve their quality of life so they can experience inner peace, meaningful purpose, and fulfillment. Trina represents a movement focused on helping people release what limits them from transforming into awakened beings with a higher sense of spiritual consciousness.
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