Understanding The Ego: Are You High Level, Low Level or Somewhere in Between?
We’ve all heard the term egotistical. You know, when a person thinks they’re hot shit on toast. They waltz around the place looking down their noses at people because they are just awesome. They think they deserve just a little more than everyone else and everything they get handed must be the best. They think they’re of a better calibre of people; not simply common folk.
I find that while this trope of Egotist is by far the most commonly known, the detriments of the Ego are more frequently found in people who judge themselves harshly and believe they are less important than others.
The Voice of The Ego
The Ego can be a nasty piece of work. It is the part of our mind that judges everything we do, sizing us up, shaking its head. It is the mother of comparison; squinting its eyes to decide if we are better or worse than those around us. This can lead to outwardly judgemental thoughts like ‘Oh wow she has bad skin and she’s eating a snickers, what an idiot! I’d never do that!’ or internal judgemental thoughts like ‘Oh wow, she’s way thinner than me. Actually everyone here at this yoga class is thinner than me! Oh my god. I don’t belong here! I’m not good enough!’
The High Level Ego
The Ego can tell us we are awesome, which can make us feel great. But you’ll know it’s the Ego talking if your awesomeness is at the detriment of someone else. Your Ego will tell you you’re not just awesome but better and more worthwhile than anyone else. You deserve the best seat in the house! You deserve to be served first! This is known as a High Level Ego and it can lead you to act outwardly cruel, assuming and entitled. It’s as if the High Level Ego seeps from your pores, but really it’s much simpler than that. If you are familiar with the Law of Attraction you’ll already understand that thoughts become things. If you walk around all day with the idea that everyone is beneath you, that’s how you will make people feel; like they are worthless and minuscule. Do you really want to be that person? The person who has great self-esteem, but at the expense of everyone around her?
The High Level Ego: Feeling Awesome at the Expense of Others
I’m sure we all know that girl. You know the one who grew up beautiful and had plenty of attention from boys, she may have been a teen model or a cheerleader. There’s no denying that they’re beautiful but perhaps not as beautiful as they think they are? They either have admirers or enemies.
I too knew a girl like this. She was a good dancer and actress and she was relatively beautiful. But she saw herself as far more talented and beautiful than everyone around her. She seemed to attract a lot of admirers but every time I spoke to her I ended up feeling bad about myself. There was just something about her energy than left me feeling “less than”. Because I am highly sensitive and highly intuitive, I was picking up on her High Level Ego energy. While it may have convinced some people of her worth, it actually had the reverse effect on me. It made me feel bad about myself and not as “good” as her. And let’s face it. It’s just no fun being around people than make you feel bad about yourself.
The Low Level Ego
On the flip side of The High Level Ego we have The Low Level Ego. I find this type of Ego to be far more common, especially amongst women. It may present as social anxiety; a sense that whenever we go out into the world that we are undeserving of decent treatment. We feel the need to apologise for asking for a glass of water at a café or we feel bad for getting a seat on the bus when someone else may have to stand. At an event we may feel guilty for even being invited and taking up the space – because we’re not important enough to be there.
The Low Level Ego: We Are Not Worthy
When we allow the Low Level Ego to rule us, we may talk ourselves down, sell our selves short and play small. Basically, it tells us that we are less important than everyone else; our family members, our work colleagues and other people in our industries doing the same work as us. The Low Level Ego is responsible for those unfinished novels, unfulfilled dreams and great ideas we gave away. It is the spotless house and the empty heart. It is the self-care you did not practice.
The Ego and Your True Self
The Ego can offer us approval and disapproval but both of these can be detrimental. If we’re constantly seeking the approval of others or we berate ourselves when others criticise us, we’re not being our authentic selves. We’re being a version of ourselves that pleases other people or appeases our Ego.
The thing about the Ego is that often it is laced with limiting beliefs imposed on us by our parents, grandparents and even childhood teachers. For example if we’re raised to believe that it’s “bad” and “sloppy” to stay in your pyjamas all day, that could be hugely detrimental if you’re a writer like me, who loves nothing more than staying in my jammies all day writing. I see it as a day well spent. But if your Ego chants this belief in your head, you may force yourself to get up and get dressed and leave the house which actually deters you from writing. This can inevitably lead you to feel unfulfilled. Like you’re living your life for someone else.
If you were raised to value money and possessions, your Ego may force you into a career that brings you money but no joy. This essentially can deter you from living the life the Universe intended for you. Yes, it may sound “woo-woo” but this is the home of woo-woo and I firmly believe that each and every one of us has an intended life path. As Picasso said; “The meaning of live is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.”
Whenever we let other people’s opinions and beliefs shape who we are, we’re not being our true selves. There are plenty of people in the world. Why be just like them? Be you. You only get one shot. Like ridiculously bright shades of pink? Wear the fuck out of ‘em. Love childish clothing covered in unicorns? Ditto!
The Ego and Creativity
Creatively, the Ego can really wreak havoc on your work. If you have a High Level Ego you can fall victim to thinking everything you do is a freaking masterpiece. Even when it’s not. This can cause you to do things half-assed, expecting applause, then getting angry at the world when they don’t come. It can also make receiving feedback very hard because if you’re ‘the best at everything’ then what would anyone else know? As a writer going down the publishing path you may be prone to giving up when you get your first round of rejections, because ‘if they won’t publish my work then the whole industry is just stupid!’
When it comes to the Low Level Ego, you may have trouble even getting started on your work for fear of making a mistake. This means you are less likely to even have a go or embrace the learning process. When you do make mistakes oh boy! You berate yourself for hours after the event and may even get so upset you can’t continue with the project. You may blow things so out of proportion that it’s not the work that went wrong, it’s you than is wrong. And instead of it being simply one small hurtle that you need to climb, it’s all over. You were never meant to write/paint/dance anyway!
Living with an Ego imbalance
Personally I lived with a Low Level Ego for years. My Low Level Ego not only made me feel like I didn’t belong anywhere or deserve anything good in my life, but it also made me put everything I longed for up on a pedestal. It stole my tongue when I tried to make friends with people I admired, it made me psyche myself out when I attended auditions. It even made it impossible for me to get an after-school job in a record store – because that was just so cool, way too cool for me.
Restoring Ego Balance
Now, my Ego is (normally) in balance. I neither believe myself to be better or worse than others around me. I don’t cut lines in the supermarket, nor do did I let others cut in front of me. I don’t idolise people in highly educated positions – like doctors and lawyers and people from Ivy League colleges – and let them intimidate me. I treat them as my equals. Because they are. I don’t treat watrons as my personal servants; I am polite and respectful and I am worthy of the same in return.
How to Re-balance Your Ego
The first step in re-balancing your Ego is to simply identify the Ego driven thoughts in your mind. When you hear that voice in your head telling you that you are either better or worse than those around you, stop and identify the Ego at work. Take a moment here to acknowledge how well you’ve done by identifying the Ego, congratulate yourself and immediately forgive yourself.
If you tend to take on a High Level Ego, take a moment to change those High Level thoughts. Instead of thinking negatively of the people around you, take a moment to change that energy. Mentally give them all a compliment. Wish them love.
If you are in a Low Level Ego state, in the midst of berating yourself and telling yourself you are less important than everyone in the room, take a moment to wish yourself love. Look around the room at these amazing people. Send them love too. Your paths have crossed for a reason. The universe has a plan for you. Give yourself a compliment such as “you are here because you are a professional in your field and you have gifts to offer that others value.”
In her book Never Not a Lovely Moon, Caroline McHugh talks about the concept of Interiority. This is the balance between Superiority and Inferiority. You are nether better or worse than others. You are simply you. Interestingly, both Superiority and Inferiority require other people in order to exist. Not so with Interiority. It is the epitome of embracing your true self and moving through the world with a smile in your heart.
Don’t let your Ego rule your life. You only get one chance to be you. Own it.