A Perspective on the Ego and Self Care

sign reading "curb your ego"

The more I write the word “ego”, the more it doesn’t seem like a real word. This is ironic when you consider what the ego is– the sense of self as affected by the external world. More simply put, the ego is how you look at yourself through the lens of your own personal reality. And my reality is currently questioning if this three letter word is real. 

No one has the same view of reality, and yet we try to construct a baseline for ourselves built on logic and reason. The ego loves logic and reason. The ego is not open-minded. 

When something happens that makes the ego feel bad or confused, subconscious defense mechanisms step into play. This can present as anger, or other defensive emotions. For example, sometimes we yearn to take a break from our work, but our ego tells us we can’t. It feels like it’s weak not to be better and use our time for hard work. Thus, when we take that break, we start to feel as if we are lazy and it is turned into a bad thing. This can hold us back from practicing much needed self care. 

So then comes the question, how do you show yourself love while simultaneously fighting against your sense of self?

People have tried dozens of ways to dissolve their ego and attempt to find peace while doing so. Popular methods found on the internet include psychedelic drugs and meditation. These methods mess with our brains enough to somewhat dissolve our sense of self, but not everyone is ready to turn to drugs or spiritual practice to gain a sense of relief.

The thing about the ego is that it zeroes in on what it wants and tries to employ a logical solution to reach that goal, despite what we may actually need. My hypothesis about why we are so held back by the ego is that we are so used to our flow of things that it’s hard to turn the ego off of whatever its sights are set on. Maybe a simpler version of self care would be to make the things we are used to special again.

For example, say you have a candy dish at home that you can reach into and grab a piece of chocolate from at any time. Chocolate becomes a constant in your life, and it’s no longer this great treat to enjoy when you are going through a breakup or celebrating a milestone. Now, if you remove the chocolate, and go months without it, suddenly it’s got its wonderful flavor back.

I’d also apply this to caffeine. Coffee, or however you take your caffeine, is an integral part of our culture. Around ninety percent of American adults consume caffeine each day. It improves our focus and awareness, making our minds sharper for whatever we plan to handle each day. It contributes wonderful benefits to our daily lives, and yet each morning we take that cup of hot coffee for granted. Recently, author Michael Pollan wrote a book on his experience quitting caffeine and how it felt to drink a cup of coffee again for the first time. He described the cup of coffee as “one of the most powerful drug experiences I’ve ever had in my life.” This is a vivid contrast from the mundane feeling most of us have when enjoying our morning caffeine.

Caffeine is an integral part of our culture.

How much easier would it be to make simple things a treat again versus working so hard to change the institution of our minds? Of course, meditation and other spiritual acts come with lots of benefits, but it really can be so much simpler. It can be as simple as taking what we already are doing and making them special again.

So to put this to the test, try to temporarily remove something you enjoy on a daily basis. This can be taking a cold shower instead of a hot one, or cutting out sugar for a bit. This could be not watching TV after work, or not having an ice cold beer before bed. When you return to the old routine, it suddenly feels like a real treat. This can change your perspective on what you are grateful for in your everyday life and make you a happier and more open-minded person.

This is one of the simplest ways to put the ego in its place so you can get that boost of serotonin you need without disrupting your way of life. From here, personal growth becomes easier and the mindset becomes more positive. This growth is one of the best forms of self care you can achieve.

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