I speak with women in my workshops and programs on a regular basis. I noticed first within myself, and then in the women that I worked with, that the ego was showing up in ways that we were not aware of.
When you think of someone who has a big ego, what comes to mind? People with puffed out chests, exerting their loud and “always right” opinions about almost anything and everything? The very notion that the ego is “big” leaves us with a certain image of how the ego manifests in our lives. Commonly, we view the ego as a very masculine trait. Comments like, “He’s got such a big ego” really demonstrate this. We equate ego with largeness and an over domineering presence.
What we fail to realize is that ego often looks and feels very different in many women.
The “big” ego in women looks and feels like we’re shutting down and not using our voices. We’re playing small. Because we’re afraid, we don’t take off our masks. We don’t allow ourselves be seen for exactly who we are – a Soul housed in a physical body.
I’ve spoken to a lot of women who tell me how they often don’t use their voices. They say it’s better to keep the peace and wise “to pick your battles.” When we avoid conflict at all cost, that’s as much the ego at play as it is when we decide to get loud and overbearing with our opinions.
I also speak with women who feel stuck because the discomfort created by changing keeps them from moving forward. Our egos tend to leave us coming at life from a place of fear. The underlying motivation is to avoid those things that we are afraid of. Our egos keep us stuck because that is what the ego thrives on – being stuck. The ego doesn’t like to change, grow, evolve or even thrive for that matter. The ego wants us to stay secure and in our comfort zone.
In all these situations, it is the ego that has us puffing out our chest in some situations and shrinking and playing small in others.
The ‘puff your chest out’ type of ego rubs countless women, including myself, the wrong way. And yet we often fail to see the ‘stay safe, stay small’ ego that is showing up in our own lives.
Our ego’s need for predictability and safety triggers every thought, feeling or action that originates in fear. At times we outwardly express our ego as a reactive response, and at other times inwardly express it by shutting down.
Whether the ego is making us big or small, it’s all the same ego. It’s equally as destructive to our spiritual growth and thriving in our lives.
I had a discussion with my husband, Mark, about the difference between how the ego is expressed through him compared to how it’s expressed through me. For both of us, the root message from the ego is “I’m not good enough, just the way I am.” He shared something that I thought was profound: The soul is gender neutral.
In every situation, we are either coming from a place of fear (which is always the ego) or we are coming from a place of love (which is the Soul). No matter how you look at it, the ego is always edging out the life force that seeks expression through each of us.
So what are we meant to do with this ego? Do we continue to allow it to keep us feeling and playing small or puffing out our chest?
We observe how the ego is showing up within ourselves on a moment-to-moment basis. In other words, we practice mindfulness. We witness our ego without judgment. Because as soon as judgment enters, our ego is judging our ego.
The problem is not that we have a fear-based ego. The problem is that we’re not aware of how it rules our life. It cuts us off from a life based on love, expansion, and growth rather than fear, constriction and hiding our Souls.
What if each time someone else’s ego triggers us, we then turn the spotlight on ourselves? How would things be different?
I don’t usually quote from the bible, but this one says it all:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
The truth is, it’s much easier to focus on how others need to change, even if it’s wrapped in the context of caring. When we focus all our attention and energy on “helping” someone else change, we don’t have to put our energy and focus on how we, ourselves, are meant to change.
Changing ourselves is an invitation from our souls. It’s an appointment that we’re not meant to miss. If we do miss it, the consequences are often poor health, bad relationships and a lack of meaning in our lives.
So the next time we see the fear-based ego showing up in someone else, let’s use that as a reminder to check-in with our own ego. When we do, we’ll be expanding our Souls and our lives will become a lot more expansive and peaceful.