Is Your Ego Running the Show? 5 Warning Signs and What to do About it

“The ego constantly competes with the spirit for control over your inner voice.” – Darren L. Johnson
Ever feel like the world revolves around you? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there, but it only leads to problems doesn’t it.
Having some ego strength isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We don’t want to be pushed around, told bad things about ourselves, and believe everything we hear, but we also don’t want the ego to be the leading source of our decision making and perception.

The ego is the part of us that is always self-conscious and wants to be in control. It comes from a place within that is totally absorbed with our safety, reputation, personal interest, and survival. For more information about ego, check out psychology online classes that can teach you how Sigmund Freud defined ego. The ego separates us from our surroundings, rather than connecting us to the oneness between humans and the natural world. This can lead to being out of harmony and full of distress. If we want to enjoy the unfolding of life we can’t let the ego distract us. The ego is the exact force that gets in the way of experiencing a balanced, meaningful, and significant life. Before going any further, let me state that the ego isn’t going to go away, though they are many ways to begin noticing when it’s calling the shots, and many things to focus on in order to break free from the trap of self-serving motives. By doing so a higher consciousness involving humanity as a whole can evolve, and we can give back and contribute to the greater good.

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Warning signs the ego is calling the shots

1. You always have to have more

Do you always have to have the best, and be the best? The ego is never satisfied and is always craving more. The ego lives from fear that there won’t be enough or that things will run out. When nothing is “good enough,” life with not be satisfying, and we will always be in search of something to fill this void. Find things that you can appreciate and be grateful for instead.

2. You have to be right

How many times have you seen someone’s need to be right cause serious damage in a relationship? When the ego is in charge and conflict ensues the situation just gets worse. Recognize when you’re guilty of dichotomous thinking, where something is either “right or wrong,” “good or bad,” and where no common ground can be found. This type of thinking is narrow-minded and leads to judgment and criticism. When we have to be right it stifles creative potential and leaves many opportunities unseen.

3. You feel tense, uncomfortable, and overwhelmed with stress

Do you always have to be in control? The ego will always communicate the need for control and safety. If there is uncertainty the ego shouts “Danger!” and rings the alarm that impending doom is on the horizon. The ego focuses on survival and becomes easily concerned when things aren’t going “right,” or as they “should.” Stress and emotional discomfort is a sign you’re out of alignment and being victimized by these false warnings and defensive thinking.

4. Things get too serious and nothing feels like fun

Do you have a hard time taking a joke? The ego may be at the root of this. The ego can easily steal your joy by filling you with worries, concerns, regrets, and embarrassment. The ego struggles with anything that threatens the self-concept and damages worldly notions of self-worth. It goes on guard to point out all the negatives. Be aware when the ego is clouding your joy.

5. You must always be winning and you hate losing

A healthy drive to succeed is different from ruthless competitiveness. Competitiveness has serious disadvantageous when it takes away from the potential for mutual benefit and expansion. The ego thrives on outdoing and being the best. Achievement and accomplishment is an important piece of self-realization, though when this distracts us from the bigger picture of love, happiness, and peace of mind, competitiveness has become a perpetrator.

How to overcome the ego

Focus on generosity – Practice giving of your time, energy, and resources. This will squelch the egos focus on “mine” and having more. Practicing loving unconditionally – When you are able to love someone or something despite what’s in it for you, the ego has been transcended. Show love unconditionally, and stop asking, “What’s in it for me?Be compassionate and kind – Help others in need and recognize how you can be of service. Be observant about how you can help others, and do something kind for someone today. Encourage unity and embrace differences – Spend time and get to know someone who is different than you. When you notice judgments emerging, stop to find the value in others uniqueness and background. Be in the present – The ego has a hard time staying content in the moment. Be careful not to get stuck ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. Be mindful of your breath, your environment, and your five senses. Align with a higher power – Self-transcendence is a major facet of overcoming the ego. With an authentic spiritual relationship comes a shift from focusing on the self to focusing on others, and ultimately to focusing on the society at large. Focus on courage instead of fear – Don’t let the ego scare you out of following your heart and living from your purpose. Uncertainty scares the ego and sends signals that whatever change or idea is being considered is “bad.” Stay in faith and be courageous in the face of fear. When we are able to dis-identify with the ego, we can alleviate much unnecessary suffering. Our responses and interpretations will no longer be driven by the anxiety, fear, and shame that the ego communicates. You can begin making decisions from the higher-self.

My connection

This is where I provide my personal connection to the ideas in the post. I hope you will join the conversation by leaving a comment, and offering your personal connection to these ideas as well. It’s difficult not to use the words “I” “me” and “my,” when thinking of our relationships, possessions, and life in general. Our self-concept is the starting point for making decisions and navigating through the world. Ironically, while writing this, I got a tinge of irritability as my girlfriend wanted to take a drink from “MY” coffee cup! Pretty pathetic I know, but it was one of those days. Breaking away from this habit is about gaining awareness and slowly altering these patterns of thinking. As I continue developing the capacity to accept more, expect less, not take things personally, and give more generously, I am able to live a more whole and fulfilling life. I must admit that a major area of growth for me is to be more generous and selfless in my motives, and I have been striving to do this for some time now. It’s getting easier to stop myself and notice situations where my ego is attacking. Sometimes it’s with relationships, sometimes with work and finances, and other times with general responsibilities. I notice myself thinking “I shouldn’t have to deal with this,” and “this isn’t my problem.” I reframe these statements in order to focus on all the things I have to be grateful for, and how insignificant these events really are for my life course. Life is beautiful, people are amazing, and love surrounds us all when we stop and acknowledge it. Connect spiritually and release the burden the ego imparts, and your problems will lessen. Photo by: Www.CourtneyCarmody.com


  • Hi Joe, let me ask you a question: what if you replaced expectation with inspiration? I’m talking about direct inspiration – the kind that comes to you moment by moment. I ask this question for a simple reason: things these days are changing, and changing fast. What might seem like a wonderful idea now might become dated, say, a few years from now.

    Do you see where I’m coming from? What are your thoughts about this?

    • Christopher,

      Thanks for the engaging comment! I agree with this, and think people need to live in-line with their inspirations and passions. A primary starting place for developing a vision should be to consider what stimulates our inspiration. Staying inspired is also a wonderful way to keep motivated and energized. Inspiration can be used as a guide through the many processes of developing our future. A vision can always be altered, and we can use inspiration simultaneously to guide our direction and decisions. Very interesting! Thanks!

  • Frank – seesuccess

    Very inspiring content! I find that really examining what you want your legacy to be, enables one to build their life along these lines of integrity and passion. A personal mission statement is very important. Thanks for the post.

    • Frank,

      I appreciate the comment! Thanks for stopping by. A personal mission statement really can provide direction and intention in the actions we take and goals we set. As well, considering out legacy is what can motivate and inspire us to truly do great things. All that’s left after our life, is how we’re remembered.

  • Vision board work very well. But only if you take action. If you don’t then you just a board with a few picture on it. Dream big and let the fall stuff fall under. Carry the weight of your city like a cargo ship. Be the best you can be. An never give up.

    • Joe – shakeoffthegrind

      Jonathan,

      Thanks for the inspiring comment! A vision board can be a good exercise to help us understand what we want and where we want to be, and you are very right, if we don’t take action and pursue what are vision is about, its just an idle dream.

  • Hi Joe!
    I love vision boards. Instead of a paper board, I now use a vision board app on my ipod touch that is absolutely great. It allows me to upload pictures, notes, etc. It also allows me to creates multiple boards based on topics all in one place. The best part is that I can carry it in my purse at all times.

    It’s a good thing that you suggest we first define our mission statement. This helps create a more powerful vision board.

    A wonderful approach to a great topic! Loving blessings!

  • Joe – shakeoffthegrind

    Andrea,

    Thanks for commenting! Wonderful suggestion with the vision board app. That would definitely be most impacting as you have it with you all the time. I also like the notion of developing different vision boards for different topics and areas of life. Thanks for your wonderful insight!

  • Jennlari1

    Thanks for the Blog Post! I needed to read this. I have a mission statement from 10 years ago and think i better update it. I have also been delaying creating a vision board. Ive been “thinking” about creating a vision book; something i might be able to carry in purse to have with me at all times. I love the verse in the bible that reminds me to always believe in what others might think is impossible. “For with God, nothing will be impossible” ~Luke 1:37
    Thanks Joe!

    • Joe – shakeoffthegrind

      Thanks for commenting Jen. I always appreciate it. I agree that having daily inspiration is essential. I try to read blogs or listen to podcasts that provide me new knowledge, ideas, and skills. This seems to spark inspiration and creativity. We’ll need to work on a vision board together, and make sure to get your vision book started soon.

  • Thanks for sharing what you dachia, I found it really valuable and practical meaning in life. “How to Develop a Big Picture Vision” A very good question.