On the path to enlightenment, much depends upon understanding the elusive concept of ego meaning. In fact, even our earthly success hugely depends upon how we perceive and deal with our ego.
Once you get to know what ego is and how to apply knowledge about your ego in your daily life, simply magical things can happen to you.
Sadly, most of us do not have the useful idea of ego.
But you have landed in the right place! From this post, you will reap all the necessary knowledge about ego and learn how to use that knowledge for both worldly and spiritual gains.
Let’s begin with the simpler aspects of ego meaning.
What Does It Mean When Someone Says You Have an Ego?
Frankly speaking, it can mean a lot of things when someone says, “you have an ego.”
Essentially, it depends upon who is saying it and to whom it is being said. In other words, it depends upon the ego definition that both the parties have in their own personal minds.
People measure their self-knowledge by what the average person in their social environment knows of himself, but not by the real psychic facts which are for the most part hidden from them.— Carl Jung
However, in day-to-day conversation, having an ego may mean any of these things — being egotistical, self-centered, proud, overbearing, shy, having a grandiose sense of self, or many other such things.
Interestingly, in reality, you may not have these qualities within you; it all depends upon the perception of the other person. It may be that it is their ego that they are subconsciously projecting upon you and observing the ego-traits within you.
So, can you see here, how ego definition is a very deep and complicated affair?
What Ego Really Is
So, we have seen the ego meaning when someone alleges you of having it. Now, let’s find out what it actually means.
Academically, we can approach the definition of ego from two different schools of thought — psychology and spirituality (or theology).
Psychological ego meaning
In layman’s terms, ego is the identity of the individual self that one has. In Freudian and Jungian terms, it is the center of your awareness and the framework of your individual being.
Whatever comes to your mind when you think of yourself, is your ego. Your ideas about yourself, your beliefs, ideologies, social and communal affiliations, desires, fears, and much more constitute your ego.
Examples such as:
“I am a more ethical person than my colleagues.”
“I am much better at my work than others.”
“Will I become a great person someday?”
“I don’t think I will ever become this (or that).”
“Will I be able to become a successful lawyer?”
All these types of perceptions, assumptions, and questions come from your ego.
Spiritual ego meaning
Although similar to the definition of ego, there are some other associations with the term ego when we consider it from an esoteric point of view.
Spiritually, ego is the veil of individual personality that bars you from having a universal existence.
It is because of our ego that we get the perception of separation from other beings, the universe, and God. Also, this separation by ego is the root cause of all sufferings in the world.
As The Buddha says,
Bhikkhus, all is burning. And what is the all that is burning?
The eye is burning, forms are burning, eye-consciousness is burning, eye-contact is burning, also whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant that arises with eye-contact for its indispensable condition, that too is burning.— Adittapariyaya Sutta: The Fire Sermon
So, why is everything burning? It is because of the ego and it’s false perceptions.
Burning with what? Burning with desire, hate, delusion, griefs, and despairs.
All of these are facets of your ego causing a sense of separation from the universal or higher consciousness.
Is It Good to Have an Ego?
There are people who would say that having some ego traits are good for life. Such as fear, which biologically evolved as a survival mechanism to save us from dangers.
Or, some would argue having an ego drive towards success is necessary for progress in life.
But is it really so?
That same fear, which was once a great tool when human life was mainly centered around animalistic activities, is now just an impediment for higher growth, as we are mostly aware of physical dangers now.
And, this same ego drive makes us greedy, jealous, and blind to all the other aspects of life.
On the other hand, impersonal passion for self and universal progress is a much nobler drive than ego drives for success.
What Does It Mean to Let Go of Your Ego?
As we have just learned, having ego is no good. So, the next question comes to mind — what does it mean to have no ego?
The answer seems apparently simple, but with the most significant consequences.
Letting go of our ego means letting go of our constructed sense of self and identity. It means letting go of our beliefs, ideas, desires, attachments, and even our thoughts as we know them.
In the process, we keep removing the veil that bars us from our universal existence and higher consciousness. And thus, eliminating the root cause of suffering.
So, having no ego means accomplishing the 3 highest goals of human existence —
- Being free from pain and suffering.
- Being united with universal existence and higher consciousness.
- Becoming limitless
There are plenty of other fantastic side-effects of becoming egoless, but these three are the most significant. To learn more about how to get rid of your ego, read our post on ego dissolution.