Ego Is The Enemy: The Importance Of Humility And How To Stay Grounded

Recently, I read Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday which really resonated with me whilst going through a particular juncture in my life.

We live in a society where we often identify ourselves with the external possessions and become so attached and shackled to the “trappings” of “success” and materialism.

It can be very difficult to not compare ourselves with other people who may be seemingly more ahead in life.

Superficially, success is often measured by the type of car that we drive, the size of our house, how many friends we have and the type of job we have.

Don’t get me wrong, I love nice things, physical possessions too and comfort that money can offer us.

For as long as I can remember, I have been “chasing” worldly pleasures and became so caught up in these desires that it consumed much of my daily thoughts.

However, I have personally witnessed and experienced the principle of duality at its epitome and realise that sometimes the cost of “success” is at the expense of our soul and ego.

Ego is the Enemy, international best seller and Wall Street Journal, invites us to become conscious of what is driving our behaviour, often our ego, and evaluate how this affects our decision-making, performance and ultimately quality of life.

Here are some of the philosophies that Holiday outlines in his book:

Only when free of ego, can one perform

When we place significance and self-importance upon ourselves to such high degree, we often lack self-awareness and can become easily caught off guard.

Whilst a winner’s mindset involves having a certain level of confidence and self-importance, we must inevitably acknowledge and realise that we are not invincible and raise our level of consciousness to avoid delusion and self-absorption.

In order to operate at our highest level, we must be able to detach and step outside of ourselves to a degree and remain objective otherwise we run the risk of allowing our arrogance to distort our reality.

Stop creating stories

Ego causes us to imagine what our success will be like in the future which is often a fantasy that we have already cultivated as reality.

Whilst I believe that adopting a limitless mindset is fundamental to achieving huge goals, it is important to remain grounded and not allow ourselves to become to attached with the outcome.

Rather, we should focus on developing ourselves in the process, our character and creating empowering habits.

Many people become depressed because they don’t achieve what they had envisioned and can’t accept reality when it appears different to the one they had entertained their fantasies with.

We must remember that despite having the best of intentions we put out to achieve certain desires, for one reason or another, we may not achieve them, and what causes us to become depressed or angry is the meaning we have attached to achieving this, or these particular outcomes.

The harsh reality is that we are unfortunately not guaranteed anything in life, and the sense of entitlement comes from our ego.

We must be willing to know that we do not know; meaning that we must remember that we do not know everything, and that the universe, or God, has a much greater intelligence than we will ever be able to comprehend.

End addiction to approval seeking

As humans, our primal instinct is to be inclined to wanting approval and seeking acceptance from others, whether we are consciously aware of doing so or not.

Personally, I am very guilty of doing so and used to thrive of impressing others. Having reassurance and appraisal from others feeds our egos and insecurities. However, by needing this type of approval to validate ourselves and constantly coming from a place of seeking acceptance from others, we become a mental slave to others’ often at the expense of our “souls”.

Particularly in today’s society, especially on social media, we become shackled to being “liked” and identified by the amount of friends and followers we have.

I believe there are many benefits to social media; marketing and connecting with people being some of them.

However, for many of us, reaching out for acceptance in the form of likes can give us a confidence boost momentarily, but we become disheartened and feel somewhat inadequate when we stop receiving these.

Often unaware, we become subconsciously attached to seeking more because we link so much pleasure to being “liked”. It is so easy to become addicted to others’ approval even though we may be in denial.

To avoid this, we must firstly be at peace with ourselves and accept that not everyone will like us and that it is ok. Seeking validation from external sources will inevitably set ourselves up for disappointment unless we are completely “whole” on the inside.

Always be a student

Acknowledgement that no matter how superior we may see ourselves to be and no matter how high our self-esteem is, knowing that there is always room for more development and we have so much to learn from others allows us to adopt a growth mindset and become more.

Naturally, many of us are often very quick to judge people based on their job title, or social status, but we must realise that every human being has the potential to teach us something new humbles the ego and we are able to look at ourselves objectively through self assessment.

Embrace “trauma”

When we seek to do something meaningful and worthwhile, we are often subjected to sabotage and criticism. Ego usually tells us that we do not need to put up with this and we can easily avoid putting ourselves in front of humiliation and “bad treatment”.

Ego is the Enemy teaches us to embrace the “trauma” that comes along with pursuing things, to endure it, eat it until you’re sick, play the game and ignore the noise”.

Focus on serving others

Contrary to popular belief, greatness comes from being the “least” most important person. Serving other people is actually a long-term investment in oneself.

When we are able to step outside of ourselves and focus on helping and giving to others at a higher level, we become selfless and liberated from being too self-absorbed.

We live in a time where depression is incredibly common. Whilst I can empathise with this first hand, it is said that depression comes from when we operate from a place of ego because we place great emphasis on self-importance. Depression occurs when our reality does not match the expectations of the standards that we uphold to ourselves. Our sense of self worth is higher than what we feel we should bear.

Avoid immersing yourself with pride

The way in which we see ourselves and the labels we attach to our identity and allow them to define us actually confines our ability to grow and achieve open-mindedness. For example constantly focusing on labels and boxes that we like to associate ourselves with such as saying “I am an entrepreneur” or “I am a millionaire” can sometimes create too much sense of self-importance. Pride is often merely an illusion and distracts and deludes us from our objective reality.

Having an idea is not enough to cultivate it, instead, one should judge our own progress by what we have made. “Just because you’ve got a start, don’t lose your head” — John Rockerfeller.

In order to avoid feeling too proud, we should be able to accept negative feedback and be weary of pride after an accomplishment.

One should pursue goals and work towards fulfilling an ambition and not to satisfy one’s ego, self-gratification or to feel more superior to other people.

Humility is balance

Egotism has two fundamental extremes; self loathing and self-pity to self-importance and pride. Success comes from the development of character and the process of achievement and not so much the achievement of the final outcome.

It is through humility that we can honestly and objectively analyse ourselves. Instead of aiming to “become” someone, we should focus on building strong habits and developing as a person in doing so.

In a world that can be highly competitive, where so much pleasure is associated with obtaining “success”, it is no wonder how easy it is to fall into the wheel of chasing materialism.

One of our basic main human needs is social acceptance, which is part of our survival instinct, and so to deviate against the norm requires an enormous amount of courage and conviction to these core principles. Ralph Waldo Emerson says it best: “To be yourself in a world that’s constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment”.

Have you had any personal experiences where your ego and self pride has led you onto a particular path? Leave a comment below!