How Did This Happen?
Today, you will learn the underlying reason for your unhappiness: your ego.
“Wait a second,” you say, “I don’t have a big ego!” Let me explain what I mean.
When I talk about ego, I mean that you have developed a personal philosophy that dictates what you think is important in life.
It is how you value yourself and others, and this is the root of your unhappiness.
What Is the Ego?
Sometimes this stuff gets a little too “abstract.” To bring it back to daily life, let me go over the five core tenants of the ego. These are five ways that we currently look at our lives.
You value yourself (and others) based on:
What you have. This is probably the most well-known and understood version of the ego. People who value themselves and others on what house they have, what car they drive, and if they have the latest iPhone or not. If you are like this, your mind space is often consumed with thinking about how to get more money, a bigger house, or what you are going to buy with your new raise or judging people who have less than you. It’s hard to admit sometimes, but we all do this at one point or another.
What you do. This value system sees your profession or life’s work as a way to determine your value. It is completely based on what you think is important. This means that you might value yourself based on your abilities as a doctor or lawyer, but someone else might value themselves based on their work as a parent or activist. It doesn’t matter what it is that you do. It matters if you derive value from what you do. This means that if you do a good job, you think that you’re awesome. But if you don’t do a good job, you think that you’re a failure.
What others think. So many of us place our value on what others think—our parents, our spouses, our friends, and even strangers! We want to be seen a certain way by others, so we do whatever we think that we “should” do to project a given image. If people like us, we feel good! If people don’t, we feel bad.
What you think. We all have beliefs that we value ourselves on, based on how closely our actions align with these beliefs. Here’s an example: punctuality. I used to be so worried about being on time, and if I was late, I would beat myself up endlessly for it. Now, I am not saying that it’s good to be late, but as soon as you start feeling shameful or less-than, you have crossed into ego. Say you’re sorry and do better the next time, but don’t beat yourself up about it—that doesn’t do anyone any good.
Your own importance. All right, here is the big one. Like the others, we all do this. We all think that we are important. On one hand, this is true: You do have value. However, you are not more important than anyone else. Nor are you less important than anyone else. But this is not how we see the world. We see ourselves as unique, different, and independent from the rest of the world, therefore we judge ourselves and others constantly. This is no path to happiness!
As you can see, we all have a big ego because we all value ourselves in these ways. The problem, however, is that these things also make us miserable.
In the next lesson, I will dive into how this plays out in our daily lives and why your current mindset around happiness has failed you.
To Your Happiness,
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