How your ego may be ruining your health and happiness

An octogenarian tells you why your ego is at the root of most of your problems

tug of war mirror, ego

In the garb of ‘self-esteem’ most people have inflated egos. The first casualty as a result of high ego is your peace of mind. Here’s how ego, your false self, destroys your happiness.

The illusion of superiority

Ego makes you feel superior to others. Can anyone become superior to any other person in every aspect of life? It is impossible. Everyone is unique. God or Nature does not create duplicates of anyone. So ideally the feeling of superiority should not arise. You might say, “I have more wealth or more qualifications than others.” But even that does not mean you are superior to others, because they may have more of something else that you do not have, but wish for. One way to reduce your ego is to accept your own uniqueness and also appreciate the uniqueness of others.

The need to dominate and control

Ego fights with other egos. As soon as you try to dominate or control others, the other person’s ego resists, revolts and reacts. As a result, the other tries to get back at you or sabotage your efforts at the first opportunity. If you give up your need to dominate and control others, your ego is out and the other’s ego has no one left to fight. Peace and happiness prevail.

Blocked rational thinking

Our ego often comes in the way of us accepting the reality of situations and looking at things rationally. When something that we don’t like happens, we resist it. If you keep your ego out of the picture and ask yourself two questions, you will be in a better situation.

  • Can I do anything about what has happened? If yes, do it. If nothing can be done, accept the situation as soon as you can.
  • Can I learn anything from what has happened? If yes, learn it as soon as you can. Else, let it go without regret.

One night, as I was crossing the street; my hand collided with the handle of a cyclist passing by. It hit my knuckle really hard. I could have got angry at the cyclist for not riding properly and for having bumped into me. Instead, I crossed the road and stood there for a few moments and asked myself, “Why did the cyclist and I not see each other?” I got my answer: It was totally dark. I decided that in the future, I will cross the road at nights only under the streetlights. If I would have allowed my ego to take over the situation, I would have left from there cursing the cyclist and would have also lost out on learning an important lesson that was towards my own safety.

Stunting personal growth

A retired person once shared with me how he was getting bored with all the free time he had on hand. I said to him, “I have a library room at home, you can pick up books of your interest from any subject and learn new things. That will keep you occupied.” His egoistic attitude made him reply, “My grandchildren are in school. It’s their time to learn now. At this age what more is left for me to learn? I already know what I need to.” Old age mostly brings with it wisdom but often it also brings along ego. In order to learn something, you need curiosity and passion, but you also need humility. And ego kills humility and, as a result, puts an end to your growth.

Ego hurts your health

The ego makes you react angrily or think ill of someone or yourself. When that happens, it has a negative effect on your health and wellbeing. Once thinking such thoughts becomes a habit, you suffer from chronic diseases, heart trouble and even cancer. I repeatedly autosuggest to myself that my health is improving everyday in every way. This I do because I am able to maintain my mental balance. Last year, at the age of 84, when my doctor examined all my reports, he said, “You will live for a 100 years!” I replied, “But my plan is to live for 115 years. You have reduced 15 years.” Then both of us laughed. Nobody can say for how long we will live, but living without fear and toxicity can make sure that you enjoy great health as long as you do.

Religion and ego

The Qur’an says: “You should not have ego even equal to a gram of mustard.”

The Bible says, “Only the humble will reach the kingdom of God.”

In Bhaktimarg, you have to surrender your ego totally.

Some saints have said, “Your prayers shall not be accepted, if you have ego.” The reason is that the ego’s function is to increase your feeling of entitlement, to create conflicts, damage your health and make you suffer. Baling Broke has said, “It [pride] is the friend of flatterer, the mother of envy, the nurse of fury, the sin of devils, the devil of mankind.” It is for this reason that all religions have condemned ego. The only way out is to strive to be aware of your egotist feelings when they arise and replace them with humble compassion for self and others.

Peace of mind as mission

If peace of mind is your mission in life [who doesn’t want it!], become aware of small irritations and agitations within your mind. Start to laugh them away. Laughter is the best antidote to irritation. When there is peace of mind, intelligence, oneness, compassion and discrimination enhances your self confidence but not ego. I too learnt this the hard way 20 years ago when, at the age of 65, I underwent a bypass surgery, which let me to change my approach to life.

Byron Katie says, “An unquestioned mind is the world of suffering.” So question your mind and you will realise how repeatedly your ego-based thinking spoils your relationships, makes you miss opportunities due to fear, damages your health and more. What I have learned in my eight decades on this planet is that the purpose of everyone’s uniqueness is not to enforce separation but to make life interesting. Get into the habit of investigating your thinking, feelings and habits. Once you become aware of your self-defeating thoughts, it is easy to get rid of ego.


This article first appeared in the May 2016 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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