Ego vs. Self

October 1, 2012

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This week I would like to talk about the distinction between the ego and the self.
For a long time I had been confused about the distinction between the two, and it wasn't until a few years back that I started to grasp the difference and understood the importance of being aware of it.

Photo by: David Koscheck

I personally associated the word "ego" with a sense of pride, which to me had a negative connotation. However, I later discovered that our ego simply means our sense of self-esteem or self-importance and our notion of personal identity. So, there is nothing wrong with our ego, it is normal and natural to have it.

However, it is truly important to realize where our ego comes from, that is, where our sense of worth and identity comes from, because more often than not, it comes from the wrong places, wrong concepts and, wrong beliefs.

As I delved more and more into spiritual, self growth and well being texts, I started to comprehend why there was a clear distinction made between the ego and the self and how important it was to understand it fully.

Most of us associate our personal identity and sense of worth to things such as:

  • Our bodies, our looks
  • Our culture, nationality, race, religion or even political views
  • Our profession, our career, our success or failure
  • Our thoughts, feelings and emotions
  • Our role in the community, etc

For instance, if we believe we ARE our body and looks (depending on our beliefs about them) we can identify with being beautiful, ugly, overweight, skinny, etc. and that can be the one aspect that rules most of our self worth.
Regardless of whether we are happy or unhappy with the particular body we have, we can not and should not derive our sense of worth from it, because we are NOT our bodies and looks.

We can also derive our sense of identity from our culture(s), our our nationality or even our race. We can also identify so deeply with a religion or political view that we come to believe we ARE them, but although we can participate or be a member of a religion or party, our identity is not derived from their doctrine.

If we believe we ARE our profession, career, success, failure, etc. It means we see ourselves as being a "lawyer" or a "Doctor" or a "Secretary" and we let that define us. Or, in terms of success and failure, we can see ourselves as being rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful, etc. Either way, none of these things really define who we are.

As for our thoughts, feelings and emotions, if we believe we ARE what we think or feel; it means we judge ourselves by the way we see the world, we can be anything: arrogant, weak, intelligent, sad, etc. But again, we are NOT our thoughts, nor our emotions and feelings.

We can also be defined as the role we have in the community, for instance, we can be the daughter or son of such and such, or the wife of so and so, or the mother of so and so, etc. Again, our particular role in a community is not who we are.

So, who are we? you may ask, and it is a good question. I have asked myself this question many times.
Well, that is when the distinction between ego and self comes in handy, to explain this conundrum.

The ego is our sense of identity through the things mentioned above, but deep inside us there is a real, true and unchanging identity that is our essence, our core and our only identity, and that is the "self." the self is basically us but after we peel off all the layers of the ego, once none of the ego-defining aspects are there, or we go beyond them to find our true nature. The self is simply the presence inside each and every one of us.

To explain this a little better, have you ever had the experience that you are just witnessing your thoughts? That there is one that thinks and deep inside one that just observes without judgment?
This is a truly life-changing experience, at least it was for me, because I realized then that the "observer" was my true self, buried deep beneath all the other layers, which is why it took me so long to find it.

There are very nice analogies that are often used to explain this, my favorite is that of a wheel, in which the outer edges are the ego-defining aspects of ourselves, always changing and moving, while the axle in the center is our true self: stable, strong, grounded, unchangeable, etc.

The problem is, our sense of identity gravitates often on the edges of the wheel, so we are constantly being thrown out of balance and have a sense of instability, uncertainty, unsettlement and confusion. If we are able to find our center, however, we also find our balance, our inner peace, in other words our true self and we can live life from a much more real and satisfying place, while still filling the roles we need to fill during our lifetime.

There are many ways of finding our true self, but perhaps the most important is by quieting the "noise" of the outer world and the "chatter" of our thoughts. Only then we can stop and wait for our self to emerge, and I promise, it will!!

If you want to read more about this, I highly recommend the work of Eckart Tolle, I find his way of explaining these complicated concepts to be incredibly compelling. You can start with The Power of Now, it is a clear and concise book that will change the way you see life.
By the way, he will be in DC this week, so if you are interested in seeing him live, check the announcement below!

All your current notions of self worth, whether they are working or not for you, they are not real, in reality you are much greater, much stronger, much wiser that you can possible imagine!

Have a great week!


*Eckhart Tolle is coming Washington! October 4th, 2012, Get your tickets here.

*Silva Life System in the DC area, October 13th for spanish speakers:"Reencuentra tu Alma" y "Tener Razón o ser Feliz" call Diana at 703-866-4030 or email her at

*Spiritual Cinema Circle Get a free trial and change the way you see movies, make this pastime a life changer

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