Without even being aware of it, our ego can become our greatest obstacle to personal development. You see, how we view the world around us depends a great deal on our ego.
The role of ego in personal development
Acting like a giant control panel, our ego can direct how we interpret everything that goes on in our daily experience. We know that our perception of any event will determine what we get from that experience. Was it positive or negative? Was it an opportunity or setback? The answers depend upon our perception.
Now here’s the clincher. Our ego exercises a very strong influence on our perception, and most of the time we have no awareness of this influence. It’s not because we are hiding from our ego, in fact it’s just the opposite.
It’s because we are way too close to see it!
You see, our ego is that part of the mind containing consciousness and memory. It is intimately involved in the process of controlling, planning, and conforming to reality. As far as we are concerned, our ego is the same as our individual self. It’s who we are as a person separate from our environment.
Because ego sees us as separate from everything else, it tries to shape our perception accordingly. This means that it acts as a filter for everything we are exposed to. Our version of reality is slanted by the ego’s agendas.
What this means to our personal development
It means that the state of our ego can greatly enhance our personal development, or it can create an insurmountable obstacle to personal development. It can open the door to a rewarding and fulfilling life, or it can slam the door of personal development and confine us to a life of self imposed limits.
That’s a lot of influence, don’t you think? Especially for something that tends to operate behind a curtain of personal invisibility. I say personal invisibility because often times others can clearly see what mode our ego is in, even when we can’t.
My firsthand encounter with the big E
There was a time when I was in the clutches of my personally invisible ego. People around me could see that I was a control freak, and they often tried to bring it to my attention. What was my reaction? I honestly couldn’t see it. Worse than that, I really couldn’t comprehend why they would even hint at such a thing.
I remember that a good friend at the time would often tell me “you need to let go!” And my response was always “let go of what?” I honestly couldn’t understand why he would say that.
The scene is set
Sometimes, life’s lessons have a way of sneaking up on us when we least expect it. That’s exactly what happened to me. I think our daughter was about nine years old at the time, and I have her to thank for ripping back the veil and exposing me to myself.
One day I was determined to finally teach her a lesson about keeping her room clean (go ahead and laugh). So I sent her to her room and told her not to come out until it was all cleaned up. For some kids that would have seemed like a punishment, but our daughter loved being in her room. It wasn’t even a hardship, let alone a punishment. So, after several hours I decided to check on her progress.
A rude awakening
When I entered her room, there she was entertaining herself and having a good old time. Absolutely no effort had been made at cleaning up the mess. I was amazed and proceeded to set myself up to learn a very important lesson. I said: “Why do you do this to me?” Her reply was “what did I do to you?” My response was “you deliberately defied me.” She calmly asked, “How did I defy you?”
I could not believe that she didn’t get it when it seemed so obvious to me (the control freak). So I explained, “I sent you up here to clean your room and you deliberately defied me, why do you do that to me?” And then it happened.
She lowered to boom
Her next words launched me into a giant ah-ha moment that changed my life. She said: “I didn’t do anything to YOU; I just didn’t clean my room!”
Wham, it hit me right between the eyes. I was such a control freak that when she didn’t clean her room I took it as a personal offense. My ego was in “take it personal mode,” as if everything that she said or did was somehow directed at me personally. I felt like a buffoon. How could I not see this, even when others had tried to point it out to me?
Let it go and grow!
I finally understood what my friend was talking about. It’s not just about letting go of the desire to micro manage those around us. It’s about letting go of the whole concept that makes us the central figure in our world. The ego wants to differentiate between “self” and everything else. This is a very limiting concept. On the other hand, it’s not about being completely selfless either.
We need to let go of the line of demarcation that wants us to see ourselves as exclusive from everything else. Personal development is based on growing and expanding or awareness. When we expand our identity to include everything else in the universe, we form a personal connection with all creation.
We become more, not less
Letting go of a limited, self focused, take it personal ego unlocks many of our personal restraints and allows us to become much, much more. All of a sudden we understand how we fit into web of life. We see ourselves as part of the whole instead of an isolated entity. We don’t sacrifice our individual consciousness, we allow it to grow and encompass everything around us.
This is when personal development expands into a whole new dimension. This is the vantage point from which everything looks different. As if we have climbed up out of the haze and caught our first glimpse of the big picture. When we embrace our surroundings we free ourselves from much of the struggle.
And the learning continues
In the years that followed, I have often looked back on that day when my nine year old daughter helped me to see myself in a clearer light. Like many valuable lessons, there was some initial discomfort involved. But in the bigger picture, how insignificant that momentary discomfort was compared to the positive changes and personal development that resulted.
Have you had a memorable personal development moment?
Have you ever learned a valuable life lesson from a child?
The lines are open!
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