The “ego” is defined on many sites as this: (from dictionary.com) “the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.” The website www.thefreedictionary.com gives a common second definition as: a. An exaggerated sense of self-importance; conceit. b. Appropriate pride in oneself; self-esteem. C. one’s image of oneself; morale to boost one’s ego, d. egotism; conceit.
At the beginning of this book, I started with a Buddhist quote: “If no one told you who you were, then who are you?” I exhort that you are much much more than what society labels you as. If you work at a restaurant and know how to cook fish and steak, you are much more than the four letter word “chef”. If asked “Who are you?” people will usually start responding with their name, age, gender, occupation, and other stuff that you would find on a government document like your driver’s license.
But that is such a small part of who you really are. You may start that answer by saying that you are a loving being who enjoys poems by John Keats and has deep seated fears about disappointing others and cherishes sunsets. And that would be just the beginning. There is so much depth to you, so much innocence and joy and curiosity, it is almost hopeless to really describe it. The problem with words is that it limits so much what it is often trying to describe, especially when it comes to people.
But, society won’t leave you alone. Right from the beginning, you will be asked to sit still in an artificially lit room for many hours straight where you memorize the multiplication tables and learn about American history (if you are in the U.S), and do other things that are relatively boring for any young child. You are pushed to throw the ball through the net, dodge the ball being thrown at you, and pushed to run as fast as you can around the stadium along with everyone else. If you run the fastest, you are encouraged and extolled and praised, even though you are not running away from anything. You are just running so you can be compared to the others in your group. As a kid, you have absolutely no idea why you are being pushed to be the fastest, the smartest, in your group. You just want to make friends and build sand castles.
Then, as soon as you start school in kindergarten, you are asked by everyone “who you are”. And most of the responses are centered on how much better you do things than the kids next to you. And as you fast forward to high school and college, if you are asked “who” you are on a job application, you would answer all the things that “society” (in this case likely represented by a corporation) values. You would answer that you are a “problem solver”, “someone who leads others” and “very dedicated worker”, and so forth. You may list things like your grade point average, your photo, and other things society values that you have some measurable degree of. You would list all your awards and accomplishments that distinguish you from others and make you seem superior to the others gunning for the same spot. And there is where the problems begin. This is where you are sowing the seeds for a future full of anxiety and depression.