How many times have you been told: “Don’t take it personal”? Myself, too many to count. And how often your immediate response is to go on defence mode and say “Of course it’s personal, it’s MY life! or “it’s MY career!” or “it’s MY [insert whatever comes to mind]”
That is the ego speaking. Our own interpretation of the things and aspects we define as part of our identity.
It’s taken me 30 years to understand what “don’t take it personal” truly means. I want to share this interpretation with you and share a short exercise that has helped me understand better my ego.
Often, we get attached to things and concepts and we react against anything that threatens to change or end them because we perceive it as a direct attack to our identity, or better said, an attack to who we believe to be.
An effective way to overcome any egoic provocation is to be authentic to who you truly are. Simple. I am not saying easy!
Those who do not attempt to appear more than they are but are simply themselves, stand out as remarkable and are the only ones who truly make a difference in this world.Eckhart Tolle
When we use our consciousness to become aware of our thoughts in any given situation (which is always neutral) we can put distance and focus on the facts rather than on our emotions and thoughts. This is very empowering as we can then begin to grasp that what we perceive, think or feel is not who we are. In other words, it’s not personal.
Here is the challenge: avoid defining yourself to you or others. This limits yourself to a mental image you create, a specific role or the things you have (or don’t have).
The lotus flower is a well known symbol in Buddhism that addresses this topic. This plant grows in muddy waters and despite its surroundings, it rises above to bloom a beautiful flower. The muddy water represents the attachment to the material world; whereas the lotus flower represents the purity of the body and mind, detached from the material world. What is more, the lotus can be defined as a plant that grows in the mud or it can simply be what it is despite the muddy water.
Eckhart Tolle in his book Awakening to your life’s purpose suggests an interesting and simple exercise to investigate whether your sense of self worth, your ego, is determined by things that are designated with the word “my”:
- Do certain things induce a subtle feeling of importance or superiority? What are they?
- Does the lack of them make you feel inferior to others who have more than you?
- Do you casually mention things you own or show them off to increase your sense of worth in someone else’s eyes and through them in your own?
- Do you feel resentful or angry and somehow diminished in your sense of self when someone else has more than you or when you lose a prized possession?
It is important you pay attention and be honest when you answer these questions to begin to understand your ego.
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