Every religious and spiritual practice you come across will give the same advice; overcome ego. But this is much easier said than done. The ego has become a deeply ingrained part of us since we were young and is also an incredibly crafty and underhanded individual.
We are brought up to believe the ego is an inescapable part of who we are, and that it is also a positive influence on us. And while it is good to have confidence and believe in yourself, self-confidence and ego are in actuality two separate entities. To overcome ego is to attain true and pure self-confidence and a large step to bettering ones self and achieving enlightenment.
I could write an entire blog post on the benefits and reasons you should strive to overcome ego, but instead I want to talk about one specific way this can be achieved. One small change you can make in your life right now that will have vast long-term implications towards this goal. It all stems from one simple phrase:
“I don’t know”
Now this might seem strange to some, but we live in an age where admitting you don’t know something paints an unfavourable picture of yourself. It is ingrained in us during our stint in education. We must strive to become as intelligent as possible and showing ignorance about a topic can be seen as a sign of stupidity. Of course this is not always the case, some schools and organisations encourage you to speak up when you don’t know. But even then the fear of being judged by others can stop us from admitting this.
I feel it is important to become comfortable with the phrase “I don’t know”. To overcome ego and to allow yourself to learn. I know I was afraid to let myself learn a lot when I was in school. You feel because the majority understand you should too, and will be judged and looked down on if you were to admit you don’t understand. But how else will you learn? Admitting you don’t know and asking for advice will save you a lot of time in the long run.
“The ego is not master in its own house.” – Sigmund Freud
I’m reminded of an anecdote from Eckhart Tolle about the Dalia Lama openly admitting whenever asked a question he was unsure the answer of by saying “I don’t know”. Then often times would go on to give a wonderfully insightful answer anyway.
To overcome ego we must become comfortable with discomfort. To ask for help when it is needed. There is no shame in not knowing or failing. For if we do not ask for assistance when it is required, we will only struggle and remain in the swamp of ignorance.