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What Can I Do About My Ego?

What Can I Do About My Ego?

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Question:

How can I rid myself of my ego? As hard as I try, it keeps coming back. I have meditated, fasted, taken vows of silence - but after years of work, my ego is still there.

Answer:

Fighting your ego is like trying to think about nothing. The harder you try, the further you get from your goal. As long as you are taking yourself so seriously, you are feeding into your ego. Even if you are fighting your ego, it's still all about you.

A desire to be spiritual can also be self-centered. Fasting can be just as self-satisfying as a good meal. As long as it is you who calls the shots and decides what is high and holy, then you remain under your ego's spell.

There is only one way you can truly transcend your ego: do a mitzvah. A mitzvah is a divine command as communicated in the Torah. Doing a mitzvah means doing something just because G‑d wants you to, and for no other reason.

Whether the mitzvah feels good, like resting on Shabbat, or seems totally weird, like wrapping tefillin on your arm; whether it is as easy as putting up a mezuzah on your doorpost or as hard as honoring your parents, when you do a mitzvah you go beyond the parameters of human and touch the divine - you are doing not what you feel like but rather what G‑d asks of you.

The mitzvah life is about not taking ourselves so seriously, because we are only here to serve others - both G‑d and our fellow human beings. Even self-improvement, in the mitzvah world, is only important because G‑d wants us to refine ourselves.

Do a mitzvah today and focus not on yourself, but on your purpose. When you do, the weight of ego is lifted off your shoulders, and you are free.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Hadassah Abigail USA November 4, 2016

Amazing I truly loved it, thank you for sharing! Reply

Anonymous Dallas, TX September 17, 2015

Response to Paul Paul, thank you for sharing that delightful lesson. My wife commented that anyone who could feel the same about a compliment as an insult has already reached the next level. Reply

Paul Bourgeois September 15, 2015

Ego I once read a story and I have been trying to remember it. Forgive me if I get some details wrong.

A student went to a Chassidic teacher and he said "I would like to meditate with you and reach the next level of G-d awareness."

The Teacher asked him: "If somebody complimented you how would you feel?"

The student said "I would feel good."

The teacher asked again: "If someone insulted you how would you feel?"

The student said: "Well, I would feel badly, but I would try to understand."

The teacher said: "Until you can feel the same about a compliment as an insult you are not ready."

I think this story has to do with ego. Reply

Anonymous Dallas, TX February 5, 2015

Try this little trick.. Your ego can only exist in your absence. So be there. Be present. Be conscious. Be the witness of your ego. Don't fight your ego. Just watch it. Observe it. That's all you need do. Reply

Tryambak India August 8, 2014

When Ego controls us! When ‘Ego’ takes the driver seat the whole focus comes on fulfilling the demands of ‘Ego.’ You start living in the state of future, dreaming the pleasure you will get when ‘Ego’ will win, simultaneously it keeps on reminding the taste of past. Finally, it keeps you away from present.

“The ultimate aim of the ego is not to see something, but to be something.”

You can click the link to know more: factincept.com/ego-killer-of-midfulness.htm Reply

Jethro Cadbury Glastonbury, UK July 12, 2013

Re:Ego Your ego is part of who you are in the world.
Do not regard it as an enemy, rather make friends with it.
When it gets boisterous, treat it with love and compassion, like you would a frightened child , It will learn it's place and you will have more peace. Reply

Isaac Brooklyn March 5, 2013

Could not disagree with you more. Your advise is maybe ok at first. But how does one do mitzvahs without any reasoning without it becoming the ego itself. E.g. look I am performing mitzvahs, so that makes me better and more holy then the rest.

And why performing with the understanding and knowing the beneficial purpose for the mitzvah to make oneself a better person, and to be able to serve God better become the ego ?

As you have implied the ego is basically thinking about yourself. Surely you are not suggesting we deny ourselves of all ego. As we all know it is impossible to exist without some ego.
It is when the ego becomes a hindering to our success, and of others is when it is problematic.
To combat this problem one must concentrate on what they are doing rather then only on themselves.
As when driving, look at the road, and not even in a Torah book, and when learning Torah, learn for it's own sake, do not concern yourself with the fact that a student gave an answer unknown to you, i.e. your ego.

Reply

Anonymous Toledo, OH/USA September 20, 2012

How can I kn ow what my purpose it? BS"D

Anonymous, toronto:

If you are Jewish, begin by doing mitzvos. You will find that your soul is attracted to a certain path and if you are amenable you will follow it. As the whole world belongs to Hash-m there is no set preordained path for you except of your own choosing. What delights your soul will propell you onto your own path and what you do will become your purpose. You will be drawn to it by your own actions. If your life is dedicated to doing mitzvos, whatever you end up choosing to do willl be oriented toward the divine will.

The sincere person becomes wise in following his/her path while the foolish one halts somewhere along the journey and becomes a zealot. Reply

Anonymous Tacoma, WA January 9, 2012

ego Can my ego be in charge when I am sleeping too? Sometimes I have to believe that any "Light Work" I do must best be done when I am asleep because I get tripped up when I am awake. I just think I can overcome much more in my sleep. Sometimes I wake not feeling too rested though! I am not trying to be odd. I am just very aware how difficult my own will can be. I am not fighting it. In God's hands. Reply

Michael P pittsburgh, Pa,usa June 2, 2011

need some help I would like to try to let go of my ego and do something G-d would have me as suggested, but what would he have me do? any suggestion would be greatly appreciated Reply

Mr. Leon Anderson September 11, 2010

Very Wise Rabbi "There is only one way you can truly transcend your ego: do a mitzvah." I am limited in my exposure to the Torah and usually only seek knowledge or wisdom according to my needs as I recognize them. I am not Jewish. The statement confirms some notes I have on working for the enlightenment of humanity and its general welfare. I am beginning to understand more that blessing. Though my life has seemed to be about service and not personal ambition, there have been times when I have felt put upon and not supported when I needed help. I always say, "It's you and me G--D", also thinking it would be nice to be remembered by those whom I have helped. It is becoming more clear to me now with the statement, "doing something just because G_D wants you to, and for no other reason". I always have to let go, while like Jonah with his arms crossed over his chest in personal viewpoint of G-D's judgment, and let G-D: or suffer. Thank you. Reply

Chanelle McCloud Cleveland, Ohio/us January 11, 2010

Thank You Thanks a lot to the response to that question. I know it will be helpful. Reply

Catherine Sydney December 29, 2009

Feeding starving children means your ego has to rely on the starving children for you to feel good about feeding them, if that makes sense. It may seem kind, and it is, but it's still ego-involved. That's what I read in A New Earth, and it makes sense to me. Reply

Ari Edson thornhill, ont March 28, 2008

I'm not sure if you’re right in asking why this didn’t happen earlier, M.H. I am personally just glad and thankful that the bad memories of my past are behind me. I try to forget about that as well and just bring it back to me when I am repenting. For the remaining time there is all that other stuff about life to enjoy such as eating ice cream on a cone and competing with yourself to finish the ice cream before it drips from the cone, or watching the sunset and the moon rise and noticing how well decorated the planet Earth is in its beauty and learning about how the stuff all being vivified by G-dliness at every moment and that this can all be seen within creation. Figure out how a single plant organism from amongst trillions of many plants, how a single plant can have an affect on the plan of creation now that’s something to think about! Reply

M.H. North Miami Beach, Florida March 24, 2008

starving children the comment was, "THINKING I was feeding starving children" Of course, it would have been wonderful to have actually been feeding those starving children. What's not wonderful is being involved mentally and emotionally in "causes" but really never affecting any positive change. And for a Jew, being connected to G-d and his Torah, is the only way we can truly and fully go about selflessly improving the world. Reply

RK Los Angeles, CA March 24, 2008

No Such Thing As Wasted Years How can feeding starving children be a waste of years? Are not acts of kindness mitvahs Reply

M.H. North Miami Beach, Florida March 23, 2008

Ego? Nah. I want to save the world... There are so many Jewish, non-affiliated or partially affiliated, saving-the-world type people who would balk at your article. "No, I am selfless in my goals of trying to make the world a "nicer-safer-cleaner-fairer-etc. place." Only under multiple layers of liberalism-new age-whatever brainwashing would they even begin to entertain the notion that perhaps you have a point. A ba'al tshuva who has "been there, done that" can whole-heartedly agree with you...but then would perhas pause and reflect...Why didn't someone tell me this before I wasted so many years, decades, whatever, feeding my ego, and fooling myself into thinking that I was feeding the starving children of the world (or whatever other cause he/she was "committed" to) for all those years?

But that moment, too, is a bit of an ego moment. "Me" "Why didn't someone tell ME about this" "Someone should have warned ME not to waste all those years" etc.

Ah, I guess a ba'al tshuva's work is never done.........thanks! Reply

Anonymous toronto March 20, 2008


How can I know what my purpose is ? Reply

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