I hadn’t really understood, in my heart, what Ryan Holiday meant with the title of his book: The ego is the enemy. I have to admit that I was hesitant of reading it when it first came out. The obstacle is the way, was fantastic so I did push myself to buy it and give it a go. At first, I couldn’t conceive the notion of having my ego as an enemy, the idea of having a war with my ego seemed like having a war with “me”, and if I had a war with “me”, then insanity would be just around the corner. It almost seemed as if you had to hate yourself, being yourself the enemy. Bit Schizophrenic isn’t it? Later I began to understand what the Ego is and realized that I could not rationally call the Ego “myself”.
Ryan defines the ego as “an unhealthy belief in our own importance. Arrogance. Self-centered ambition.” The need to be better than, more than, recognized for, far past any reasonable utility—that’s ego.
The ego can be compared to a child inside ourselves. A winning and detestable child, desperate for attention and willing to do anything to obtain it. This child thinks the whole world revolves around him and demands all eyes to direct their attention to him. He acts for attention, approval, and validation and to assure his feeling of greatness. He also believes in his heart that he deserves it. He feels entitled to attention and therefore becomes mad when he does not get it (anxiety levels are soaring). This way of being, obviously, is prejudicial as it separates the person from reality.
If you think you deserve greatness, why would you have to actually work for it? When you are trying to prove you are smart, you are more concerned about appearing to be smart than on actually being smart and doing the things that make up for a smart person and that right there, is the problem.
The ego functions by searching for ways to assure himself that he is great. Our times are great for this indeed! All of our inner spoiled brats have to do is upload a photo of some nicely crafted Tacos on Instagram and get hearts and validation as if it were his! This reminds me of the following stoic phrase.
Don’t be prideful with any excellence that is not your own. If a horse should be prideful and say, ” I am handsome,” it would be supportable. But when you are prideful, and say, ” I have a handsome horse,” know that you are proud of what is, in fact, only the good of the horse. What, then, is your own? Only your reaction to the appearances of things. Thus, when you behave conformably to nature in reaction to how things appear, you will be proud with reason; for you will take pride in some good of your own. Epictetus
Sorry, but no, you should not take praise in the Tacos picture.
This is why the ego is the enemy. The aim of the ego is validation, it does not concern with doing the work that will actually get him where it wants.
Facts are better than dreams said, Winston Churchill.
Because we will be action and education focused, and forgo validation and status, our ambition will not be grandiose but iterative—one foot in front of the other, learning and growing and putting in the time. Ryan Holiday
God, exactly. Instead of trying to prove you are smart or brave. Focus on being smart and brave, this can be achieved by action and by learning. Instead of trying to prove something focus better on growing and becoming something. No time in your life must be regarded as “someday”. All you have is right now. Every tiny action is in fact monumental. Walk the talk, my friend.
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