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Is It Ego or Is It Self-Respect?


By: Dr. Gwen Smith

On more than just a few occasions I find myself struggling to decipher the difference between whether a choice of action that I make is based on ego or on my own personal ‘self respect’. Perhaps you’ve found yourself there too.


I simply wasn’t content to be in limbo about this thought any longer, and felt it was time enough to bring to rest this question that I feel is so important to my own spiritual evolution and the way I interact or choose to react to those I encounter in my life. So I went on a journey of deep intuitive discovery to arrive at a conclusion for myself. I share my discovery with you.


The first place I started was in my own understanding of what ego is. The definition that evolved was a sense of self, entirely wrapped up in ones achievements, possessions, perception of self and identity displayed to the world. This self undergirds how he or she shows up, or the front displayed to others. I had settled in my mind that this sense of self demanded a certain level of respect commensurate with the pedestal or status one envisioned his or her life to have evolved to.


I then took my inquiry to Merriam Webster, and here is what I got: Simple Definition: the opinion that you have about yourself

Psychology: a part of the mind that senses and adapts to the real world”


Full Definition:the one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that serves as the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality especially by functioning both in the perception of and adaptation to reality”


What this tells me then is that the ego is the part of us consciously created to put up a front, or to maintain a front that protects our self-made image against the perceived realities of the world. We go through great details to protect it, even if it means destroying someone else (either literally or figuratively), including ourselves.


We use our egos to create artificial standards for ourselves and others which often create great unhappiness for us as well as the people around us. The repercussions can be painful at times.


At other times in our most meaningful relationships, we allow ego to dictate our actions or reactions to circumstances as well, preventing others with whom we have those relationships, the right of their free choices. I’ve been guilty.


When my children were younger and even as they grew into teenagers, there were many opportunities that I had (and did use) to exercise my ego as THE parent and therefore the one demanding respect especially in regards to their verbal challenges that met my requests.


Having made the above statement, I feel a need to clarify: I am not advocating that I should have allowed my children to behave towards or speak to me in just about any manner, and I didn’t; however, there were numerous instances where I felt that ego took over and completely drove my reactions when it should have been otherwise.


Now, as a thought leader advancing knowledge, thoughts and new perspectives and approaches for the empowerment of others, I look in retrospect to decipher how a mom raising her kids today, could know the difference to choose to act differently.


The clear difference becomes obvious in examining the motives from which ones reactions arise. Am I handling the situation based only on my love and affinity for my children? Or, was the driving force of not wanting to be disrespected and of maintaining my status, the main factor?


In all honesty, though there were numerous occasions of expressions of love and affinity for choosing my responses, there were those times when ego took the front seat as I was determined to set the understanding clear that I was not to be disrespected as their mother, and that they would consequently follow my rules. Boundaries need to be set and enforced and the intensity of the enforcement depends on ones motives.


I know for me, my motives determined the manner in which the message was delivered. When my motives were ego-based, my messages were forceful. When they were not, they came from a place of complete love and empathy for the soul that I was disciplining. The latter produced, in the child, a deeper understanding and impact of the discipline being administered.


What about you? Are you having ego concerns in some of your relationships? Do you feel that someone is mistreating you because they are not honoring the status you have established for yourself? Or, do you feel that you may have a genuine concern about mistreatment?


This is where the rubber meets the road for a lot of women. It’s important for them to differentiate between their ego and a genuine concern for their self-respect in important relationships.


I have a perspective on this, however. We often use the term self-respect without perceiving the underlying connectedness to ego. If you really stop to examine it, self-respect is an outgrowth of the ego. It’s you setting up yourself to be a certain ‘thing’ of being that needs or demands respect. It has nothing to do with your real underlying self. And this creates another level of fuzziness.


What is the alternative and how can this be further clarified Looking at the definition of ego again, what I notice is that there is a self, a true self, which is unmasked. In my own reality, I have not truthfully come to fully embrace that self. I’m in discovery of it. And what I do know is that the ego self or the identity that I have created for myself, is not the real me.


More and more every day I discover who that self is and move to just be. It is a pure self, an authentic self, a beautiful self. And while I’m not able to say that I no longer struggle with the ego of self-respect, what I can say is that as I peel back the layers of all those old experiences, thoughts and self-made images of who I am, I’m finding my life to be much freer and more expressive and immensely beautiful as I move to just be.


The fuzziness remains as I still enforce my boundaries of what I will or will not accept from others in their treatment of me. I still find myself still struggling with the thought of whether or not enforcing the boundaries of what I will and will not accept is ego. It keeps me feeling safe and free to relate. If it is ego, I still have a ways to go, and in the midst of my amazing discoveries, I’m still discovering. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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