“Big ego is lack of trust in your own soul.”—Lauren Brownell (Vermont artist)
We all know exactly what people mean when they describe someone as having a big ego. They are describing someone who is very self-referenced and self-centered, often with mind-bending hubris, and perhaps someone who thinks we should worship gratefully at their feet. For some of us, a big ego may call to mind the big-ego anthem. “You’re so Vain” by Carly Simon. (On an ironic note—it was rumored to be written about Warren Beatty who I happened to say hello to last Saturday. He was warm and friendly. No trace of ego!)
When we talk about this type of ego, we aren’t using Sigmund Freud’s definition of the ego. In his seminal work, he defined three aspects of the self: the ego (the core self), the superego (the conscience), and the id (the primitive and impulsive self). In our current vernacular, we talk about a big ego in the way that A Course in Miracles describes the ego. In Marianne Williamson’s classic A Return to Love, she writes “In Course terminology, our entire network of fearful perceptions, all stemming from the first false belief in our separation from God and one another, is called the ego. The word is used differently here than the way in which it is often used in modern psychology. It is being used as the ancient Greeks used it—as the notion of the small, separated self.”
When anyone is running around with a big ego, we can be assured that the person is operating from fear. Whenever I think I have found the person who is the exception to this truth, I invariably find out later that in actuality they are fearful. Having an exaggerated ego is the same mistake as thinking you are unworthy or not enough. Both the “too much” and the “not enough” perspectives are generated from fear and the idea that we are separate from God. I was speaking to my brilliant friend, Lauren, last night and she casually said, “Big ego is lack of trust in your own soul.” Wow! In other words, having an exaggerated self-identity is a smokescreen. It is really about not trusting (fear) in the Divine. For someone with more of an atheistic or agnostic perspective, this fear might come from lack of trust in love or fear concerning the natural order and the inherent organic patterns of life.
The really good news about this big ego awareness is that we can be more forgiving of those who are operating from fear and consequent big ego identity. If we are honest with ourselves, most have us have done at least a little ego posturing. Because we were fearful, we created a façade. Let’s remember to forgive our sisters when they are tempted to use this same defense mechanism. Of course, it can be very challenging to be generous of spirit when we are thoroughly annoyed. However, this challenge may strengthen our spiritual muscle. It may help to put into practice the belief that many of us share that the personality “layer” is really only part of our outer packaging. The deeper truth about us and others is the soul or spirit that lies.