It seems much of the time we can diagnose what is “wrong” or how things “should” be when talking about others. Most of the time, people already know what should be done in life until it gets down to talking about and thinking about themselves. This is caused by ego problems.
Ego is not necessarily a problem but almost without training and diligent work, for most it is a chronic source of trouble. Ultimately your ego is an image, like a personality set of clothes that you wear so to speak. You show it to the world, it is a mode of behavior and expression. It is yours, it is something your make, it is not YOU but as people have ways they would like to see themselves various obsessions develop about being perceived by others a certain way. Perhaps as a tough guy, a warrior, or perhaps as a victim, or as a “righteous” person or as a “rebel”, “loner”, etc.
When one maintains self-awareness, meaning that they are aware of what facets within themselves are motivating their decisions, then they can avoid ego problems. Truthfully, our real personalities are free and can operate through an unlimited spectrum of ego images. When one uses their ego resourcefully to present the “face” that is effective in each situation then ego is a part of the solution. When one buys into their ego and thinks, “this is me” then the maintenance of that image becomes the predominant motivation and character suffers. Poor choices quickly and continuously follow, leading to a deterioration in life overall.
Having an ego problem is something that some come in and out of, some are seemingly eternally plagued by and a rare few are able to avoid almost all of the time. Warriors must control their ego as “pride cometh before the fall” and real handicaps are chronic gaps in awareness. The amount of repeated problems that generate from one ego problem can be enormous, like a bad piece of programming code multiplying exponentially into all facets of life.
Ultimately self-awareness is the only cure, but that comes from humility. Humility is a key and undervalued attribute upholding all people of character. It means being acutely honest in your evaluations of yourself, having thorough introspection of your motives and what drives within that you are actively working to express. Often it requires observing your own pattern of behavior as though you were someone on the outside rather than asking yourself easily deniable questions like “am I really doing that?”etc.
Being honest in your evaluations of yourself is only painful to your ego so if it seems painful for YOU, then this is a sign that there is a problem. Humility further drives us to give credit where it is due, both to ourselves and to others. The accuracy in this aspect is critical to the self-awareness which breaks the haze of ego problems.
Sun Zi said famously, “Know yourself and know the enemy and you can face 100 trials without danger, know yourself yet know not the enemy and you lose one for each one you win, know neither yourself nor your enemy and you fail every time”.
Controlling ego by maintaining accurate self-awareness is the key to “knowing yourself” and by extension being able to accurately perceive others around you. People’s real character is not made of the way they would like to describe themselves, but rather it is understood automatically without words by what people actually do with their lives. In the end no one can fake who and what they are forever.
Everyone runs into ego problems in life, but that imperfection does not mean that no one is able to effectively control their ego enough of the time to be able to avoid their ego determining the course of their lives. Observe your patterns of speech, thought and behavior at times from pure enlightening objectivity, acknowledging both the GOOD and the BAD.
Sometimes these sessions of “Self-Awareness” are revealing of problems needing correction, but not always and rarely is it all negative or positive. Often “self-awareness” work reveals comfortingly the things that we are indeed doing correctly where others have misdiagnosed us and accused us of wrong never committed. The key is to detach and to perceive things accurately. It is not about feeling good or bad but rather wanting things to be as they are and then responding to move forward from where you actually are.
When lost in any problem, it is like being lost out in the wilderness, self-awareness is simply reading your map and then re-orienting to where you actually are. Maintain self-awareness at all costs, consistently call your own BS. Correct misbehavior and inaccurate communication. Your character, health, happiness, family, community, work and spiritual aspects of life will all be tremendously enhanced.