We live in a competitive world where everything is relative. We are taught there are winners and there are losers, we are taught there are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places in competitions. We are taught to compete with others, and be better than everyone else. What makes us humans constantly want to compete and want to better than others? It’s our ego.
Ego, by definition on Merriam-Webster.com, “is the self especially as contrasted with another self or the world.” From my personal experience, ego only exists when there is a reference point for it to compare something else with.
Our ego most often dominate the dialogues that goes inside our heads. Our ego tell us that we are different, that we are better or worse, that we are smarter or dumber, that we are better looking or uglier, that we are more of something than others.
Why does the ego constantly tell us those comparisons? It’s because ego needs to prove our value to others. We need to establish our value so that we can be supported emotionally and/or materialistically. We can most easily understand how much our value is by directly comparing with others. Are we better or worse? Next time when you are comparing yourself with someone else, keep in mind, it’s our ego doing the work.
Now that you understand briefly what the ego is and how it influences our thinking. You may wonder how to prevent ego from dominating our thinking. I will get to that later but first, let me start with what inspired me to write this article.
Long story short, I have always been a competitor all my life, and I am usually a strong competitor when I am able to see what my competition was doing. However, I would lose my focus whenever I have no idea what or who I am competing against. Ever since I started working, I want to prove myself badly, I desire to be promoted quickly, I wish to make more money. Due how our performance is measured in the company, the challenge for me was that I was not able to understand what my competition was doing, or know if there were any competition at all. I was distracted in the past 2 weeks because put too much focus wanting to find out how I measure up against my other colleagues, which I has no success in doing so.
I was distracted so badly at times, I did not perform at my best. Gladly, due to my habit of meditation practice, I was self-aware enough to know that I was being distracted by my ego. Which lead me to this question, “How can we stay undistracted by ego in this competitive world?”
I asked James Phu to lunch (again) and hear his opinions on the question above. He shared his experiences of dealing with his ego with me and said he always tells himself to “run [his] own race even if [he] may or may not live up to other’s expectations.” Based on the aforementioned, this is why I wanted to write this article.
It’s hard. I’m going to tell you, it’s hard. It will take practice, and a lot of practice to get better at it, but if I could do it (not saying I am a master at it, but I have improved a lot since). So can you.
I believe there are two actions we can take to better control our ego. Meditate and Change focus.
Meditation has a lot of benefits (I just googled 8 for you here), which I highly encourage you to try it. Personally, I find the increase of self-awareness from practicing meditation is the best benefit. I’m able to observe my thoughts flow by as if I am an observer sitting beside a stream of consciousness. I’m able to learn more about myself and about the thoughts, whether positive or negative, that comes through my mind. It is also because my self-awareness, I was able to identify that I am being distracted by my ego. I wasn’t even able to notice my thoughts before practicing meditation.
“Winners focus on winning, losers focus on winners” — Michael Phelps
Change the focus from competing with others to competing with yourself, and run your own race. You may compete in a 100m race, but you probably will never beat Usain Bolt. You may compete with Michael Jordan in a basketball game, but you probably will never be better than him. However, by shifting the focus and compete with yourself, you can always win. Focus on yourself and run your own race.
So, the ultimate question is, what race are you going to run?
(I am currently searching for the answer myself)
Lastly, a profound quote by Einstein.
Thank you so much for reading. Hope you have awesome week ahead.
With great love and respect,
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Rybo Chen is an engineer by profession and a self-help enthusiast by passion. He is an aspiring blogger looking to share his thoughts and ideas one article at a time and hoping to help people along the way. More of his writing can be found at medium.com/@rybochen.
Originally published at medium.com