“By allowing ego to take a back seat you do not diminish your identity. You reveal it as the unimaginable and infinite majesty of I AM,” Via Deepak Chopra. There can be a fine line between ego and identity. We have been trained that our thoughts are absolute truth and anything that goes against our thoughts and beliefs is either dangerous or combative. The survival mechanism of the brain is what tells us that something is dangerous. But in our society as time has gone by and the wild cats of yesterday and the mammoths no longer pose a threat, we have equated threats to our identity as threats to our survival. We need to learn to separate the two. Your ego is flexible, your identity is less so. Your identity is tied to your existence and we think our ego is. Simply put, we fear our ego being destroyed more than our identity—who we really are
If we can let go of all the pretenses and falsehoods we tell ourselves, we find a much simpler truth: we are simple creatures. Simple but selfish. That isn’t to say we don’t have the capacity to love and demonstrate compassion and empathy—but that is rarely our go to thought. We are selfish for a myriad of reasons, but mainly because we fear that we can’t take care of ourselves. We are trained to make sure we get our share before helping others. In some cases this is absolutely a necessity. The old adage that you can’t pour from an empty cup is also true. However, we learn to fear people as we have continued to celebrate consumer culture. And we get lost in the consumer identity as we try to keep up with what we are told to want. We’ve lost the ability to discern what we really need.
It’s a complicated thing to define our identity because we cling so carefully to them. It’s a delicate balance to not get lost in who we are but to also hold boundaries for what we tolerate in our lives. The trick is learning to determine what comes from within as opposed to what we are being fed. That comes from accepting another truth: we have severed our connection to the very voice inside that tells us what we need in favor of creating the appearance of what is deemed acceptable. We also incorrectly misinterpret identity as something permanent. Our identity is a part of who we are but it’s not the whole thing. We are meant to learn and evolve and that means what we identify with will evolve as well. Our job is to stay open and test—think like scientists as Adam Grant says.
When it comes to defining who we are, there is a massive letting go of what we think applies to us. Put simply, we have to learn how we are simultaneously unique but how we are interwoven with the world. And we need to accept that. No one operates in a bubble. No one is devoid of sending out ripples into the world. The power comes from deciding what we want that impact to be. It has to be said that ego has created far more negative impacts than identity. Ego says, “Pursue at all costs and the goal is to be right,” where as identity says, “How can I contribute to this and how can we find a solution? What is my role in this?” Identity doesn’t try to be everything—it tries to do its part.
It takes a ton of work to dig down into who we are. It takes an openness and a willingness to put aside the trivial and to rethink what we believed as true. There is humility in accepting a part in the results of something as well as seeing your role in turning it around—even in seeing how you may have contributed to a negative result in the first place. When we declare who we are, we are saying that we have a place and that we are committed to fulfilling it. There is something bigger than us and we allow it to direct where we go. The identity we step into determines where we go and it lets us share what we have with the world. That is far more fulfilling than being able to say you beat the little guy. Decide and release what you thought you were in favor of who you are. Be who you are.