I have a confession to make. I exercise because I know it's good for me and because it makes me happy. But I also like the way it makes me look.
There, I said it.
Since submerging myself in both the spiritual and body-positive cultures, I've tried to force myself to not attach any worth to the way I look.
But after wrestling with this idea for the last year or so, I've come to terms with the fact that detaching from our ego is not as easy as the gurus make it seem.
Don't get me wrong — I do completely agree with the lesson spiritual gurus are trying to teach. The thoughts and beliefs concerning our outer appearance are purely derived from the ego. We're only concerned with the way we look because we're trying to control how other people view us. This comes from a self-centered, attention-seeking, and egotistical part of ourselves.
Here's the problem with that, though. Whenever the ego does make its way to the surface — and it always does — we judge ourselves for "not getting it right," which can cause even more harm.
Our thought process goes something like this:
I want to lose weight. Oh, damn! I just had an egotistical thought. I suck at this. And I still want to lose weight.
Maybe some people have an easy time letting go of the ego. If so, that's great. Personally, I was a victim of my ego's demands about fitness, nutrition, and my body for years. So, I've found it impossible to eliminate those thoughts from my daily chatter. I've also found that trying to pay attention to and resist these thoughts is really exhausting and painful.
After grappling with these emotions for months, I started to ask myself this question: Is it so bad to want to like the fact that exercise makes me look good? Is posting a gym selfie on social media so bad, at the end of the day?
Of course, we can't put all our eggs in our ego's basket, because then we experience an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows throughout life that disguise themselves as happiness and depression. But, those highs, those external manifestations were merely posing as happiness.
So, here's my suggestion when it comes to keeping the ego in check (without ignoring it completely) and staying connected to what matters:
Get to know your ego.
While all humans have egos, none of us have the same ego. Our egos are shaped by our past experiences and beliefs, which will ultimately drive our egos' desires in different directions. One person's ego could be infatuated with money and power while another person's ego is more infatuated with their appearance. I'm part of the latter crew.
Since I've been meditating and engulfed in this work for over a year now, I'm super familiar with my ego. I can catch myself in moments of having an ego-derived thought. Which is good, but it also caused a lot of stress when I was trying to get rid of these thoughts.
Now, instead of fighting my ego, I've shifted my focus to getting familiar with it. Paying attention to the way it sounds, the thought patterns it creates, and the specific situations it gets involved with.
That's the first step — getting to objectively know your ego. Meditating, journaling, and awareness will help you gain clarity here. Don't drive yourself crazy with the specifics; just get a general idea about what amps your ego up. Is it money? Relationships? Attention? Career? Take note.
Compromise with your ego.
Once you're familiar with your ego, try to compromise with it. First, understand where it's coming from. For example, my ego might say, "You should do cardio today because you ate too much at that party last night."
Since I've gotten to know my ego, though, I've learned not to argue with it. Instead, I say, "Hey, ego, I hear you. I know you want me to do cardio, but I'm really tired. So I think I'll do some stretching and wait until tomorrow to get back in the gym."
Be gentle with your ego. Understand why it's showing up. Do your best to move through the situation without completely giving in to it or completely fighting it. Shoot for the in-between.
Know you'll be OK either way.
This is the most important step. While I personally think it's OK to give our egos a boost every now and then, we need to have an unwavering, relentless knowing that who we are, at our core, is separate from our ego. Nothing our ego drives us to achieve or gain will ever bring us the happiness and love we ultimately desire.
We have to know that we are inherently OK if we don't lose the weight, marry the guy, earn the money, or buy the house. We will still be worthy of love, safety, and acceptance if everything external falls apart. Our first priority should always lie in consciousness and connection to our inner world. The external stuff is just for shits and giggles.
Weight loss will never bring you true happiness. Money will never bring you happiness. Likes on Instagram will never bring you happiness. But, who are we to tell other people how to live their lives? Does any human living in society today really have the time, resources, or energy to defend or ignore every ego-driven thought?
We need to get real with ourselves and stop acting holier than though. Unless you're a monk, you're probably dealing with some ego-driven thoughts on a regular basis. You're only human. And your ego is part of the human condition.
But, that's just my opinion. Maybe one day I'll be even more enlightened and have no issue clearing the ego's thoughts.
For now, though, I'm choosing a balanced relationship. I'm choosing to hip thrust because I like the way it makes my butt look. I'm choosing to dress and dance in a way that makes me feel desirable.
I'm choosing to keep it real with myself and everyone else around me. I'm choosing to be authentic. Join me!