How To Distinguish Between Your Ego and Your True Self

by Deepak Chopra for

For most people, ego becomes an issue only when someone has too much of it and is considered egotistical – and even then, a big ego is often equated with drive and success.
The situation is very different seen from the perspective of consciousness. The reason that Buddhists speak of “ego death” is that a different self is disguised by the demands of “I, me, and mine.”

In many spiritual traditions the ego is seen as the false self. There are many reasons for this, such as the following:

“I” defines you as an isolated mind encased in a packet of skin and bones. Your existence begins at birth and ends at death.

Being separate, “I’ is at odds with other egos, each competing for a limited share of food, shelter, power, money, and status.

Because it is so small and limited, “I” is set against the overwhelming forces of Nature. Dwarfed into insignificance by a vast, cold universe, the ego sees its primary task as survival.

In a lifetime, “I” stakes its claim on a person’s likes and dislikes, along with a fund of memories, all aimed at trying to maximize pleasure and minimizing pain. Despite this endeavor, which continues day after day, the ego is haunted by anxiety.

No matter how much “I” acquires in terms of externals, there is an inner sense of insecurity. The ultimate insecurity centers on aging, disease, and death.

Viewed from this very negative perspective, “I” becomes an adversary to happiness, even though almost everyone tries to become happy by giving the ego everything it wants and trying to ignore its underlying fears and doubts.

That would be a reasonable, if pessimistic, strategy if there were no alternative.
The world’s wisdom traditions exist to offer an alternative, however, and when someone discovers it, life enters an entirely new phase, known spiritually in India as the second birth.

The true self isn’t centered on the demands of ego but on higher values: love, truth, creativity, compassion. Because it is connected to the source of awareness, at a deeper level of the mind, the true self is at peace.

It is buffeted by the ups and downs of life. Separation is at an end; therefore, no need exists for unspoken anxiety and insecurity. There is no hole to fill with the endless pursuit of pleasure and distraction. Life is devoted to expanding one’s consciousness and growing from the inside.