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Ego and High Self Esteem

Updated on March 18, 2014

The writer at sixty

I do not pretend to know exactly what I am but I am able to point you towards what you are not.
I do not pretend to know exactly what I am but I am able to point you towards what you are not.

We know that high self esteem is good - but how good?

I watched with great interest a YouTube video of Eckhart Tolle answering a question put to him about ego versus our having a healthy self-esteem. Eckhart affirmed, naturally enough, that it is better to have a healthy or high self-esteem than to have a low one. We suffer more when we have low self esteem. However, having a high-self esteem will not give us what we all really seek: peace. Having high-self esteem is simply not enough. Why is this?

Whilst we're still concerned with our self-image we're still coming from ego

Eckhart Tolle then goes on to tell us that when we come from high – or what is considered by most as a healthy self-esteem – we are still immersed in ego. We still live and have our being in the world of comparisons; what Neale Donald Walsch referred to in his book, Conversations with God, Book One, as ‘The Realm of Relativity.’ By this I mean that we are looking at the world from aspects of comparison such as ‘what I have’ and ‘what you don’t have.’ We devise our self-esteem from being superior in some way or ways than those around us. To give a few examples:

Sooty Albatross

A beautiful sea bird photographed on Macquarie Island - and no, not by me
A beautiful sea bird photographed on Macquarie Island - and no, not by me

The ego gathers strength in comparions is considers favourable

“I am stronger than the majority of people.” This can refer to physical strength, mental ability, or even an ego-interpretation of our moral standing. “I am more successful than most.” This can refer to one’s wealth, health, education, and all manner of things which raise that person up in their own minds to one of being more proficient in the business of living life on Planet Earth than those around him or her. “I am more attractive, more beautiful than most people, I know about fashion, how to mix better with people, et cetera.” Once again, this is no more than a solidified system of thought held in the mind. It is not what we are.

What is a belief other than a bundle of thoughts?

So what Eckhart Tolle is saying is that these are no more than mental constructs. They are buildings erected on foundations of sand; nothing more than solidified thought-forms held with our minds – minds we know little about, I will add. Moreover, we can lose our strength, our looks, our ability to reason and think clearly. We can lose our health and our wealth yet we will still be. We may feel suffering when these things happen to us, and at least most of them surely will because we all go to our graves not able to take what we have accrued in material things with us.

Wandering Albatross

The world largest sea bird, the giant Wandering Albatross.   They're becoming rarer as time goes by.
The world largest sea bird, the giant Wandering Albatross. They're becoming rarer as time goes by.

Ego and High Self Esteem

Eckhart Tolle then goes on to tell us that our true sense of worthiness and power comes from the formless us. These attributes lie beyond the physical, and also beyond the mind-constructs made up by the ego. If we were to look at Abraham Maslow’s ‘Pyramids of Needs’ and to go to the very top of that pyramid, we could say that we need to jump right off the top into a space I will call here ‘The Infinite.’ We have worked our way up to the point where all our needs are being met. We have self-actualized by using worldly wisdom to educate and become as successful as we can be but we still do not know lasting peace. We still want something more. We still have desires, longings. We still suffer from not being ‘quite there.’ Something is missing from our lives despite all our worldly success.

The ego cannot abide Now. It feeds on reacting to the past and worrying about the future

We also have in us clinging to what was, what we perceive as happier days (even though they probably weren’t) we all refuse to let go. At eighty or ninety years of age we might still be thinking that “one day…” Or we’ve given into despair that things can only get worse. In other words we are living in the past or imagining a future. We are immersed in ego-generated thought and are identifying ourselves with that thought. Our satisfaction, and our esteem or lack of it is coming from thought.

Skua Gulls

Deadly scavengers.  These are fierce birds and give other subAntantarctic wildlife a hard time.
Deadly scavengers. These are fierce birds and give other subAntantarctic wildlife a hard time.

One moment of self-realization and we never quite believe in egos anymore

However, we know, if we have experienced that moment which is sometimes referred to as an epiphany (another word polluted by misuse nowadays, much like ‘awesome’ referring to the taste of a hamburger) An epiphany is not thought. It is knowing. It is knowing from experience. It is in such a moment we have revealed to us who and what we really are. Once this happens, and you cannot will it with your mind, you still have your mind-made self-esteem, but you also know that this is not who you really are.

Throwing out the garbage always brought the birds

Here a photo I did take myself.  The long, twighlight of a Macquarie Island sunset when we used to throw any waste food into the sea
Here a photo I did take myself. The long, twighlight of a Macquarie Island sunset when we used to throw any waste food into the sea

Your main purpose is Self-realizaiton

So how can you get to this? You need two things going for you. Firstly, it needs to be your main purpose in life. This spiritual purpose of working towards what and who you are becomes your main purpose. Whatever you wish to do with the burgeoning awareness with what you are becomes your secondary purpose, and this might change through the years. So you need purpose. You want to succeed and, as I’ve quoted in an earlier Hub: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” Also, that that success starts from the moment you start out. It is ‘progressive’ remember? The second thing you need is faith that you are on The Path and moving towards that worthy ideal. So you need a spiritual purpose out of which will evolve a earthly purpose and the faith that you can achieve both.

Take the plunge! Step off the edge and...

Having a high-self esteem is a jumping off point – so jump! Jump into the space beyond mind. Be like the little bird that came to the edge of the cliff and took courage…and like it, you will be moving into a new dimension, one so great that it is at present beyond your ken. Build your self-esteem but never identify it as you. Know that you are spirit Itself. You are a spiritual being having a human experience. Enjoy the journey…as both actor and the awareness of your life.

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