Wednesday, February 20, 2013


The world is run by egos. The rules in business and in life, in general, are ego-based rules. What you know is not quite as important as who you know and who you are associated with.

In any industry, your key to opening doors of opportunities lie in your association with the key person of influence. The benefits of co-operation aside, that is how the game of business is being played—it has been for decades, even for centuries—and it will continue to do so for some time to come.

Perhaps that is why we are so quick to name-drop when we know someone famous or influential. Social validation through association elevates the perception of our status. It removes barriers and opens doors of opportunities. You don’t have to look far to find evidence of this. Just look at your workplace and you will find that at least one person in your company got his or her job because he or she knew someone in upper management, never mind that there are many other candidates who are more qualified for the role. It’s the way the corporate world works, it’s the way the world works in general. I agree the rules are not fair, which is why I don’t play the game if I can help it.

As we’ve moved into the era of the new energy, I’m increasingly being compelled to write about the ego, not because it is fascinating stuff, but because I’ve been asked by those around me, “What does ego really mean?” With this question being asked numerous times by different people, it occurred to me that ego is not something most people readily recognise, either in themselves or in others.

When I’m being asked what ego is about, I thought about it a little more. Of all the different ways I can explain it, I decided that one word is perhaps sufficient.

That word is ‘separation’.

The ego seeks to divide and separate, rather than unite. It seeks to delineate people into groups of Us vs Them. The more obvious artificial divides are based on religion, race/ethnicity and nationality, where pride is associated with a certain religious beliefs, skin colour, place of birth or domicile. Whether pride itself is an egotistical trait is something I’m still pondering about. Whatever it is, one thing is certain—the ego is at work if a separation exists to denote superiority vs inferiority.

So, what does ego look like in everyday life?

It appears as racism—when we think one race is more superior than another, or one skin colour is better than another.

It appears in socio-economic segregation—when people choose to divide themselves based on their wealth or income, their profession and perhaps even their level of education.

It appears mostly in social segregation when people divide into cliques based on perceived importance on superficial criteria like popularity, who they know, what they have, what they know, whether they are spiritually evolved or not etc.

The ego attributes importance to a group at the expense of another. Some of this is perpetuated through a mass belief that this importance is genuine. For example, women by nature are relational beings. Relationships are important to us. So, for women, being in a relationship with a man is important because part of their identity is derived from their partner or spouse. So when they are without a partner or a spouse, an unhealthy indulgence of ego makes them feel that they are incomplete or inadequate. When they are with a partner or a spouse, an unhealthy indulgence of ego makes them feel that they are more superior than their counterparts who are single. This is, of course, just an example.

Eckhart Tolle pointed out that the ego derives its sense of importance from someone or something that is external to them. In other words, the ego is at work when we are name-dropping, when we are showing off our designer label clothing or when we feel superior because of our achievements.

At this point, I would like to clarify that ego in itself is neutral. Where it becomes harmful is when we allow our egos to control our actions and behaviour, rather than the other way around. You see, the ego lives in the mind. It shows up dressed in all kinds of thoughts that create a variety of emotions that may not be healthful if overindulged. Emotions like worry, fear and doubt are just as much ego driven as arrogance and superiority.

So how do we tame this beast?

I don’t have all the answers. All I can offer is this piece of advice—ask yourself what needs are being met when you allow your ego to dictate how you act, how you view others and how you behave towards them. When you uncover what those needs are, seek ways to meet them within yourself.

At the end of the day, I believe there really is only one solution to meeting all those needs. The solution—in my view—is Divine Love.

To Divine Love,

Chiao Kee

“It is better to deserve without receiving, than to receive without deserving”
-Robert Green Ingersoll


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