One of my biggest "aha!" moments was realizing the difference between my ego and my soul.
It took me a long time and a lot of soul-digging to get it. Here is my understanding:
Your ego is:
- The image you have of yourself.
- Your social mask, the face you put on for the world.
- Your titles and roles (girlfriend, daughter, brother, sister, friend, colleague or teammate).
You can learn to spot your ego. When your ego is in charge:
- You're often caught in circling thoughts (thinking about the same things over and over).
- You're often consumed by your emotions (especially hurt, disappointment and anger).
- Your inner dialogue is heavily focused on anxieties, fears, doubts and self-criticism (I'm not good enough, I'm not beautiful, I can't do this, I totally stuffed up, I am bad at this, my life is meaningless).
- Your worth is dependent on external things (whether you've got a partner, a mortgage, a great job, a beautiful wardrobe, a huge circle of friends).
- You desperately need validation from other people to feel good about yourself.
- You're easily bruised when things don't go your way, people don't act in the way you expect them to, people let you down, or people say or do things to offend you.
Your ego is something you have to live with, but you don't have to listen to it or believe what it has to say.
Try not to take it too seriously. It's not the real you.
If you hear your ego hark up, call it out -- "Ha! Nice try, ego friend. Better luck next time."
Your soul is:
- Your spirit, essence and true self.
- Who you really are deep down below all the labels, roles, expectations and social masks.
- Something that doesn't change -- you are born you and you will forever be you.
- Inherently worthwhile -- you are divine energy from the Universe. Your very existence in this world is what makes you beautiful, valuable and amazing.
You can learn to spot your soul. When your soul is in charge:
- You get a gut feeling about things, an intuition, an inner voice which guides you.
- You realize you love and accept yourself deeply and completely.
- Your have burning desires and goals, but your sense of self-worth and happiness is not dependent on them.
- You are forgiving of others and you are more easily able to accept people as they are, faults and all.
- Your preferences, desires and ideas bubble up from within you (not from external influences like society and the expectations of others).
- You get a feeling of being in the flow, of losing yourself in something you love -- like yoga, running, walking, painting, writing, sex or cooking.
- You often feel an indescribable connection with the entire Universe -- especially when you experience a sunrise, a starry night sky, an old tree, or a quote that resonates with you.
- Everything feels effortless -- it's like the Universe is gently pushing you forward.
- All the right people, places and circumstances unfold in perfect timing around you.
- You feel free, fearless and empowered to go after your dreams and build a beautiful life.
- You understand your purpose in life is to follow your dharma, your heart's song, your own path, and to give your unique gifts to the world.
Your soul is eternal and always present, even if you don't always feel it or pay attention to it.
You can build a better relationship with your soul through stillness, meditation, spending time in nature, soul or journal writing, being open-hearted and authentic, and doing more things that you love.
Learn to listen to your soul when it speaks to you, trust in it and act on the advice it gives to you.
Your soul is a source of unconditional love, courage and strength, wisdom, and happiness and joy.
It can't be harmed by other people's opinions or external circumstances. It can't be harmed by anything.
To be fair, it is incredibly challenging to dismiss the allure of the ego and be led by your soul.
But even if you manage to tap into this deeper part of you a few minutes a day, your life will improve in many noticeable and beautiful ways.
This is because even a teaspoon worth of love, wisdom or courage coming from your soul is a thousand times more powerful than a negative message coming from the ego.
Try and remember this.