Updated: Sep 4, 2021
Have you ever started a new diet and were excited about the possibilities of losing some weight and living a healthier lifestyle, started with a strong motivation, and after a few weeks, the effort gradually diminished and died?
Or you intended to set up a regular meditation practice, and after a few attempts the effort did not go anywhere, leaving you with frustration and thoughts of failure.
If that (or a similar experience) is the case, chances are your ego sabotages your personal growth and transformation subconsciously.
With limited awareness, unfortunately, it is very difficult to see through the tricks of your ego, as it is a brilliant and cunning player. It knows “you” on the deepest level, all your weaknesses, and therefore becomes your most challenging opponent during your journey of becoming the best version of yourself.
In my experience, the only way to “win” against your ego is to increase your level of present awareness (LPA), the ability to be present in the current moment, observing your feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Once you become fully aware of those, you have a chance to see through your ego’s ongoing tricks and manipulation, leaving you with new options to replace automated behavior through conscious decisions.
Remember, in my analogy, the brain is the “hardware,” and the mind is the "operating system" (or software), which outputs, as a result, your personality or ego.
I’m talking about upgrading the software, which can only be done through an increased level of present awareness (LPA).
When reflecting, I thought about the different character or personality types of saboteurs that your ego manifests. It is actually helpful to become aware of these, as you may observe yourself actually using one (or many) of them.
Once you become aware that your ego is using a specific role, you now have a possibility to replace these automated and unconscious behaviors with conscious thoughts and actions. This is the real driver of your personal growth and transformation.
Here are some of the different character types of your personality that you want to become aware of:
Symptoms: Afraid to commit and make decisions, dragging things out forever
Underlying thoughts: Before I can do X, I need to first wait until Y has happened …
Impact on your personal growth: I observe this typically when working with clients, when they have identified a particular goal (e.g., start with a change in diet), but tell me that they need to wait until they have first achieved X or done Y. This is usually an excuse to not get into action NOW. If you follow up with them a few weeks later, it might be the case that X has been completed, but in the meantime, they identified that Z is needed to really get going, and so on. This behavior of your ego is one of the worst ways to sabotage your progress, as there is no action happening.
Symptoms: Not convinced that an effort leads to a desired outcome, playing the victim role, …
Underlying thoughts: This is not going to work for me …
Impact your personal growth: Being around pessimists can really drag you down if you are not fully present. They always find reasons why something is not going to work for them and then are convinced that it is true. They are not inquiring deeper and investigating this thought, whether this is absolutely or 100% true. Instead, they like to play the role of the victim and will find more excuses why the world is a bad place, and other people seem to have all the luck.
Symptoms: lack of knowledge, understanding, or information about something, does not leverage (latest scientific) data to make sound decisions. Thinks that everything is “fine” as is ...
Underlying thoughts: I’m good at it is, why change anything?
Impact your personal growth: This type of personality usually thinks that they are healthy and mind-management is not needed (as they also have no understanding of what it comprises or how it works.) The reason is that there are no symptoms showing up, that would raise some concern, and even if data is presented (e.g., high BMI, high level of stress), they will think that it is just a temporary thing and will resolve itself naturally. The ignorant may even think they have an “analytical” or even scientific mind, but unfortunately their decisions are driven by automated patterns, not on hard data.
Symptoms: thinks that he/she knows more than other people about the topics related to personal growth and transformation, therefore not open to new ideas
Underlying thoughts: I know it all
Impact your personal growth: This is a particularly hard one to overcome, as the ego thinks about itself it is superior compared to others and new information is already known. However, most of the time we don’t know how little we actually know. And given the fast advances in science, unfortunately it is very hard to keep up to date with the latest findings. Once you become aware that you actually don’t know anything at all (the famous quote “I know that I know nothing”), you start with a new mindset, which is called the “beginner’s mind”, an open and curious mindset that accelerates your personal growth.
Symptoms: Lives with a mindset of scarcity, difficult to commit and invest time and resources
Underlying thoughts: Everything is limited, there is not enough …
Impact your personal growth: This type of personality lives in a world of scarcity, where everything is limited. Whatever their income level is, there is never enough, and giving is like a plague to them. They are concerned about losing what they have accumulated, and therefore are very careful in investing in things that they feel are not “necessary”, even their own health & wellbeing. I’ve seen entrepreneurs who have plenty of resources but are not willing to invest the necessary time and effort into what it takes to become healthier, live longer, and become more conscious. A simple exercise to find out if you are falling into this personality trap is to review your investments in the area of your health, wellbeing, and personal growth over the course of a year. Then put it into the proportion of your gross income. In my experience, if it is less than 10%, then this is a sign that you are not really investing into yourself. If your income is lower, then the 10% may not even be enough. If your percentage is relatively low, reflect on why this is the case. It is a good exercise to determine your real priorities, and then use this knowledge to make conscious changes.
Symptoms: Hangs on to things or an outcome, not letting go of it, and therefore difficult to shape new habits, or adapt to new situations
Underlying thoughts: Change is risky, everything should remain as is …
Impact your personal growth: There is always change; nothing remains as is. Therefore, the only change is the constant element in the universe. Please let that fact sink in for a while and reflect. Usually, people in this role are attached to certain conditions, statuses, or outcomes. For example, when working with a client who has a health condition that requires a change by cutting out coffee for a few weeks, and then measure its effect, this may seem like asking for an impossible change to do. Coffee, in this case, is almost like an addiction or something they grasp on, instead of letting go, investigating the impact on their health and then making sound decisions based on the outcome. Please note that I’m not against coffee; in fact, I think coffee has lots of health benefits, but the point here is that in some cases, you need to make changes, even if familiar routines or things that you are used to having the need to go to make enough space for forming new healthy habits to emerge.
Symptoms: A mindset ruled by fear and anxiety. Not willing to take on risks, because of fear of failure or “bad” outcomes
Underlying thoughts: The universe is a dangerous place to live in …
Impact your personal growth: People in this category are driven by anxiety in different flavors and extend. Sometimes these can be little things that they are afraid of; for example, if they start taking a certain supplement, it may negatively affect their body or other medication. Typically the risk for these scenarios is very low, and there are plenty of experts and resources who can provide objective input into their decision process. However, if this is the case, the fear may still linger there, sabotaging any progress. If fear gets out of control and becomes a chronic state, it might be beneficial to seek professional help and therapy. It is very important to tackle fear systematically, as this one is a major stressor and, therefore, negatively impacts your overall health. Unfortunately, It is one of the most complex personality types to transcend, but it can be done, and then the reward and upside is significant.
Symptoms: Over-analysing situations, always requires more data to make decisions, lack of trust generates a negative mindset on new opportunities
Underlying thoughts: This is not going to work for me …
Impact your personal growth: People in this category are stuck in their current status quo, as they are too skeptical about deciding to change things for the better. When working with clients, they sometimes look for pseudo-facts (e.g., a “scientific” article in a tabloid) and therefore conclude that a certain micronutrient may not work for them at all. For everything that could be helpful to fuel their personal growth and transformation, they will find some reasons that this is not going to work for them. They think this is all “bogus,” and the real world looks quite different. Even when showing them solid scientific facts, they may point out that the sample size is too small or other problems that were not addressed. Again, some skepticism is healthy and encouraging, but notice if you are affected by this character trait that you are (similar to the procrastinator) limiting your options in life by not taking a sufficient number of calculated risks.
Symptoms: Everything needs to be perfect, which leads to overachievement, and then frustration if an outcome cannot be (fully) achieved.
Underlying thoughts: I’m not good enough
Impact your personal growth: Striving for excellence and demanding perfection, the perfectionist is accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns about how others perceive them. It is fine to set relatively high standards for yourself, but expecting absolute perfection is a problem and can lead to procrastination, blown deadlines, and massive stress out of fear you won't get them right the first time. People with this characteristic are fuelled by inner shame that must be quelled and involves constantly meeting perceived expectations of what 'perfect' is. Thus, to move on and progress, their challenge is to learn to define "what is good enough."
There are more personality types, and as said most likely you may exhibit some or all of them at some point in time.
Now take a minute to reflect, take a deep breath, and connect with the present moment.
Think about each of these roles, and determine whether a role is particularly resonating with you (or are there multiple?)
Write it down on a note, along with one example where you last “played” this role, in what context, and what the outcome was.
Or, did you observe other character traits not mentioned here, that have a negative impact on your personal growth? If yes, please share them in the comments.
This is a first step in raising your awareness and becoming more sensitive to the type of tricks your ego plays on yourself.
Awareness in the long run wins over Ego - Always!
For now it is ok to accept that your ego is playing you these tricks to sabotage your personal growth efforts.
I will go deeper in follow-up articles into each role, and how to mitigate the effects further, along with counter strategies. Stay tuned!
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“There is no better moment to increase your level of present awareness than NOW” –Reiner Kraft
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