Who Are You?

“If we are honest with ourselves, the most fascinating problem in the world is…who am I? What do you mean…what do you feel when you say the word, I.”  ~ Alan Watts


burning-man-inner-child

I’m writing this article, not because I’ve attained the answer, but because I’d like to pass this information along, as I would have wanted to read something like this earlier.  If I had to choose only one thing to watch out for — to beware of in life — it is this:

You.  Yourself.  Ego.

The infamous ego.  From Freud’s Id, Ego, Superego, to “He’s gotta big ego,” we’ve all heard about it one way or another. Ego, in my opinion, is probably the biggest thing that gets into anyone’s way. All too often, we are the ones getting in our own ways.  We have the ability to deceive ourselves like no one else can.

Your worst enemy lives inside of you, and it’s called ego.

Eckhart Tolle often says, “I can’t live with myself. Well…who is ‘I’… and who is the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with?”

So what exactly is ego?  Well, I would describe it as everything you think you are, in a nutshell.  The feeling of “I,” or what we mean when we say “I,” as Sam Harris, Alan Watts, and many others put it. When you are talking to yourself, who are you talking to?  The feeling of being a self.  We tend to identify with our story, our thoughts, and our emotions. Ego is the reason we may feel the need to defend “ourselves.”  We are defending an idea of our self that we feel is threatened.  When we are not identifying with this, the need to defend ourselves also goes away.

“Ego is a social institution with no physical reality.  The ego is simply your symbol of yourself.  Just as the word “water” is a noise that symbolizes a certain liquid without being it, so too the idea of ego symbolizes the role you play, who you are, but it is not the same as your living organism.”  ~ Alan Watts


Here is a great video with British philosopher, Alan Watts, discussing ego.


Here is another video with author, neuroscientist, and philosopher, Sam Harris discussing the feeling of self as an illusion.


Ego is one of the slipperiest & sneakiest things we could ever know.  It’s something that constantly has to be monitored, or it will take over…always. Ego seems to get in the way of a lot of what would otherwise be very simple interactions.

This is something I try to monitor all the time, and I still have many moments of….”Ah, there it is again.” It’s not something we can get rid of, but it is something we can monitor, especially through meditation exercises.  Meditation is one of the best ways to change our relationship with our thoughts and emotions. We become more of an observer of thoughts and emotions, rather than becoming them.

Ego prevents us from viewing others in an egalitarian way, which can be harmful to all of our relationships.  We bring our status into it, our roles, our hierarchy, etc…  

At the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat, we are all here together, and no one person is any better than anyone else.  We all matter, and we all don’t need to do anything to accomplish anything extra to be deserving of love.  We are already enough in this moment.  In my first podcast episode, a wonderful friend once put it, ” I see you, and I see me in you.”

Further recommended reading:

“Waking Up” – Sam Harris
“Ego is the Enemy” – Ryan Holiday
“The Book:  On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are” – Alan Watts

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