Recently, while speaking to a coaching client, she mentioned something that made my ears perk up and tingle. She spoke about how, when on social media, she found herself triggered when someone was sharing career success. It would leave her feeling behind, frustrated and anxious.
Her mind would scream, “You should be further along than you are!” and she would slip from a perfectly relaxed mood to questioning all her life choices.
Even though she KNEW on a deeper level that the social media bragging was likely indicative of insecurity (which almost all of us are guilty of to some extent), she could admit that it was difficult for her to get over. It would affect how she felt, how she ate and how she started to hide in her own life.
This got me thinking a lot about our ego-triggers and traps. These are the day to day behaviors (some intentional, some habitual) that consistently lead us slipping into an anxious, gripping, fearful, overwhelmed states and often leave us searching for numbing agents (like food).
So, what is an ego-trigger exactly? Well, let’s start with a definition for ego.
Well, there are myriad definitions for ego depending on whether you are looking at it from a spiritual or psychological perspective.
Here is my stab at it! Ego is the part of us that relies on labels, boxes, identity markers to understand itself, and identifies strongly with the thinking mind and the body. It believes it is our bodies, our minds and our accomplishments. It is constantly searching for evidence that it is enough, that it is physically and emotionally safe (based on events from the past) and concerns itself only with the past and the future (what happened or what is going to happen) rather than what is happening in the current moment.
The other part of us is the life energy that is consciousness itself. It has been with us long before we knew who we were or how to categorize it, when we were pure experience, curiosity, and sensation. We may notice it most when we are confronted with our own or other’s mortality, when we are in the presence of love, reverence or gratitude, when we are “in the zone” with something creative. It is complete presence in the current moment, creativity itself, and understands that we are deeper and bigger than our current identity, physical body and thought process. It has access to vast intelligence beyond thought and serves as our deepest truth and inner guide. Our genius and clarity lie in THIS self.
How do we know we are operating from one or the other?
When we are operating from ego, we are constantly focusing on what’s next and on what’s not working (that is its job). We experience a sense of separation and fear, of having to prove ourselves, and of constantly seeking power from external sources. We feel anxious and frustrated because the high of ego never lasts and constantly needs more, needs bigger and better to be satisfied. It always needs to be right to survive.
When we are operating from consciousness, we will feel at peace, accepting of our current circumstances, loving, trusting, clear on our authentic desires, and surrendered. We allow life to unfold without struggle or suffering. We experience more joy and a fuller, more connected experience of life.
It is very human to vacillate between the two, many times, even in one day. Its part of our human machinery. Ego is not wrong. It is not bad. It is simply asleep and unconscious. It is the duality of presence but in some ways, it has done its job in keeping us alive (so we need to thank it for that). We wouldn’t know what it is like to wake up unless we have been asleep, so it is an incredible teacher for us in uncovering our deeper selves, who we experience ourselves to be underneath all the labels and identity.
We all tend to have our ego Achilles heels. These are areas of our lives that consistently trip us up from an ego standpoint, where it is REALLY easy to slip into anxiety, frustration and fear. Typically it is because we believe we need it to feel safe and to stay in the circle of acceptance (based on our past).
For some people body image is a huge Achilles heel, for others it could center around career success and talent (like my client), financial abundance (or lack their off) or intelligence level. Even someone’s spirituality can be an Achilles heel if they feel like they need to label themselves to feel worthy. Most people have multiple Achilles heels, as ego can hop easily from one area of your life to another as you address and heal one area.
Identifying our Achilles heel is the first step because then you can start to see how attachment to this specific ego marker can start to limit your ability to connect to consciousness and the awake, present, loving, creative force in all of us and how it impedes our lives.
Once you understand your Achilles heel, you can start to take a look at the behaviors that are specifically triggering to that heel. You can see your traps and pitfalls.
For instance, if you are well aware that body image is a big old thang for you, and you know that 8/10 times when weighing yourself, you wind up feeling frustrated and anxious, then it may be wise to either let go of that scale, or look at alternate methods to gauge your progress with your goals that leave you feeling better (and hopefully you have worked with someone to find goals that feel peaceful and loving).
If you are well aware that hopping on social media triggers your Achilles heel around career success or where you are “supposed” to be in your life, then it may be helpful to draw boundaries around your use (and who you follow) so that you aren’t dragged back in so easily. You could even take a break completely and see if that helps.
If you are aware that hanging out with a competitive friend who shares one of your Achilles heels, (like body obsession), it may be wise to draw some boundaries around time spent with that person or to have a conversation about how that shared ego-attachment affects the friendship negatively. There may be an opening for the relationship to break through to another level or it may be time for it to drift into the background.
If you notice whenever you drink, you start to get into a negative and anxious state where you are constantly questioning your worth, it may be wise to start to draw some boundaries in your relationship with alcohol.
Ultimately, you are learning every step you take, even when you are anxious and steeped in ego. You are learning how it FEELS to live in that place, which may gradually lead you to make new choices. Once you wake up to it, you can’t go back to sleep completely. You can’t “unsee” it. And oftentimes, our ego triggers are pointing toward internal healing that wants our attention. Once we understand that, however, we don’t need to keep our exposing our deeper selves to that toxic energy. Learning how to live alongside ego, respect its power, heal its underlying fears and put more effort into connecting to the other parts of ourselves (intuition, creativity, presence, kindness, connectivity, creating experiences) is key for the loosening of its grip and to experience more internal freedom and more permission to be completely ourselves.
In order to know who we are, we have to understand what we are not. That is the beauty in ego. I say this as someone who deals with her ego triggers every single day; some days more successfully than others. Awareness, however, is the greatest agent for change, so it is all about raising our antenna and paying attention to our daily experiences.
So, what action steps can you take right now?
- Identify and jot down your obvious and consistent Achilles heels.
- Write down the consistent behaviors that contribute to your feeling anxious, frustrated and obsessive on a daily basis.
- Jot down how you can start to create some boundaries so that you aren’t transported to that place so easily. (Example: limiting social media time, un-following people who trigger you, limiting use of the scale)
- Jot down some behaviors that help you connect to presence, joy, trust and surrender. These may be good behaviors to plug in the place of the ego-triggers. (Example: Meditate instead of weighing yourself, reading books that inspire you, hanging out with people who lift you up and who “see” you).
The more awareness you have about your habits, your thought patterns and your conditioning, the more power you have to start to shift your energy into a more surrendered, trusted and loving space. I hope this helps!
Rock On & Be Well,