How did the ego come about in the first place? This sense of self that is false, how did it develop? As a baby you had no idea of you as an “I.” You were not able to recognize your inherent nature. You heard your parents refer to you again and again by a name and you got the idea that your name refers to you. You went on to adopt your name as your identity, your sense of self. As time went on, you identified with your attributes and you defined yourself with forms: I am beautiful/ugly, I am intelligent/stupid, I am tall/short. And so your family, education, friend, profession, cultural and social conditioning determined how you think of yourself. A sense of separation was what you got when you started identifying yourself with “I.” Your ego which is your self-image developed. In relation to others and the world, you see yourself as separate. Ego is your self-image and it includes that compulsion you feel to defend the image. The ego is a concept, an idea, it is therefore not real. And for something that is not real, the ego certainly brings a lot of problems. If you say, “I am tired of myself,” then one can ask, “Are you one or two?” Even though there is ultimately one “you,” the statement, “I am tired of myself,” implies there are two of you: the I and the self which the I is tired of. One of them is real, the other is not.
The ego’s role is to form and to protect the images you have of yourself. You may think that you are a good leader. If someone criticizes your leadership, the image you have of yourself as a “good leader” will feel attacked or threatened. Before you know it, you are fighting to protect or defend that image. Your defensiveness causes you to withdraw or attack. Then your ego feels threatened and you react with fear. Your reaction may seem bold and powerful but underneath it is fear. People usually react in negative ways because they feel threatened and unsafe.
You hardly take cognizance of who you really are. In the process of identifying with a false sense of self, your awareness has been absorbed into the forms you identify with. You lost your mind in the process and now your mind runs you. You actually have an awareness that has the ability to look at things with clarity but this awareness has been obstructed; it is there but it is covered up. As a result of this, you seem to have lost the freedom you have. Then your often irrational feelings, habits, and unconscious reactions run your life.
You seem to have lost your true self. You really have not but it seems so. Your true self is always there, covered up but there. You can get to be who you are but first you have to become aware. When your awareness comes alive, you can see things as they are. Be present in this moment. Be present and be aware of your thoughts and feelings. If you become fully aware of your thoughts and feelings, your identity with them is dissolved already. In your natural awareness, you will be able to see the transient nature of forms, they come and go: money, career, beauty, thoughts, emotions. All of these come as forms, stay for a while and then dissolve. In your awareness you will realize that your true Being is a space for all these. It is formless and without concrete identity. It is because you do not know yourself that you feel the need to find an identity. This leads you to get entangled and lost in the forms you identify with. You look for yourself in clothes for instance. You cannot find yourself in clothes. You end up losing yourself in clothes.