You may not think you’re egotistical because you don’t brag or show off, but that’s bragging and showing off, not ego. The ego is more like when early civilizations saw the stars moving across the sky and then inferred that they were the center of the universe and that it all revolved around them, when in fact they were really just observers of a much larger wheel in the process of turning. Like them, you look around yourself and imagine that most of what you’re seeing relates somehow to You. But you’re wrong.
Those girls with the nasty expressions who just looked at you weren’t actually talking about you. Their eyes just happened to fall on you incidentally, as routinely happens with all people. And because they were talking about something they don’t like, they had the appropriate expressions on their faces. But you took those two unrelated facts and you presumed they were saying unpleasant things about you because that’s what an ego does.
Likewise the clerk you’re dealing with at the bookstore isn’t being rude to you. He’s “rude” to everyone. That is to say, his mother and father were immigrants who were very brusque in their manner of speaking so that’s what he learned. He’s in truth very kind and would in fact be mortified if he knew you found him rude—because that would only be true in your universe.
And if you’re giving a speech and you screw something up—if people are chuckling it’s at the mistake, not at you. But in many cases they’re probably barely listening. Because their ego’s doing the same thing yours is. It’s focusing on itself. So rather than hearing your misused word, they’re thinking about how they hope that girl phones them, or they hope they look good in what they’re wearing, or they’re praying for a bathroom break, or or or or.
And even if the people really are talking about you, that really has no bearing on you either. Because them talking about you creates chemistry in their brain, not yours. It exists it their very separate conscious reality. But, if you think to yourself “I’ll bet they’re making fun of my hair. They’re going to get everyone to tease me. They’re right, it is stupid. I never should have listened to my Mom,” then the tone of their thoughts will be in your head. But only because you’ve chosen to make a negative guess, and then you built on it with more of your own narrative.
That’s what creating negative karma is and that’s important because you are the one who will feel the chemicals that go with telling yourself those stories. They’ll feel the chemistry for their stories of dissatisfied judgment, and you’ll get the chemistry that comes from stories that end in timid insecurity. But every one of you will have volunteered for what you got. They can’t reach into your brain and squeeze out the chemistry they want—if that was possible, you could reach over to them and make them think nice thoughts about you. Bottom line, it doesn’t matter because your experiences are entirely separate and you don’t need to even think about theirs—you need to practice focusing your own karma creation.
You just keep waking up each day and you think in the same patterns so you act out the same life. But in reality there is no “you” for anything to be about. You are merely an actor who has forgotten that you are playing a role. And the experiences you are having belong to the character you are performing. So rather than fight it, go with it like you do with a character you like in a movie. In that case you’re totally okay with feeling all kinds of emotions, including worry, grief and fear. You just have to start seeing your whole life that way.
It isn’t about you. It isn’t your life. It’s a sea of experiences you sail though. What you perceive as your life is actually just things your consciousness experienced. So stop trying to improve yourself in comparison to others, and start focusing on improving your own moment-to-moment experiences. It’s not hard and it’s certainly worth it. That’s why Baba Ram Das said, “The game is not about becoming somebody; it’s about becoming nobody.”
Following a childhood accident should have left him dead, Scott McPherson spent his life meditating on thought, consciousness, reality and the self. Seeing the emotional damage done by ego-based overthinking he began dedicating a part of his life to guiding students toward more peaceful and rewarding lives. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, Canada.