All of us have fallen into an ego trap in some point in our lives, and it’s no wonder why — we’ve been raised to view others as competitors, beat ourselves up if we’re falling behind, compare ourselves endlessly to people who seem to have it all together, and work on making our outer selves more appealing because doing these things feed the ego and keep our rankings high enough for approval and recognition, which gives an illusion of security.
An ego trap is any belief and habit you have that makes you feel like you’re superior to other people (physically, mentally, emotionally, morally, spiritually) and the root of it is the underlying fear of insignificance and unworthiness. Thus, your ego tries to overcompensate for your deeply rooted feelings of not being good enough by trapping you in toxic judgments and a false and delusional view of who you are.
However, just because you fell into an ego trap and lived most of your life in it, you shouldn’t feel like you’re destined to remain there. And when you’re slowly realizing that you’re only hurting yourself when you hold onto beliefs that make you think that everyone else is beneath you, you might be wondering how you can tell that you’re not as caught up in an ego trap as you were before.
So here are the signs that you’re slowly but surely breaking free from an ego trap:
1. You don’t see yourself as too spiritual or too good for this world.
You know you’re a flawed human being and there’s no such thing as being so pure and angelic enough to ascend the world that it excuses you from interacting with people, buying material goods, eating, having fun, and just being a human in general. You don’t believe that you’re so spiritually superior to others that you can’t connect with them or empathize with them at all.
2. You don’t engage in vitriolic debates or prove that you’re right.
Even when you agree with one side more, you don’t engage in arguments that are only fueled by hate for the opposing side because you don’t see the point in arguing when people just want to prove that those with different beliefs are “always wrong” without making any effort to speak civilly or work together to find solutions.
3. You no longer seek to outdo the people you used to be jealous of.
You don’t abuse yourself into working harder than you need to because you understand that you function best when you’re going at your own pace and doing the few things that are important to you. You understand that the point of life is to live it in the best way you can, not work faster or harder than people who are on a different path from yours.
4. Your ambitions are smaller yet more meaningful to you.
You spend more time working on your goals and you’ve stopped talking so much about how grand your dreams are for the future. You’re still ambitious, but your ambitions have gotten smaller, more realistic, and more aligned with how you want your life to feel, rather than what you want others to perceive it as.
5. You don’t judge people for how they dealt with difficult circumstances that you haven’t faced.
You wisely note that you don’t know the whole story of someone’s suffering and you can’t judge them for making mistakes or reacting the way they did when they faced something that you haven’t faced yourself. You’re more understanding of why they did what they did to cope with difficult life situations.
6. Your goals no longer entail “being the world’s hero,” “having a high-paying job,” or “being famous.”
As a teenager, you probably wanted to do something extraordinary just so you can feel better about yourself after your parents and peers said you weren’t good enough. However, you’ve let go of these childish dreams of saving the world, making a lot of money, and being a popular star. Instead, you’re working on creating a life that feels best for you, regardless of how anticlimactic it might look because you don’t care about living for other people’s praise.
7. You’ve completely given up on working hard to prove people wrong.
Instead, you’re focused on working hard for your own security, wellbeing, and satisfaction. Anything else, especially pursuing success for the sake of getting back at those that belittled you, is pointless and irrelevant.
8. You communicate to connect with others, not to impress them.
Your speech is simpler and rooted in genuine connection. You want people to feel understood, not berated or made to feel like they’re beneath you. You’ve stopped using fancy words and convoluted phrasings to make yourself seem more intelligent than you actually are.
9. You don’t pretend to be more enlightened than other people.
You like what you like, you believe what you believe (even when it’s very simple), and you do what you do without forcing yourself to uphold your fabricated enlightened persona. You allow yourself to have fun, be wild, and not take yourself so seriously.
10. You’ve stopped scrutinizing others’ lifestyle choices.
You know that being judgmental about all the little things other people do can only keep you trapped in a cycle of bitterness and resentment, and this sucks out all the joy from living your own life and focusing on yourself.
11. You don’t view your life as more meaningful than anyone else’s.
You might be passionate about certain life philosophies and healthy habits, but you don’t use those things to prove that you’re a “deeper” or “more meaningful” person than everyone else. You pursue wellness for your own happiness and comfort, not because you want to treat a wounded ego.
12. You no longer view yourself as a victim to society.
You’ve come to realize how detrimental it is to believe that you’re more deserving of opportunities and success just because of how lonely, awkward, ugly, and ostracized you were while growing up. Even though you still don’t love or accept society’s unrealistic standards, you spend more time cultivating yourself from within, putting your best foot forward, sharing your gifts, and improving your skills, instead of just whining about how unfair society is.
13. You’re happier with leaving other people alone and working on yourself.
You don’t need constant validation from others nor do you judge others’ choices because you’re perfectly happy living your own life, staying in your own lane, allowing yourself to love what you love, and pursuing what’s best for you and your future.
Originally published at thoughtcatalog.com on January 28, 2019.