Is Your Ego Running the Show? 5 Warning Signs and What to do About it

“The ego constantly competes with the spirit for control over your inner voice.” – Darren L. Johnson
Ever feel like the world revolves around you? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there, but it only leads to problems doesn’t it.
Having some ego strength isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We don’t want to be pushed around, told bad things about ourselves, and believe everything we hear, but we also don’t want the ego to be the leading source of our decision making and perception.

The ego is the part of us that is always self-conscious and wants to be in control. It comes from a place within that is totally absorbed with our safety, reputation, personal interest, and survival. For more information about ego, check out psychology online classes that can teach you how Sigmund Freud defined ego.

The ego separates us from our surroundings, rather than connecting us to the oneness between humans and the natural world.

This can lead to being out of harmony and full of distress. If we want to enjoy the unfolding of life we can’t let the ego distract us.

The ego is the exact force that gets in the way of experiencing a balanced, meaningful, and significant life.

Before going any further, let me state that the ego isn’t going to go away, though they are many ways to begin noticing when it’s calling the shots, and many things to focus on in order to break free from the trap of self-serving motives.

By doing so a higher consciousness involving humanity as a whole can evolve, and we can give back and contribute to the greater good.

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Warning signs the ego is calling the shots

1. You always have to have more

Do you always have to have the best, and be the best? The ego is never satisfied and is always craving more. The ego lives from fear that there won’t be enough or that things will run out.

When nothing is “good enough,” life with not be satisfying, and we will always be in search of something to fill this void. Find things that you can appreciate and be grateful for instead.

2. You have to be right

How many times have you seen someone’s need to be right cause serious damage in a relationship? When the ego is in charge and conflict ensues the situation just gets worse. Recognize when you’re guilty of dichotomous thinking, where something is either “right or wrong,” “good or bad,” and where no common ground can be found.

This type of thinking is narrow-minded and leads to judgment and criticism. When we have to be right it stifles creative potential and leaves many opportunities unseen.

3. You feel tense, uncomfortable, and overwhelmed with stress

Do you always have to be in control? The ego will always communicate the need for control and safety. If there is uncertainty the ego shouts “Danger!” and rings the alarm that impending doom is on the horizon.

The ego focuses on survival and becomes easily concerned when things aren’t going “right,” or as they “should.” Stress and emotional discomfort is a sign you’re out of alignment and being victimized by these false warnings and defensive thinking.

4. Things get too serious and nothing feels like fun

Do you have a hard time taking a joke? The ego may be at the root of this. The ego can easily steal your joy by filling you with worries, concerns, regrets, and embarrassment. The ego struggles with anything that threatens the self-concept and damages worldly notions of self-worth. It goes on guard to point out all the negatives. Be aware when the ego is clouding your joy.

5. You must always be winning and you hate losing

A healthy drive to succeed is different from ruthless competitiveness. Competitiveness has serious disadvantageous when it takes away from the potential for mutual benefit and expansion.

The ego thrives on outdoing and being the best. Achievement and accomplishment is an important piece of self-realization, though when this distracts us from the bigger picture of love, happiness, and peace of mind, competitiveness has become a perpetrator.

How to overcome the ego

Focus on generosity – Practice giving of your time, energy, and resources. This will squelch the egos focus on “mine” and having more.

Practicing loving unconditionally - When you are able to love someone or something despite what’s in it for you, the ego has been transcended. Show love unconditionally, and stop asking, “What’s in it for me?

Be compassionate and kind – Help others in need and recognize how you can be of service. Be observant about how you can help others, and do something kind for someone today.

Encourage unity and embrace differences – Spend time and get to know someone who is different than you. When you notice judgments emerging, stop to find the value in others uniqueness and background.

Be in the present – The ego has a hard time staying content in the moment. Be careful not to get stuck ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. Be mindful of your breath, your environment, and your five senses.

Align with a higher power – Self-transcendence is a major facet of overcoming the ego. With an authentic spiritual relationship comes a shift from focusing on the self to focusing on others, and ultimately to focusing on the society at large.

Focus on courage instead of fear – Don’t let the ego scare you out of following your heart and living from your purpose. Uncertainty scares the ego and sends signals that whatever change or idea is being considered is “bad.” Stay in faith and be courageous in the face of fear.

When we are able to dis-identify with the ego, we can alleviate much unnecessary suffering. Our responses and interpretations will no longer be driven by the anxiety, fear, and shame that the ego communicates.

You can begin making decisions from the higher-self.

My connection

This is where I provide my personal connection to the ideas in the post. I hope you will join the conversation by leaving a comment, and offering your personal connection to these ideas as well.

It’s difficult not to use the words “I” “me” and “my,” when thinking of our relationships, possessions, and life in general. Our self-concept is the starting point for making decisions and navigating through the world.

Ironically, while writing this, I got a tinge of irritability as my girlfriend wanted to take a drink from “MY” coffee cup!

Pretty pathetic I know, but it was one of those days. Breaking away from this habit is about gaining awareness and slowly altering these patterns of thinking.

As I continue developing the capacity to accept more, expect less, not take things personally, and give more generously, I am able to live a more whole and fulfilling life.

I must admit that a major area of growth for me is to be more generous and selfless in my motives, and I have been striving to do this for some time now.

It’s getting easier to stop myself and notice situations where my ego is attacking. Sometimes it’s with relationships, sometimes with work and finances, and other times with general responsibilities.

I notice myself thinking “I shouldn’t have to deal with this,” and “this isn’t my problem.

I reframe these statements in order to focus on all the things I have to be grateful for, and how insignificant these events really are for my life course.

Life is beautiful, people are amazing, and love surrounds us all when we stop and acknowledge it. Connect spiritually and release the burden the ego imparts, and your problems will lessen.

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  • Elle Sommer

    “Life is beautiful, people are amazing, and love surrounds us all when we
    stop and acknowledge it. Connect spiritually and release the burden the
    ego imparts, and your problems will lessen.”  This, to me, is the core of it all, beautifully said.

    I see people rising above their previous states of consciousness all the time…it’s exhilarating.

    Great post Joe.

    Encourage one another.

  • Justin Bird


    Great read. It is difficult to understand how much the ego has control of us until we are made aware of what the ego is.

    I once lived in the “ego” state. It ruined my marriage. I lived the first 4 points you made about the ego and about 50% of the time in the fifth point describing ego. Since I’ve learned to identify when the ego is running the show I have been able to become a much more balanced person.

    “I notice myself thinking “I shouldn’t have to deal with this,” and “this isn’t my problem.” ”
    I used to find myself saying these exact same things and still do from time to time.

    Thanks again for this reminder (for me) and simple to the point explanation on the ego.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

     Hi Elle,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I agree that statement is the pith of what this post was about. We get caught up in our personal junk by taking things too seriously and selfishly focusing on our own needs, and it make things worse than they have to be. We can save a lot of trouble and anguish is we rise above this. Certainly not saying it’s easy or natural in this day and age, though worth the effort!

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

     Hi Justin,

    I really appreciate you stopping by and taking time to comment! It’s a wonderful addition to the post! I tend to struggle with 1, 2, and 4 most of the time, though identifying when I’m doing this is the key. Frankly, it’s often so unconscious I don’t notice it, but little by little I am working to get a more balanced and healthy perspective on things. All I know is that when I can move past my sensitivity and craving for more I am much happier.

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  • Victor Schueller

    Joe — Love the post!  Right up my alley!  Thanks for a nice, concise list, and great recommendations to boot…Nice work!  -Victor

  • Ken Wert

    Great post, Joe! Not only do you provide us with the warning signs, but you point us in the direction we can go to remove the ego from the drivers seat. Nicely done, my friend!

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Victor,

    I really appreciate you stopping by! I can only speak for myself when I say there is a lot of room to grow in these areas. Hope I offered some inspiration in some way or another!

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Ken,

    Nice to hear from you! I am more vigilant these days when it comes to the ego, and I have learned that developing authentically means cultivating areas of compassion, respect, and courage. A wonderfully enjoyable process!

  • Jaky Astik

    Beautifully written. Inspiring. I’ve a few thoughts to return after a while. Let me just research my bit ;) But truly inspiring. You’re awesome!

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Jaky,

    Thanks for stopping by! Please stop by anytime and offer your insight. I’m allows open for discussion and to expand my own knowledge. Have a wonderul week!

  • Harriet Cabelly

    Fabulous post!!  Self-awareness is so important as to what’s at play at the moment of struggle/angst/irritation.  You’ve hightlighted and simplified the ideas so beautifully.  So important to recognize-  is this my need; is this about me; who’s agenda is this really?  Also, so important to be honest with oneself.

    Thanks for a wonderful piece that really spells it out.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind


    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! Yes, when we lack self-awareness about our motives, desires, and sense of self, it’s more likely we will be torn and have inner conflict about what we want and why we want it. It is a difficult balance to find between our intuition and irrational thinking. It comes with being intentional and discerning in these moments instead of reacting. 

  • HSP Stress Relief

    What a beautiful article.  My hats off to you for tackling your generosity.  I think it is hard to do, because from the time we are very little we have been pushed in the direction of more and more so that it becomes difficult not to see others as intrusions into our lives no matter how they show up.  I was expected to read before kindergarden etc, etc.  

    Look many of our young people I was expected to be a little adult at a very young age.  No wonder many of us feel behind when we are not.  (The brain doesn’t mature until the mid-twenties.)

    Basically I am saying that our culture does not have a generous attitude.  Our institutional policies and structures are stingy as well.  I think it is very brave to go against all that and strike a direction that honors your dignity and the dignity of others. Congratulations!

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

     Thanks for offering your insight and sharing this! You have a great point about our culture not having a generous attitude. It seems that social values revolve are competition, accumulation of wealth, and other materialistic values. This is not necessarily bad, though I don’t believe it offers the benefits people believe. We miss out on genuine moments of joy, gratitude, compassion, and connection when taking a highly individualistic approach.

  • Al

    Hi Joe.  Love this.  I just submitted a guest post on Leadership. It is about losing the ego.  You have some great thoughts and suggestions here.  really appreciate you sharing.  If my post goes public, i will let you know.  Love to connect further.  Take CARE.


  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Al,

    I really appreciate you stopping by! Please do update me about the post! I’m always looking for new perspective and ideas. Definitely keep in touch!

  • jeremy name is jeremy.. and I have a real problem with negative thoughts about others and myself. so much so that its caused alot of social phobias in my life that prevent me from socializing. I seem to be becoming a hermit.. I want to just hide.
    I have a talent for playing my instrument and singing and writing songs… but I cant share them with others because of all this. I dont know what to do anymore. I want to help people..and love them.. but I I I me me. IM IN THE WAY and I dont know how to get me out of the way.
    my email is . feel free to write if you have anything that could be of use.

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  • Chris

    Hi Jeremy, I had the same problem with intrusive thoughts. I deal with it by labelling the thoughts “an intrusive thought, let it come and go” and try not to get emotionally attached to the thought. This seems to lessen their occurence over time. Hope this helps

  • Joe @ Shake off the Grind

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your response! You point out a great way to lessen the power of our negative thoughts. Thoughts will come and go as long as we don’t attach to them. We wan’t to be aware of our thinking and acknowledge it, but ultimately not fuse with our thoughts. Instead just let them go and float by like clouds in the sky. And on it goes.

  • Conrad

    Hi Joe, thank you for sharing this post. I am glad that I stumbled across this. Have an awesome day.

  • Cvsc93

    Thank you for this post! Sadly, every warning sign described me to a T. I’m happy I found this article with ways on how to overcome it so I can start working on recovery :)