As we established in the last episode explaining the spiritual ego, having a spiritual ego is…normal. It’s the ego mind’s survival mechanism of morphing and upgrading. But it might not have been what you had in mind when you set out on your transformational journey. You were dreaming of stepping out of the identification with the mind and its old program altogether. You wanted to live and operate more from your heart. Have a deeper sense of who you are. Not ending up in a new version of your ego.
You can side with your ego-mind and fight the fact that you have developed a spiritual ego, or you can take this as an opportunity to grow your awareness. Hopefully having dismantled some of the stigmas around having one in the last episode, it’s time to look at signs that you’re indeed operating from a Spiritual Ego.
If you’d like a collection of all my resources on the Spiritual Ego and how to dissolve it, in your inbox, simply add your email here.
Keep reading, or listen to episode 12 of the Uncover YOU podcast here:
Levels of awareness of your Spiritual Ego
First, let’s establish that there are different levels of awareness about having a Spiritual Ego.
The Spiritual Ego can be there and you are observing it creating ideas and narratives about who you are. You can notice it wanting your attention on and your faith in the stories it’s creating. Sometimes you might get pulled into identification with it but you can also watch it doing its thing, and giggle about it from time to time. You have an awareness of your ego-mind.
The Spiritual Ego can also be there and you have no idea that you are identified with it. You believe that this new idea of yourself IS you and you haven’t yet questioned this belief. There is only partial or no awareness of your ego-mind.
The latter is when things can get problematic, especially if there are beliefs about specialness and entitlement in your Spiritual Ego. That people should be treating you a certain way, that you’re the one holding the answer to ending everyone’s suffering and that others should do as you say.
Even though big spiritual egos do happen, with sometimes destructive consequences to many people, the more common version is much less low-key and what we’ll be focusing on today. Signs of the Spiritual Ego at its bud, so to speak.
It might still feel uncomfortable growing your awareness about it though.
The icky uncomfortableness of awareness
Waking up from another layer of identification with the ego-mind can be nauseating. Like Neo in the movie the Matrix waking up in one of the pods that the machines are keeping all humans in to feed on them, while the humans are trapped in a virtual reality and not aware that they are prisoners.
Seeing the truth and that you’ve been living in a lie is usually not… comfortable. If you find it comfortable you’ve probably not gone deep enough yet. As hellish and humbling as it might seem to wake up to the illusions, it is also wonderfully liberating. That’s what it takes to grow past the current iteration of yourself.
Your willingness to face these uncomfortable truths about yourself is EXACTLY what will get you to where your heart longs to go. That feeling that there’s more. Of you. Of life.
While your Spiritual Ego might tell you that it’s important to already be “there”, at some “perfect” state of enlightenment and bliss, it’s oh so much more rewarding being willing to look at where you’re at RIGHT NOW with open eyes, instead of upholding an image of perfection.
An assumption that is fairly safe to make is that you do have an ego. Whether it’s spiritually infused or not. Whether it’s telling you that you are past the ego state and are truly living from full God-realization or not, you most likely have an ever so tiny (and probably bigger, but I’m letting you down gently here…) part of your ego left.
And that’s a-okay. In fact, we’ll talk more about the consequences of judging yourself for having the parts you do in the next episode.
Now, let’s possibly face some uncomfortable truths together and look at both obvious and more subtle signs that you are indeed operating from a Spiritual Ego.
8 signs you're operating from a Spiritual Ego
So if you’re sitting in front of your screen right now and wondering how you could know if you’ve been nurturing a Spiritual Ego, here’s a list of clues to look for:
1. The Spiritual Judge: “Judging others is a terrible thing”
This sign of a Spiritual Ego is usually the most easiest to detect. Your inner judge used to beat down on you for things you did or didn’t do, and still might be doing that. But the judge has also taken a new form. Let’s say that you feel like you have finally figured some stuff out about life, the universe and everything and the answer is (except from 42, as we know from the book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) gratitude and acceptance. So when you hear others being judgmental there’s a cringe inside of you, maybe an irritation, frustration, or even anger, with the thought “They shouldn’t be doing that, that’s terrible”.
You can feel what someone is doing to themselves and others when they are making judgments. You know it’s so well because it used to be your reality. So you want to rescue them. Fix them. Teach them a different way. Or at least stop them so you don’t have to listen, cringe and feel uncomfortable. Or God forbid, live with the fact that you’re friends with someone who’s judgmental, because what would that say about YOUR spiritual level?
What you’re often not aware of is that the reaction to other people’s judgments is a direct reflection of your inner spiritual judge disliking and judging other, less “desirable” parts of yourself that are still there. Your reaction to others is a great way to realize things about yourself that might be suppressed right this moment.
2. Living from concepts in your mind instead of felt sense
To understand the second sign of a spiritual ego you need to grasp the ego mind’s mission to create an “I” (which you can read more about in this article). In a spiritual idea of the world, you’re living through a meaning you’ve given to what being spiritual means. You’re still in your mind, living through the filter of a concept, rather than experiencing things directly.
The tricky part is that both can exist at the same time. For example, you can have a very real experience of feeling gratitude and deep love in your heart, AND also have created an idea about yourself as a loving and grateful person.
This can often be recognized in others, but harder to see in ourselves.
Have you ever experienced listening to someone talking about spiritual concepts and ideas but felt… nothing? Like they are talking about the theory of it but you can’t feel it flowing from their heart? Now flip that around and ask yourself how you are talking to yourself and to others. Is it about the idea of taking apart beliefs, understanding your mind and sensing yourself as consciousness and what that means, or can you FEEL yourself there?
Are you talking ABOUT it or living it and allowing your actions and your heart to speak?
I come across this with clients and students in my courses that have had significant insights. Insights that have shifted their perspective and they can see how things fit together. They want to share to the rest of the group how it all works but often end up feeling confused with how they are met. They are met with frustration and silence from people that AGREE with them intellectually but what the listeners experience is a stream of words coming out that can’t be felt.
I come across it in myself when I’ve read a new book and feel WOW and want to talk about it, but haven’t let the insights process and be experienced in my own being. When I’m eager to talk ABOUT something and forget about where it’s being said FROM.
3. Adding beliefs to the belief-cake
You have realized that the source of how you’re feeling and reacting are the beliefs that you’ve been programmed with. At a surface level, it seems like all you have to do then is to replace those old beliefs of unworthiness with new, more comfortable ones.
Instead of “I’m unworthy and a loser”, let’s insert “I’m awesome and successful”.
What’s missing in this equation is understanding how a belief is being put into place. Planting a belief into your unconscious requires a strong emotional imprint or repetition over time. However, if a belief has been put into place with a strong emotion, the repetition of an opposite belief will usually not do the trick. You’d have to release the emotion the old belief is held with, or possibly have a new experience of such emotional impact that the old belief dissolves.
In other words, you repeating “I’m awesome and successful” into the mirror several times per day won’t dissolve an underlying belief of “I’m unworthy and a loser”, because a part of you still believes that the latter is true.
Learning how beliefs are put into place and how to identify them and release the emotions that are holding them, is a much more efficient route to take IF you want to stop identifying with your ego-mind. That way you are stripping yourself of beliefs, instead of adding fluffy, sweet layers of jam and vanilla cream to a cake made of…poop.
If the only way you know to make changes is from INSIDE of your ego-mind, you’ll only end up with new versions of your ego and potentially a large Spiritual Ego. And if you’re similar to me, that strategy will only leave you longing for more, for a deeper truth.
4. Shame about having “bad days”
A sign of the Spiritual Ego that many of us can relate to. “Bad days” make you feel …bad. Days when you wake up and have a heavy feeling in your chest, days when you lash out at someone or when your mind-chatter is loud. Days that don’t go according to plan make you feel ashamed, frustrated, stressed and like a failure.
This is a clue in two layers. First, there’s an idea about good and bad days from the Spiritual Ego. What is a good day, what does it look and feel like? What is a bad day and how many times per month are you allowed to have one?
The next layer of the clue is that having a “bad day”, or too many of them is measured as worse than having a “good day”. A “good day” makes us feel like we’ve accomplished something. Having a “bad day” creates anxiety or frustration and like we’re not fitting the box that the Spiritual Ego wants us to identify with. Now, to protect ourselves from the uncomfortableness of anxiety and frustration, another part of our mind jumps in and needs to figure out what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed.
And oh, let’s add a third layer for fun: Feeling like you need to explain or rationalize having these “bad days”. “It’s just because I slept bad…”, “I haven’t meditated as often as I should lately.” Sounds familiar?
Sometimes the beliefs around having “bad days” are cleverly hidden by your ego with affirmations like: “It’s COMPLETELY OKAY for me to feel this way”, but that’s often a part of your mind trying to convince another part that doesn’t feel like this is true. (And now we’re back at the Adding beliefs clue under no 3 above.)
Feeling pressure when feeling low or not your ideal self is part of your Spiritual Ego projecting the image of who you should be and other parts of you trying to live up to it and feeling like they are failing.
This might bring up an impulse to go do number 5:
5. Spiritual Bypassing: “I should feel grateful”
This sign of a Spiritual Ego usually takes a little time to understand and uncover on your journey. Spiritual bypassing is when you’re overriding uncomfortable emotions with for example gratitude, meditation and affirmations. It’s what you might go do when you’re having a “bad day” as in no 4 above.
Instead of facing your shadow self, the uncomfortable emotions that have been kept hidden, you’re getting really good at shifting out of it. When you feel anxiety or anger arising, you sit down to take deep breaths to calm yourself down. Or maybe you shift the story you’re in, to something more positive and uplifting.
Being able to shift both emotions and perspectives are powerful and valuable skills. When you realize you have the power to do that, you also realize you were the one creating them from the first place. But if you’re using that skill to always shift out of feeling uncomfortable emotions that are surfacing, those emotions will never be felt and released. They will stay in your unconscious and make decisions for you.
Spiritual Bypassing becomes just another way of repressing the unconscious with the conscious mind. The spiritual ego’s way of making sure we’re fitting the image of us it has created. Good vibes only, love and light. And remaining scared of our shadowy parts.
I talk more about Spiritual Bypassing in another article and episode in this series. If you’d like a collection of all my resources on the Spiritual Ego and how to dissolve it, in your inbox, simply add your email here.
6. Conditioned well-being: “My happiness will fall apart if I don’t meditate”
To detect the next sign of a Spiritual Ego we need to look at a few different layers.
The Spiritual Ego tends to believe that feeling good is a state that will only happen if you work diligently on your practices. You being your altruistic and balanced self might fall apart if you don’t do your morning meditation, qi gong, journaling, fermentation, head-stand, daily tarot card, mantra singing or daily walk. (And it will most definitely go up in a puff of smoke if you eat meat. Or gluten. Or smoke a cigarette.)
The Spiritual Ego does have a point here. Reprogramming your mind and taking apart your unconscious belief structure DOES take practice and dedication. You need to take action, you can’t think yourself out of your old belief program.
The trick the ego-mind is playing you is that it has conditioned your happiness. Joy and peace can only happen if X, Y, and Z happen. Joy and peace is not possible if A, B, and C are present.
Your ego-mind is not saying “To be able to change the conditioning of your current mind program, and release the fears you’re holding, you need to exercise your attention and see the false stories you’ve put your faith in.” Which would be more factual.
No, it’s more saying something like: “IF YOU DON’T PRACTICE TODAY YOUR ANXIETY WILL BE BACK AND THE DAY WILL BE RUINED AND IT WILL BE PROVED THAT YOU’RE NOTHING BUT A LOSER THAT CAN NEVER MAKE A POSITIVE CHANGE”. Which is playing your fears and is simply not true.
(A statement that would very likely CAUSE more anxiety, et voilá: It seems like your Spiritual Ego is right. Clever.)
It might not be saying those words exactly but if you listen underneath the words, underneath whatever story it’s telling you – can you hear fear? “Something bad will happen if/if not…” That’s your old fear-based beliefs that your upgraded ego has attached to new occurrences in your life.
7. Specialness: “I don’t want to brag but…”
Ooh, a sneaky little sign of the Spiritual Ego is that the spiritual experiences, the inner work you’re doing and your progress make you special. That you’re carrying a secret that makes you… worth a little more than other regular human beings.
OH NOOO, you don’t need any acknowledgment for being special (because that’s not very spiritual). But if it’s not apparent to everyone you might need to drop an insightful comment in a forum, or in the chat on that Zoom call, or just radiate deep and profound wisdom through your silence really hard. (If they are worthy they will notice.)
The belief of specialness might be difficult to detect because we tend to mask it. It doesn’t often come out in words to others, or even direct thoughts, because a part of your ego-mind is aware that feeling special might not be very spiritual. So the belief of specialness tends to show up in masked ways.
It might come out as silence and not wanting to engage others because you feel you know more than them, and you’re just beyond what they are discussing and they wouldn’t understand your evolved point of view anyway.
Sometimes it’s a seemingly humble way of leaving room for others when you’re in a group setting. You simply don’t want to rub your progress and experience of profound nature in their miserable faces. Well, that’s awfully kind of you. You might think.
What is also going on in that example is your ego making assumptions:
- Thinking it knows where other people are in their process (behind you)
- Deciding what other people would feel about you sharing your experiences (feel bad and behind)
- Claiming responsibility for making them feel that way (that you have the power to create their emotions)
Which are all pretty self-important assumptions. Ego-mind signature work.
8. Denial: “I don’t have a Spiritual Ego”
Our last sign of a spiritual ego is that we’re not aware of it. Simply because you’re operating from INSIDE of it. Simply because you don’t have many experiences outside of the ego-mind yet. You have nothing to compare with, no other blueprint to aim for. You haven’t yet practiced the skills to observe the ego mind.
Saying with certainty that you DON’T have a spiritual ego is probably one certain way to know that you do.
And it’s not a big deal. You have one, I have one. The big question is how we relate to it.
Two questions to help you build awareness of your Spiritual Ego
Instead of trying to fight off the Spiritual Ego or suppress the fact that you have one, I want to leave you with two questions that can be helpful to ask yourself:
- Is my ego built from fear-based or love-based beliefs?
When it’s based on fear-based beliefs your ego is working in protection mode, trying to avoid what it believes to be an uncomfortable outcome. Dismantling your fear-based beliefs and aligning new beliefs with direct experiencing of the unconditionally loving nature of life, is a powerful intent.
- Am I believing my Spiritual Ego as the one storyteller of my life?
You are dreaming yourself into reality from the blueprint your unconscious mind is carrying of you. Truth is that you are something much more strange than you believe yourself to be. I try to remind myself of that often and not get stuck in the current idea my mind has of me.
Are the 8 signs mentioned in this article ALL the signs of having a spiritual ego? No. But hopefully, with the understanding of the ones I’ve mentioned, you can start noticing how your own Spiritual Ego shows up in your life, and what it’s scared of.
In the next episode, we’ll talk a lot more about the Spiritual Ego’s fear of the Shadow Self. I hope to see you there! If you’d like a collection of all my resources on the spiritual ego simply click here.
Eva Beronius started a deeply transformational inner journey with Self Mastery work several years ago, after having tried different forms of therapy without getting the results she wanted. She soon started combining the Self Mastery work with meditation, somatic experiencing, and other practices which accelerated the progress and changed her life completely. From a state of depression, PTSD, and panic attacks – to joy, peace, excitement about life, and a brain in coherence.
Eva has helped thousands to change their limiting beliefs, heal wounds and move past conditioning so they can live the life they want. She teaches retreats and workshops around the world and lead online programs. She's the founder of Self Mastery and Beyond, the highly praised online meditation course Beyond the Mind, the group program Being Me and co-founder of the Self Mastery Community.