Learning the difference between ego vs soul can be useful in guiding you in multiple areas of your life, from your career to your passions, and maybe most importantly, your relationships.
If we let the ego take control of our thinking when it is not necessary, we sometimes follow paths that are not most aligned with our higher purpose.
Learning to detach the ego when necessary is a skill that takes time to learn, but one that is definitely worth learning!
What is the difference between soul and ego?
Our soul and our ego are both part of who we are, and we can look at them as polar opposite aspects of ourselves that coexist and come to the forefront when we need them, depending on the situation that we’re in.
When we think of ego vs soul it’s easy to see one as good (the soul) and one as bad (the ego) but that isn’t really the case.
The ego is just as necessary as the soul is when we need it, and it’s what sets us apart as humans because as far as we know, no other animal has an ego in the way that we do.
What is the ego?
“Ego” is the latin word for “I”, and I think this definition can give you a pretty good idea of what the ego means on its own.
The ego is who we are in our minds - it’s composed of conscious thoughts and beliefs, labels and our sense of identity.
The ego is helpful when it comes to making some decisions because it’s good at weighing up consequences and outcomes and seeing things objectively.
It is also a motivating force that can help us thrive in today’s society - it often gets the job done, for whatever reason that may be.
It is also what determines our own perspective of the external world, though this can often be flawed because it is so easily affected by our own emotions and past experiences, rather than the true reality.
And unlike the soul, it is mostly self-serving, thinking of your own wants and needs, as opposed to the collective.
But as I said before, I think the ego gets a bad rep, and there are times when this self-serving force is necessary and dare I say it, a good thing.
Interestingly, some yogic cultures actually define the ego in three parts (much like Freud’s definitions of the ego, superego and id).
According to Art of Living, these are the three aspects of our ego:
- The Tamasic ego: self-destructive, blind
- The Rejasic ego: self-centred
- The Sattvic ego: creative and protective
So if this is true, our aim should not be to get rid of the ego entirely, but to move towards the Sattvic ego over the other types, and to use it to our advantage when it serves us for good.
What is the soul?
In contrast, the soul is pretty much the polar opposite of everything the ego represents.
The soul self doesn’t rely on logical decision making, but instead allows itself to be guided by intuition or signs from the Universe.
This is the part of ourselves that exists when the ego self has taken a step back, which is often described as a “flow state” where external constructs like time no longer exist.
The soul might be regarded as your “true nature”, since this is the essence of who you are, without the influence of labels, expectations or judgments - it just is.
Soul over Ego
When they’re in balance, the soul and the ego are able to perfectly coexist - it’s only when one takes dominance over the other in a situation that it is not suited to that becomes problematic.
And contrary to what some spiritual teachers will tell you, the aim isn’t to squash the ego completely, because the soul self can equally take over and be unhelpful in some situations.
Think about being in a life or death situation - the ego is the force that is going to help you with problem solving to get out of that situation safely, ultimately leading to your survival.
In the same situation the soul would be pretty useless at this level of problem solving, and it wouldn’t come with the same sense of urgency to save your life.
It would however be useful in keeping you calm and preventing your emotions from taking over completely, which would otherwise likely result in you being paralysed by fear and being able to take no action at all.
The aim is therefore to find balance between the two, and to recognise when one has taken over when it’s unnecessary and potentially problematic.
Admittedly, due to the way our societies have become, with a focus on material possessions and instant feedback loops in the form of social media apps, it is much more likely for the ego to take centre stage in unwanted situations than vice versa.
So how do we learn to take a step back and choose soul over ego in these situations?
Spotting when the ego is in charge is the most important step in choosing your soul over it.
If you don’t know when the ego has taken hold, how can you know to let go of it?
It can be really difficult to spot when our ego has come to the forefront, since it is a powerful driving force in all of us, and many of us live our lives entirely through our egos without ever questioning it.
But once we learn to spot the ego in charge, we can intentionally choose to push it to the side and choose our soul instead, when we don’t think that the ego is serving us.
And the good news is that it only takes once for you to say no to your ego, and then it will get easier and easier going forward to do the same!
How to spot when your ego is in charge (and isn’t serving you)
- You often feel consumed by your emotions, particularly ones of anger, hurt or disappointment
- You have a more extrinsic sense of worth, meaning that you get your validation from outside sources like material possessions or other people’s opinions of you
- You “overthink” things, and struggle to make decisions due to heavily analysing the potential outcomes
- You are highly critical of yourself and others, and make objective judgements
- You see things in black and white, gravitate towards labels and feel the need to compartmentalise things into boxes
- You’re easily hurt/angered/disappointed when things don’t go your way or you don’t get the outcome you expected
- You take other people’s actions and projections personally, even when they’re not
How to spot when your soul is in charge (and is serving you)
- You don’t take other people’s actions or decisions to heart, knowing that they are not a reflection of you and are projections of their own internal state
- You are more readily able to practice forgiveness and let go of the past, preferring not to dwell on things that are no longer in your control
- You have a desire to better yourself, but your self worth does not depend on achieving goals
- Your sense of self worth is constant and isn’t affected by the opinions of others or the acquisition of material possessions
- You feel less attached to outcomes and are able to “go with the flow” or “trust your gut”
- You don’t feel a need to fit into a particular box or label, and instead listen to what you are called to, even when that changes
- You lose yourself and a sense of time when doing things you enjoy, like creating and exercising
- You feel called to go after your own interests and desires, even when they go against the grain of what is “normal” or “expected of you”
- Life feels more effortless, like the Universe is gently guiding you forward
Ego vs Soul relationships
In my opinion, relationships are one of the most affected areas of our life and the most likely to suffer from an imbalance of soul and ego.
Having experienced many ego-based relationships, I know how detrimental they can be for your own growth and wellbeing.
Recognising when the ego has taken over in your relationships in unhealthy ways, whether from yourself or the other party (or both), is essential in shifting towards a more healthy relationship or making the decision to walk away.
Ego vs soul relationships: what they look like
Ego Focused Relationship
Soul Focused Relationship
Getting into frequent arguments because of differing points of view
Celebrating each other's differences and using them as opportunities to learn and grow together
Comparing your relationships to others (whether online or in real life)
Knowing your relationship is unique and embracing its positive aspects
Letting others opinions govern your relationships
Knowing what is right for you
Feeling pressured to achieve relationship milestones by certain times or age benchmarks
Doing things at your own pace and trusting the journey
Getting into relationships in order to feel emotionally validated and worthy
Learning to love yourself and allowing anything else to be an addition
Wanting to fix or change others
Knowing what is and isn’t aligned with you
Not wanting to leave a relationship because of previous expectations or fears of wasted time
Knowing when it’s right to leave a relationship that is no longer serving you
Getting into a relationship that isn’t suited due to low self esteem
Knowing your worth and declining relationships with those who aren’t suited
Being a people pleaser and doing things to gain approval
Being able to say no when things don’t feel right
Having relationships for selfish reasons and hurting others
Having valuable relationships with connection as the primary focus
Related post: The 6 Most Common Love Blocks and How to Clear Them
Ego vs Soul quotes
These are some powerful ego vs soul quotes that can help you further understand the difference between the (sometimes unhelpful) ego, and the soul.
- "Ego finds what it wants in words, the soul finds what it needs in silence." - Unknown
- "The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul." - Carl Jung
- "A bad day for your ego is a great day for your soul." - Jillian Michaels
- "When the ego dies, the soul awakes." - Mahatma Gandhi
- "Keep your ego on a short leash and live from your soul." - Unknown
- "Freedom means the power to act by soul guidance, not by the compulsions of desires and habits. Obeying the ego leads to bondage; obeying the soul brings liberation." - Paramahamsa Yogananda
- "The ego wants quantity, but the soul wants quality." - Himmy Parker
- "These are planes of consciousness, and I think human beings live on two planes of consciousness, the soul and the ego." - Ram Dass
- "The finish line is for the ego, the journey is for the soul." - Unknown
- "Ego says once everything falls into place, I will find peace. Soul says once I find peace, everything will fall into place." - Unknown
Related post: 46 Inspirational Abraham Hicks Quotes to Live By
When it comes to ego vs soul, the soul is often the desired state in many situations.
But don’t take this as the ego being the enemy - there are many situations in which the ego is a beneficial state to be in - it’s about recognising when it’s unneeded and when to push it aside in favour of the soul.
Switch your focus towards shifting towards a more Sattvic ego, and calling in your soul self when you feel you may be getting too ego dominant.
It’s a process, so don’t beat yourself up when you slip into your ego self often (that itself would be the result of the ego!)
Enjoy the journey and understand that it’s all about finding balance.
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Esther is the founder of Through the Phases. Her mission is to guide others to grow to their full potential and create their dream life using spiritual and personal growth practices. Read more about her story here!