Spiritual awareness enables us to stand back from any situation and not get caught up in temporary ideas of models of perfection, ie, an image of what the ego would like us to be. Examples might include a model in our mind of how a perfect student, or a perfect nurse, or a perfect mother should be. The ego then tries to make us live up to that image, but living up to an image is not authentic. It is just another model.
It is inauthentic because, in order to create such a model, our ego mind compares us with other people. Everyone is unique so comparisons are not authentic in themselves. This unreal behaviour is then compounded by the ego persuading us that we need to fulfil this model. The ego is obsessed with approval seeking to make it feel worthy, so it sees being the perfect model as an opportunity to receive praise and respect.
The ego also imposes these models on others and forms judgements and criticisms if they do not come up to this impossible standard. The ego then feels superior. Why impossible? We cannot control the circumstances of the day to day events happening around us nor can we control other people.
We live in a blame culture so if we fall short of perfection, the ego will find good excuses but will call them “reasons”. We have all probably blamed the traffic if we are late for an appointment.
It is useful to understand that there are two principles of survival for the ego. Firstly, because it is not real and cannot be sustained from within, feedback from other people becomes important. We spend much time and effort seeking approval or attention from others. This dependency is destructive of our general well being because it is constant. I become stressed endeavouring to live up to the ego’s expectations. I must be the perfect mother/father etc!
Secondly the ego needs to persuade us that it is real. To do that it generates feelings from situations that come up in our lives and through our interactions with other people regardless of whether the feelings are positive or negative. The ego has no regard for its host and will happily generate strong negative feelings that cause sorrow because sorrow can generate powerful energy. If we allow the self to get angry, for example, that is a very powerful negative energy but the experience seems real and so our ego identity feels real.
In fact, for the ego such models of perfection present win/win situations. If we do well, the ego will take strength from our success and if we don’t do well, the ego will take strength from our distress.
When we withdraw our dependency on external sources of worth and use our own internal criterion of “personal best” there will be self approval which will manifest as self esteem and weaken the ego. Our aim will come from our own wisdom based on our own values. Self respect will come from our honesty and integrity. Then we will be living from our own inner world which is not dependent on external support and is, therefore, authentic living. It will be coming from the real I, not the ego. We need to keep this awareness awake in order to be authentic because the ego identity has become our default mode and will take over if we don’t pay constant attention.
Our spiritual work is based on the reality of who we are, the peaceful, loving, wise and happy beings who need no external support to know that and be that. Then we will be living authentically because we will be living from the truth of who we are really.