Book review: 'Ego is the Enemy' by Ryan Holiday

There aren’t many books that finish with an acknowledgement of your efforts to read the entire book, let alone a confession that the author doubted he would get through the book in its entirety himself. The author, Ryan Holiday, even checks in on you at the conclusion of the book “How do you feel? Tired? Confused? Free?”

So I ask myself... How do I feel after reading his book ‘Ego is the Enemy’? I feel like a whole new realm of self-awareness has been opened up to me and I tell you what… these worms cannot go back in their can. It’s a bit of a ‘you can’t un-see what you’ve seen’ situation. And I’ve seen my ego for what it is.

Holiday is right, the first challenge is to admit that the ego exists as an active part of self. That alone is incredibly uncomfortable and challenging to accept… Ego? Me? Surely not. But after reading this book? Yes. Very VERY much yes, ego is present. It’s present in all of us because we’re human. We just don’t like to admit it…

As a Life Coach, uncomfortable self-reflection comes with the territory. Sometimes introspection is fun and sometimes, like in the case of this book, it’s brutal. It’s not something everyone is willing to do, but once the initial sting fades, the resounding lessons can begin to shape a better life.

Let’s rewind a little and define what ego is. Ego is a selfish and unhealthy focus on self and a desire to be superior. Even writing this makes me feel uncomfortable. I don’t feel that any of this describes me, but a number of the examples and stories Holiday shares have an element of relatability, a common thread that has exposed my ego to me. Ego isn’t necessarily as loud and demanding as we make it out in our imagined stereotypes. Don’t get me wrong, it can be, and for some it is, but more often than not the poisonous weed that’s our ego is far more subtle.

It’s the subtle nature of ego that creates cracks in even the greatest of people, leading ultimately to their demise. For some it’s a fast crashing to the ground, for others it’s a slow crumble back to earth.

Holiday’s book makes it clear early on that if you’re driven and ambitious then ego comes with the territory. The exact trait that makes you driven by nature is the one thing that makes you vulnerable to the dark side of ego.

Ego is a strange beast, making one get so caught up in themselves (often without realising it) that it can be paralysing, often it’s the fuel feeding the paralysis of perfectionism. It creates a barrier for authenticity, it fosters a fear of failure and a myriad of other unhelpful thoughts and feelings.

Holiday stresses the need to stop talking and thinking about how great you are, or how great you could be – and to get out there and do great things instead. Put the energy into action, not talk. Talking gives a false (ego fuelled) sense of achievement, but doing creates change in the world.

The issue for many of us (hello perfectionists!) is that in the ‘doing’ there’s inevitable failure at some point. Whose ego wants to deal with that kind of proof that we’re imperfect? Not many people… hence you can see that ego holds back many of our potential. It weakens our confidence and it hinders our ability to develop resilience and intrinsic motivation. It keeps us backing from contributing meaningfully in the world because we’re (often unknowingly) too wrapped up in ourselves.

If you’re ready to stare your ego eye to eye, to acknowledge it’s presence and begin to tame it, then it’s time for you to read this book.

Steph x

Certified Professional Life Coach

Launceston, Tasmania

p.s. If you want to talk about how Life Coaching with me will help you to increase your confidence, performance and work/life balance then get in touch to arrange a free intro chat with me. Whether it turns into coaching or is simply an empowering chat, I'd love to support you on your journey!

Author: Steph Edmunds

Certified Professional Life Coach, Launceston, Tasmania

Steph Edmunds is SESC's incredibly passionate, experienced Certified Professional Life Coach based in Launceston, Tasmania, coaching clients across Australia and the world via Zoom to achieve work/life cohesion, confidence and sustainable high performance.

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