Ego can be defined as self esteem or self-importance, and I definitely don't want you to discard those for whoever you're playing with!
When I get questions about "ego," it's usually in phrases like "the male ego." In these contexts, I think ego is something different.
I think ego is a Saboteur.
In coaching, those negative voices in our head are called Saboteurs, or gremlins, or whatever you want to call them. The ego I'm talking about is the voice that says "should" or "shouldn't."
Ego might sound like...
You shouldn't want this - you're a stronger person than that!
You shouldn't let them do that - how embarrassing would that be!
You should be above all this and not guided by your desires.
You should want to be kind, not cruel, to someone you like.
You shouldn't, should, shouldn't...
Good golly gosh, what an exhausting way to live.
Because.... none of that sounds wrong, does it? Sometimes our play can be embarrassing. Sometimes we need to put our desires aside and do other things, like work or laundry. We are strong, kind people.
Where do these voices come from?
Lots of places, honestly. Men get these messages about strength and toxic masculinity basically from birth (I've taken whole education classes that could be titled "How we do our men wrong") and all genders are harshly socialized against anything perceived to be "embarrassing." A lot of us, self included, like to think that we're above peer pressure, but when that pressure threatens total ostracization? We fall in line.
How do we overcome these voices?
Well, that depends on so many factors that it's hard to give a blanket answer. I'll give a few examples instead.
Communication - we often think we should be above reassurances, but having this discussion with a partner can give us a more profound sense of security. If you can be honest with this partner about your concerns, you might find that they have similar ones. You can work reassurances and affirmations into your aftercare, if that's what works for you.
Eroticism - libido can be a powerful force for good! Many people find that when they're turned on, their inhibitions reduce and their headspace will allow them to do more intense play than if they went in cold. Try easing into scarier play with activities you know you enjoy, or maybe media that gets you in the mood.
Boundaries - this is a good one for both sides of the slash. Often tops are afraid of their own desires to dominate, and bottoms having clear boundaries can help the tops know where to safely step and give that sense of security. For bottoms, sometimes wiggle room can make play feel fake and pretend, and having clear boundaries, rules, and consequences can help quiet that self-consciousness.
Force - consensual force! Consent is the cornerstone of BDSM. But for some people, they can't get over that hump of ego to get to what they want. So they might have to ask someone to force them there. This is one of the prevailing theories about the popularity of CNC (consensual non-consent) play. Once you've tried it, you might find it's easier to slip "willingly" into that sort of play again in the future.
There are probably as many strategies on earth as there are people, but these are a few that I and my clients have found personally to work. I'd love to hear about some of your thoughts as well, so drop me a line if you've got an idea.
Anneke out <3
You can find out more about the work Anneka does with BoundBDSM on her homepage Coaching | BoundBDSM