Asmita is klesha number two of the five kleshas or "causes of suffering" according to yogic philosophy. It means egoism or strong identification with the intellect.
We tend to get caught up in how we are perceived by others, or how we perceive ourselves intellectually - I am a Yoga Teacher, I am a Mother, I am a CEO. We get attached to that persona and close ourselves off to infinite possibilities to discover who or what we really are or who/what we can become.
A lot of people think egoism hurts other people more than it hurts the egocentric person. The reality is that it also hurts us when we get into this state. Following a path based on externalities or perceptions of who are what we think we are might lead us feeling empty and unhappy. There are countless examples of this – take the typical millionaire who has it "all", money, fame, success, a yacht, several mansions, yet, s/he feels empty and lonely, like there is still something missing but doesn’t know just yet what it is, so he keeps looking outside. There are less drastic examples, such as the likes and followers and the selfies and the measurement of your worth based on how popular you can be on social media. Or the person who is so caught up in their own negative story, that they forget all the positives around them.
The thing is that we haven’t learned to look within.
It is only now that I hear more often of schools introducing mindfulness into their curricula, or that parents openly speak about this topic with their children. But while looking within and detaching from the “I-am-ness” becomes part of our educational system, we as adults can learn how to find a more fulfilling life and purpose. It is hard, I’m not going to lie. TV, social media, the internet, marketing, our culture, we are bombarded with messages telling us that we need something else to feel good about ourselves – we need an anti-aging cream, we need those new leggings, we need that new lipstick, we need that new hairstyle, we need the flat abs, we need the Porsche, we need to have children. Now, let me be clear, I am not saying that you shouldn’t get any of those things, I’m just saying having them should not define who you are as a person. Just like a relationship should not define you either