A person recently was describing another person to me. They shared that this other person “has an ego”. It made me stop and silently question whether we all have an ego. Knowing this other person, I did share that I thought they were very smart. To which the other person agreed. Yet they appeared to me to be capable of fulfilling the responsibilities they were now given.
In many of my posts, I talk about the ego controlling our thoughts in ways that sabotage us. The tone of voice of the person above felt like he was inferring the presence of ego was a “negative”.
My curiosity led me to look on the web for the definition of ego. It defines ego as:
- “The self, especially as distinct from the world and other selves.
- In psychoanalysis, the division of the psyche that is conscious most immediately controls thought and behavior, and is most in touch with external reality.
- An exaggerated sense of self-importance; conceit.”
So based on definition one, it’s true we all have an ego. There is no escaping it. But why can it be so harmful to us? Definition two begins to answer this as ego “is the part of us that is conscious and immediately controls our thought”. While we pay little attention to this, who we are is expressed through our ego in the form of our thoughts and behavior and its control of them.
It’s fascinating that within this definition, number three begins to reveal its harm when it states that ego can also be “an exaggerated sense of self-importance”. Where there is evidence of arrogance, conceit, and too much of a focus on “me” degrades the ability of a person to work with others. To relate to others. To develop meaningful relationships with others.
The challenge we all face is in understanding both the power the ego has over us and the need to remind ourselves regularly how little we know and how imperfect we are. Making us equal with those around us. Maturity comes when we understand the value of celebrating others rather than ourselves. Minimizing the risk of our focus on self-importance, while affirming the presence of those around us.
And to never conflate confidence with self-importance. For confidence, infused with humility, leads to curiosity, possibility, and acceptance. While also realizing the brittleness of self-importance that reveals itself as soon as the next time we are wrong or when the next outcome we experience is different than the one we expected.