Ego – What’s It About?


Your ego is the part of your identity that you consider yourself. If you say someone has a “big ego” you’re really saying that they’re too full of themselves. From that perspective, ego sounds a negative trait but we all have an ego of some description because it’s an awareness of our identity and existence.

It’s natural that if someone is good at something, they do more of it and they’re recognised for it so then they try to emphasise it.

Below are some signs of a big ego – they may or may not apply to you.  See you what you think –

You find that you continually compare yourself to others, being very competitive.

You seek acceptance and crave recognition from others.

You are often defensive about your ideas and can’t bear people to criticise them even if it’s in a constructive way.

You find ways of ‘showcasing’ your own brilliance.

The positive aspects of ego are that there’s usually optimism involved and in leaders this can be very positive as it helps people through difficult times, reminds them that there are better things ahead and they’re then slower to get discouraged by events. On the downside, it might be that a very positive person with a healthy ego won’t listen to bad news, believes that a positive outlook can overcome anything and rejects bad news or pessimism.

If your ego is in control of you, you may well experience any of the following:

Taking it personally if someone rejects your ideas, disagreeing with someone simply because you didn’t come up with the idea first, almost compulsively following someone’s lead just to keep up with them, comparing external factors like signs of wealth and status with no regard for inner values.

In fact, we all know people who behave like this but it takes a strong person to admit to engaging in this, even some of the time.  It may be that you are often in conflict with colleagues, partners or family or have trouble working within a team. Perhaps asking someone else to help you may seem  ridiculous and unnecessary and you hate doing so even though showing a little vulnerability might improve your relationships sometimes. So if you think that your own ego has got a bit too big it can  help to look at how you might change things slightly.

  • Show an interest in other people – rather than talking about yourself, make eye contact with them and actively listen to what they’re saying. Ask some questions to clarify what they mean and try to focus on them rather than yourself.
  • Learn to compromise – controlling your ego is partly about choosing which battles are worth fighting. Accept that it’s okay to conflicting views and learning to compromise can help with conflict. When you reach a stalemate, question whether you are disagreeing just for the sake of it so that you can stick to your original opinion. Are you willing to relent a little? Compromise doesn’t mean defeat and as long as your personal values are still intact, that’s fine.
  • Change your views on what ‘success’ means – I find that in counselling as well as my private life, people tend to define success as earning lots of money in a job which is viewed as having status in our society. Work out what success means for you personally and whether not achieving a high salary is such a huge deal. Might there be some things more important in your life that no amount of money is going to improve? There are many ways to measure success other than by money, awards and trophies.
  • Recognise that a certain amount of friction can be a healthy thing. If everyone is always agreeing with you, you’re only every getting one opinion which can be incredibly limiting for your career or personal growth. It’s also very ‘rarified’ because there’s no real challenge to take other peoples’ different opinions into account.
  • Stop comparing yourself with others regardless of which way you do that. Playing that game can often result in anxiety and depression so by stopping the comparisons you’re able to start appreciating more. It’s possible to simply respect what people have to offer as individuals and remind yourself that no-one’s perfect, including you.
  • Change the way you look at failure – at the moment it might seem like the end of the world but it can provide you with the opportunity to look at your knowledge and skills anew. Decide how you want to react to setbacks and change your plans to take into account what’s happened and find something positive in there somewhere.
  • Let go of some of your expectations because they shape the way we look at things and can become a trap that we can’t find a release from. In my last blog I wrote about mindfulness and how striving to be fully present in the moment can be invigorating so that you’re not limited by past of future-orientated thinking which can be limiting.

If you’ve found this blog interesting, please do comment below.

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