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BLOG : Ego – Good or Bad? – How to manage it

Poor ego is really having a hard time presently.

Let me just make it clear from the word go : we all have an ego.

In current life the question is not do we have one, but is it egotistical, submissive or healthy. If you can imagine yourself with “good” on the one shoulder and “bad” on the other, then ego is the head in between. Good being all the “nice” things we do and want to do in life, caring for other, considering other, kind gestures, living in harmony, peace, etc. On the other shoulder we have “bad”, the baby demands. I want food, shelter, a new car, a nicer house, etc. The ego, the head, has the unenviable task of keeping both sides “happy and satisfied”.

The “baby side” is very important in our lives. It is what drives us. It is the side that motivates us to always strive for more and better. Nothing wrong with it, but because it is the “baby side” it does not consider other people. Just like a baby, it cries when it is hungry, tummy aches, when you take the baby’s toy, etc. This baby thinks of baby and baby’s needs first. No matter if mom has not had a full night’s sleep. No matter if dad had a difficult day at work. Baby wants and is going to perform till it gets.

When considering the above it is clear that the bullies and ego-inflated individuals are living in a very unbalanced world and they are emotionally still “babies”. Although many of them would love to tell you that they are “powerful” through their actions, they are very insecure, selfish and can emotionally not compromise or consider other people.

On the “good” side you have the part of you that want to please people, do good for other, always consider other, live a life in peace and want the world to be full of sunshine and roses. This side is always happy to stand back and be second. This side will always compromise and understand.

But living on the other side of the spectrum is not good either. You become the doormat of the bully, you become the punch-bag of the emotional abuser, you often experience frustration and desperation because you “do not count”. People on this side live with judgement, rigid morals and view the world from this perspective. They stand back and do not follow their dreams and then blame other.

Clearly, neither side will budge and compromise and that is where ego steps in. This is quite a huge task to master to keep both sides happy in the reality of life. If you allow more of the “baby side”, then you will not be liked by many people, but you will move forward in life and people will not walk all over you. The reverse is also true for the other side where you will be well liked, but you will receive no respect, you will not always follow your dream, but you will live in harmony with humanity and be kind.

When you have a healthy ego, these sides balance out within the reality of what is life.

Sometimes you are a bit more on the one side than the other, but on a whole, it will balance out.

When it does not balance out you become either egotistical, “big ego-ed”, self-centered, etc. or you become a doormat, submissive, low self-image, etc. It is not good to be on either side of the spectrum, balanced is the answer here.

In more modern ideas, the ego is linked to our self-image – there is definitely still a correlation with Freud and his concept of id, superego and ego. The self-image is who we are, what we portrait to the world, our ideas, values, our ethics, etc. To develop a strong self-image (or strong self) it is important that you know who you are. Your thoughts, your values, your goals, how you like to function here on earth.

A healthy ego, therefore is flexible.

It can adapt, reason but still be strong. When you know who and what you are, you have no need to enforce your identity on other people, also you do not have to conform all the time. Our ego is our driving force, it is our passion, our excitement, it is what gets us up and going, but also it does not allow us to be out of control.

The problem comes when ego is out of balance or unhappy.

That is when we are driven by the one end of the spectrum or the other. That is when we see ourselves as the material things in life, we see ourselves as the body we live in and not the soul, we see ourselves as morally more than another.

Do not confuse ego with confidence however. Confidence is to have a belief and faith in our abilities. Ego however, operates from self-interest. The purpose of ego is to protect us, to put us in the best light. Nothing wrong with this. The problem comes when we apply the impulses wrongly. When our timing is out.

When we are told to “quiet ego”, we all jump up and shout, because I count as a person and I have a right to be heard and to be here on this earth. What is meant is exactly what I say above – get your timing right. Sometimes you will learn so much more if you are quiet. Observe and take the information in. Maybe you will use all of it, maybe only a little, maybe nothing. The moment you can find that dial and you can turn the noise of ego off, so you can hear, you loose nothing of who you are, you do not deny yourself. You do however learn and grow.

Ego’s first response is to protect us, and at times like this, when we jump to our own defense, the “baby side” is performing load and clear. Similarly, when we shy away and feel insecure, the “good side” if in demand, because we want to protect ourselves from being embarrassed, hurt, etc.

Poor ego really has a hard task. It gets the run around. And once we start forming negative beliefs, we are going to feed either the “baby or the good” and ego will no longer be able to balance it all out – ego then becomes that “side”. When we form positive beliefs with a positive self-image we support a healthy ego that can help us through times when we need to be selfish and times when we need to be lesser.

It is all part of this beautiful dance we do that is called life.

But how can you help your ego to become balanced and create a healthy, positive self-image:

1. How big is your “I”?

How often do you start your sentences with “I”, “My opinion…”, “My” or “Mine”? Even if you think that “My opinion” is making clear it is just an opinion, you are making it very clear that it is about you. Why not just say: “What about…”? For a while, why not replace the I, me, my, mine with your first name. You will quickly realise how often you speak about yourself and your ideas. It can be quite awkward but try it. Just do not make it your new way of talking, as it can seem very arrogant to refer to yourself in the third person all the time – a little like the “royal we”.

2. Distorting the truth.

How often do you “alter” the truth ever so slightly to protect the ego? Or do you exaggerate on your stories, make them just a little grander than they are? As hard as it might be, to admit that you are wrong, or that you did something silly, or that you had a very ordinary day takes nothing away from the true self. If you are not going to be truthful and honest to yourself, how on this earth will you be to society? And forgive yourself – you are human. All you have to do is learn. I saw this movie once where the dad tried to impress the girlfriend and he got the kids to smile and look like they are having fun all the time. The little boy turns around and says: “why do we have to laugh all the time, is there something wrong with us?”. And that is the big question, what are you hiding by always being bigger and better?

3. Take a few minutes in a day to become quiet.

Truly quiet, where you are not instructed by ego. Sit quietly and observe – the day that has past, the conversations, your actions, etc. If you want, quiet enough to hear your inner voice. Observe them, no judgement, no justification and do not be scared if a “little voice” pops up to tell you where you could have done better, where you did well. We are so scared to acknowledge our good and our bad, that we constantly strive to do better. What about it if what you did today was good? Period. Thank you.

4. Openness.

Be open to learn. Be open to change. By learning and changing you are growing and what better way to become “better”, to rise above the “average”, to excel and become the best self you could ever dream off. Being open to hear about different ideas, ways, etc. will not take anything away from you. You will always have the choice to implement the change, no person can force you to become what you do not want to become.

5. Stop controlling everything.

How exhausting is it to be in control of everything? Not everything on this earth can be equally important to you. By all means, have your say and way in things that are important to you, please remember they may be important to other people as well. But if something is not that important, why do you want to control it? Or if it is important to you, do you honestly think you know everything and you can learn nothing new?

6. Don’t be so sensitive.

When you learn to quieten ego, you will come to the conclusion that not everything out there is about you. Not everything said or suggested demands your response. Not every remark demands a change in you. It is all just information – only you can make it personal.

7. Be in gratitude.

Thank you for what I already have. There is no need for me to “fight” for everything else as well. I already have so much, and I know who I am. How about if you can just be thankful? To see what you have, to realise how “rich” you already are, is an amazing opening to a balanced ego.

It is so easy for ego to fall back on default. We are told constantly that we live in a dog-eat-dog world, where life is not fair, etc. Yes, to all of this, but that does not mean I have to live like that. It is much easier for ego to go out on defense and self-protection, than for ego to be individual.

So often unfortunately, when our inner voice, subconscious, soul (anything you want to call it) speak up, ego, is out seeing who can be impressed. We are not available to listen to even ourselves, how will we hear what is available out there if we are always out with ego?

Rumi, a famous Persian mystic, said:

"Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about."

Ego is not the problem, it is when we over-identify with it that it becomes a problem.

Sue Leppan

Transformation Life Coach

NLP Practitioner

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