7 Essentials for Understanding Ego: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly


If you’re a human being, you have an ego. Your ego is a tool, like a piece of software, allowing you to interact with the world. It’s how you make decisions, set personal boundaries and maintain self-esteem. You take care of yourself, you feel good about who you are, and you stand by your values. These are signs of a healthy ego.

It’s when your ego takes over that the wars begin. A big ego makes a big fool (even if you’re not aware of it). Here are some ways to identify ego overload and nip it in the bud.

1. Beware monologue mode. Your voice gets louder, you start looking into space instead of at your partner, and you pay no attention to their conversational cues. Are you really having a conversation or do you just like the sound of your own voice? True conversation is not about talking – it’s about listening, learning and observing. Try this trick: in your next chat, be conscious of whether you are actually focusing your energy on the person’s words, or if you’re using their talk time to plan what you’re going to say next.

2. Do you really need to talk about the time you got stung by a scorpion for the tenth time? Just because one person in this room hasn’t heard the story yet, doesn’t mean it’s really important to share. Before you open your mouth for a thoughtless repetition, ask yourself: “Is it necessary that I share this? What am I getting out of this? Why am I so insistent?” Simply stopping to check your motive can change the way you communicate and relate for the better. You’ll feel more at peace, I promise.

3. Do you want to be right or do you want to be at peace? Sometimes it’s okay to back down in order to keep the peace. That doesn’t mean you’ve changed your stance or opinion, but that you’ve given up trying to shove it into someone’s else’s brain. Here’s the truth: you cannot control what other people think. Period. They will think what they want to think – and often, they’ll be wrong. You can’t let it get to you. Of course, no one feels good being a doormat, but that’s not what this is about. If you feel your boundaries or principles are being violated, speak up. But if it’s the emotional trigger you feel being pulled, consider backing off. You’ll be a bigger person for it.

4. Give up the illusion that you did it alone. When you accomplish something, remember that you didn’t get there by yourself. Your ego will make you think that you’re top dog, worthy of all praise and adulation, but the truth is, it took everyone in your life, your support team, to get you where you are today. Acknowledge them; be humble in your pride. It’s the difference between being assertive and being self-aggrandizing.

5. Being defensive. What are you defending anyway? Your terrified, fragile ego. What would happen if you explored an opposing view? I mean, really, it wouldn’t kill you and it just might make you smarter. I like to assume that others respect and love me until proven otherwise. When you interact with others from this assumption, you’d be surprised how often things that used to rile you now seem interesting or helpful. Withholding a reaction doesn’t mean you’re agreeing – it just means you’re secure in yourself.

6. Stop interrupting and listen! You don’t always have to tell us what you think. Sometimes the strongest thing you can do is listen and observe. Remember: those who say, don’t know. And those who know, don’t say.

7. Admit you’re wrong when you really are. There’s nothing worse than watching someone dig themselves deeper into a hole when they could simply apologize and be done with it. Think George W. Bush. (I couldn’t resist!)

If you enjoyed this post, don’t miss 25 Ways to Be the Change.

Image: Meg Elizabeth

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