Ego: Good, Bad or Both?

April 30, 2017

I’ve become very curious lately about the concept of “ego”, mine and other’s. There are different theories used to explain its meaning and it’s often portrayed as something we want to avoid like the plaque. I’m not convinced it deserves its negative reputation. After all, are there not two sides to every story, a negative to every positive? If we’ve been created with ego, is it not safe to assume it serves a purpose? I have more questions than answers so I thought I’d do some research.

  • Google Search offered this definition of ego: Ego can be defined as a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. For example, “that gave me a boost to my ego”
    • Synonyms include self-esteem, self-importance, self-worth, self-respect, self-image and self-confidence. For example, “the defeat was a bruise to his ego”.
  • In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, “ego” is mentioned seven times, mostly in the context of excessive ego and the need to take steps to right size it.
  • I read several articles on-line, the majority of which described the ego as being fear-based and a negative trait we should try to be rid  of.
  • Psychology Today, on the other hand, had this to say:  “Trying to eliminate your ego is worse than a worthless goal, it’s a distraction from the real business of living, figuring out where to be yangly self-assertive and where to be yin-ly receptive and accommodating.”

I’m not sure the research helped much so I’ll go back to what I already know.

I know I’ve been judgmental and critical  of others (with both my inside and outside voices) in recent weeks because I judged them to be operating from a place of great ego, saying things to me and others in ways that seemed aimed at building themselves up at the expense of diminishing others’ sense of value and worth.

Oddly enough and during this same period, I have been going through changes in my role at work which, although I wanted them, have left me with an unexpected sense of loss. This sense of loss ,combined with the vulnerability I still experience when carrying out my advocacy work for mental illness, has left me with a greater than usual need for positive encouragement and feedback from others. I question if this is my ego? As long as I know my own worth and value, does it matter what other’s think of me or what my role at work is? If I believe I am simply the vessel carrying a message to others, should that not be enough? Is this all being caused by an unhealthy ego? Does my need to feel better about myself make me any different than the people I think are cutting others down to feel better, to soothe their egos?

Is it possible that ego is indeed both positive and negative, both helpful and hurtful? Is all of this a gentle reminder to be more loving  towards myself and others? To remember we are all doing our best on this road of life? Maybe it’s okay that our ego (our self-esteem and self-worth) sometimes takes a hit and needs a boost. Although we can often boost it with positive self-talk and care, other times we need a little help from our friends, kind words and feedback. And yes, there are probably occasions we are off-balance and get hooked into thinking we’ll feel better if we feed our ego by tooting our own horns and celebrate our accomplishments, with no consideration of other’s contributions and feelings.

After all this, I’m still not clear what exactly ego is but I can see more clearly that we are all capable of being less than humble and gracious when it comes to self. Just for today, I will stay in my own sandbox and make sure my side of the street is cleaned before I even consider looking at your’s.

Love and Blessings,self reflection

Women in Recovery Everywhere


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