Updated: Nov 25, 2019
“That’s just your ego speaking” “You’re all ego, that's the problem” “She/He has such a big ego”
You’ve probably heard these comments some shape, form or fashion. We all have. We have made “ego” the enemy when in all honesty, many of us don’t really know how to define what ego is. SO that’s where I’ll start, with defining what ego is.
Sigmund Freud created a theory that hypothesized that each individuals psyche ( characteristics that create a person’s personality) includes 3 different components:
The Id, responsible for our subconscious thoughts, memories, and unfiltered impulses,The ego which allows us to make informed decisions based on our context utilizing information from our Id, and The superego, which can be seen as out “moral mind” that applies a filter of morality, parental rules and just a *dash* of fear to help the ego communicate the needs of the id, practically and ethically.
Both the Id and the ego desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain but it’s the ego that creates a realistic plan to meet those expectations.
Why do I say that ego isn’t the enemy? Because ego is necessary. Ego communicates a value for self into decision making. If you’ve ever met anyone who can’t make decisions without validation, they have low ego strength. If you’ve ever met someone who, behind closed doors can say exactly what they need but struggle to say it to the person who actually needs to hear it, they have low ego strength.
The subject is not just a professional one, but a personal one. For a long time working on developing ego, strength was a large part of my personal therapeutic work. I had clear thoughts, feelings, and boundaries that I wanted to implement to maintain my emotional and mental health, but I couldn't make the necessary decisions to live a life congruent with my personal values. I was always mad at someone, but simultaneously too afraid to tell them, I was regularly roped into activities I didn’t want to partake in, but never actually said “no” I always resorted to “ They should know by now” or “ I said something a couple of months ago, I shouldn’t have to say it again” My ego was so damaged, I didn’t know how to communicate my needs and with every passing situation gone south, I found myself frustrated at how often I betrayed myself and my values. I didn’t know how to realistically communicate the value of what I needed and wanted, leaving me isolated socially and emotionally.
Repairing and strengthening the ego is true heart and identity work. Diving into the Word, going through trauma therapy and committing to change exposed the ways my ego had been silenced by culture and experiences.
But once I began to believe in my God-given identity, I began to develop an ego that led me to speak, love, act, and request as if the God of angel-armies was making a way before me and guarding the way behind me, because He was.
The idea that ego is bad isn’t unfounded, it's rooted in a true dysfunctional reality that comes from people having inflated egos rather than egos that are intact and healthy. The hard part about deciphering an inflated ego is how subjective perspective can be. To those with damaged and bruised egos, a person operating in healthy ego strength can be perceived as threatening then labeled as someone with an inflated ego.
Without healthy and strong egos we can’t:
Accept love freely
Feel pride in ourselves or in our work
Trust that our needs are worth meeting
Create plans to fulfill our need
Create meaningful lives to live
Developing ego strength is essential to our identity and our productive contribution to any relationship we’re a part of. Next time someone tells you “ you're just letting your ego speak for you” feel free to remind the, that they’re right, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Do you feel like you have healthy ego strength?