Ego – Good or Bad?

I recently read an article in a magazine that gave tips on how to “free yourself from your ego” and offered help in “getting rid of the ego” and it struck me that the ego often gets unfair press.

It is often mentioned in a derogatory way, linked to vanity, self-importance and arrogance. One definition I found described it as “an inflated feeling of pride in your superiority to others”.

There is no doubt that most of us dislike arrogant people who think they are better than others (even when they are crap at what they’re doing but think they’re great at it!) – especially when the arrogant person is trying to make himself feel superior by making another feel inferior. But do these negative qualities reflect the ego accurately or are there positive aspects to the ego?

I came across a lovely little story which I thought contained a lot of truth but still had the ego on the bad side.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one that you feed.”

So I thought I would investigate the much maligned ego before I bashed it over the head with a hammer and obliterate it altogether.

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

In Greek, Ɛƴω (ego) means ‘I’. Simply put, the ego is who we are. All of our experiences, past and present, have an effect on who we are. The ego is our thoughts, emotions, reactions, memories…in fact everything that makes you ‘you’. It is the subconscious mind.

Looking at it like this, if we got rid of ego who would we be?

I discovered that we have a good ego and a bad ego – those two little voices in our head which give us conflicting advice. The one tells us we can’t carry out a particular task because it is afraid of failing while the other tries to encourage us by convincing us we will succeed. Even the most confident of people are beset by doubts when something they are doing is of importance. The little voice in my head is constantly nagging: do this, don’t do that. It drives a me crazy, but without it I probably would not do anything.

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Now in order to feel worthy and have a good self-image and make the best of our life we need encouragement…and that comes from our ego. It’s our ego that drives us to do good things, to achieve our full potential, so it would be counter-productive to kill it without considerable thought.

It seems to me the key to dealing with the ego is to keep it in balance. Respect it. Question it if you feel it is not doing you good service. The ego is not the enemy it is who you are. Just be careful that it doesn’t trick you into thinking that you are either better than you are or worse than you are.

So I thought rather than attempting to slay the ego I would be more careful what I feed it! No more titbits of superiority because I’ve answered a few more questions than everyone else at Quiz night (not usually the case, but it’s an example) or gloating because it only takes me 5 minutes to complete a Sudoku (not true either but you get the gist!!).