Let's Lighten up About our Egos

Bill Abbate

Have you ever known anyone with a big ego? You know what I mean, someone that thinks more of themselves than they are. While they may not enjoy someone mocking them, it can be enjoyable to laugh at their expense.

If we are honest with ourselves, everyone has egotistic tendencies, and most of us could laugh at ourselves for some of our silliness! Pride is part of the human condition, after all.

In this article, let's take a quick and lighter look at our egocentricities.

"The personal pronoun "I" should be the coat of arms of some individuals." Antoine Rivarol (1753-1801_

What egotism is and is not

Before delving into the ego issue, let's look at the difference between egotism and narcissistic personality disorder to avoid confusing the two. One of the best explanations of each is in a Psychology Today article that states:

"In egocentrism, you're unable to see someone else's point of view; but in narcissism, you may see that view but not care about it." Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.

And it continues:

"Going even one step further, people high in narcissism become annoyed or even enraged when others fail to see things their way." Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.

Egotism is about pride, vanity, conceit, self-centeredness, and selfishness. It often helps to look at the opposite of something to gain a fuller understanding of a word. In this case, its antonyms include altruism, modesty, and humility. Each of these tends to focus outward on others, while egotism focuses inward on self.

"An egotist will always speak of himself, either in praise or in censure, but a modest man ever shuns making himself the subject of his conversation." Jean de la Bruyere (1645-1696)

The reality is if you are alive, you have an ego. Ego is simply your sense of personal identity, self-esteem, and self-worth, giving meaning to who you are. Yes, everyone has an ego, but how inflated your ego is, is a different matter.

The egotist

Do you ever wonder what other people think and say about you? Most of us have such thoughts cross our minds from time to time. The funny thing is the more we talk about ourselves, the more likely they will talk about us after we are gone!

"Don't talk about yourself; it will be done when you leave." Wilson Mizner (1876-1933)

It can go both ways, too, can it not? Our ego and theirs can lead to the same thoughts about each other.

"Egocentricity: The vanity that makes you wonder what people are thinking about you when they are really wondering what you are thinking about them." Evan Esar (1899-1995)

Some people take egotism seriously, pushing back hard, or are they? Whether you find the following quote funny depends on how large or small your ego is.

"Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity." Frank Leahy (1908-1973)

All of us know some people that are clueless as to the size of their ego. Yet others not only understand themselves but can make fun of it.

"My friends say I'm ego-centric. But enough about them..." Anonymous

Some people believe the ego is dependent on knowledge, while others realize it consists of more than knowledge alone. Which is right and which is wrong? Perhaps both are seeing correctly? First, those on the intelligence side of the equation will say:

"Knowledge and ego are directly related. the less knowledge, the greater the ego." Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Others see the ego as something beyond intelligence alone:

"The pest of society are the egotist, they are dull and bright, sacred and profane, course and fine. It is a disease that like the flu falls on all constitutions." Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Still, others will look at the ego as something altogether different:

"When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package." John Ruskin (1819-1900)

Since those with outsized egos can have a limited ability to see another person's point of view, they can have real difficulty seeing other perspectives about, well, almost anything!

"Egotism - usually just a case of mistaken nonentity." Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990)

Because of this lack of discernment and inability to take different viewpoints, you could easily conclude that:

"Big egos are big shields for lots of empty space." Diane Black (1951-present)

Final thoughts

The human ego is both extremely complex and very simple. It is complex because it involves so many levels and layers and can affect our behavior in countless ways. Yet, it is simple enough that practically everyone grasps what a big ego is vs. a more normal-sized ego and how our egos are part of what makes each of us so unique.

"Egotism is the art of seeing in yourself what others cannot see." George V. Higgins (1939-1999)

The bottom line about the ego is we all have it, and it can help us, hurt us, or be neutral. In the end, our ego is a measure of our maturity. Our maturity directly relates to our willingness to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

How mature are you?

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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