“Ego, to me, is a holistic sense of our abilities, capabilities, and our possibilities. For the ego to not go out of control, it has to be tamed and to be done so repeatedly.”
The Ego can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. It can drive us forward to make progress in different areas of your lives, but it can also detract from us by setting our expectations too high and in not actually challenging ourselves to see if our ego is being realistic. Ego, to me, is a holistic sense of our abilities, capabilities, and our possibilities. For the ego to not go out of control, it has to be tamed and to be done so repeatedly.
When the Ego is not tamed, it has an unhealthy tendency to run wild. Your Ego can grow, often unhealthily, when you leave it to be unchallenged. I have found that those people with the biggest Egos in life are the ones who never challenge themselves to back it up in a real way. The Ego can inflate our sense of self to the point where we are actively deluding ourselves with who we want to be without taking account of who we really are.
Everyone has an ‘Ego’ or Latin for ‘I’ and as world-renowned psychologist Sigmund Freud pointed out, we each have a perception of our ‘self’ that will differ often from how others would perceive us. Our ‘Ego’ or our ‘I’ is often about our physical self, the sum of our experiences, our innate abilities, and our drive to get ahead in life. The ego can grow, or it can shrink, often based on how we alone view ourselves, but it also is reflective of how others see us and what they expect of us. The Ego must be kept in check because it can inflate or deflate based on what we tell ourselves about who we are and how others tell us who we are. The Ego is malleable and can be different on the day based on what we experience or what happens to us.
You can have an excellent day one day where you win a sports competition, gain a promotion at work, or overcome a challenge that you previously thought was impossible. One good day can massively inflate our Egos and while it is good to boost one’s Ego and be proud of what you accomplished and how hard you worked, you should still have that sense of humility and understand that one good day does not mean that you are suddenly God’s gift to Earth.
The same can be said of when you have a terrible day such as perhaps you failed an important test or exam, a work presentation you gave wasn’t received well, or you had someone insult you or talk down to you. These kinds of events, especially in the same day, can really wound your Ego and your self-worth. While bad events can hurt you, you should not totally give up your Ego or sense of ‘self’ from them as that would be disastrous. One bad day does not have to be a referendum on the sum of your entire life. Your Ego has to be resilient, when it is both humbled and challenged, and this should happen on a daily basis.
My firm belief is that you should never get too low or get too high when it comes to the self or your Ego. You have to constantly remind yourself of what you do well on, what you need to work on, and what you have no experience or ability with. For example, I like to think that I’m a good writer at this point, but some articles have turned out better than I expected, and some have been worse than I thought. Despite how I perceive my written work and how others do so, I can continue to work on my style, syntax, and substance, and I can expand my writing focus to challenge myself that I may have previously avoided on different topics that are new to me.
I also think of how one’s Ego needs to be challenged especially in a new activity or hobby that you have picked up. A good way to think about the Ego is to challenge it in different ways by putting yourself out there physically for yourself to be tested in that manner. One example of this is to train in the martial arts where your body is being challenged. You may weightlift, run, or consider yourself athletic, but it’s a good way to measure yourself against others when you are training against other people who have been doing it for a while and who could be bigger or stronger than you.
It does not mean that you won’t become better as a martial artist, but you should temper the Ego by challenging those practitioners who know more, can teach you new skills and abilities, and who you can face off with even when you are getting beaten for a while by them. Whether it’s’ boxing, jiu jitsu, krav maga, or kickboxing, I think any martial arts, whichever one(s) you choose, are a great way to temper one’s Ego. This is because you’ll see just how exactly you measure up against other fighters, especially if you’re new to the sport, and while you may think you are strong, fast, or have great stamina, you won’t truly know if that is the case or not until you step on the mat or into the ring.
The same could be said when you challenge your Ego mentally such as when you try to learn something new or adapt a new skillset that you know nothing about. I find that learning a new language is a way to temper my Ego in a healthy manner because every language, while they have some similarities, are also quite different and cause me to adapt how I learn that language, and the kinds of difficulties I’ll have when learning it based on how the language is written or spoken.
While I may be great at learning Spanish and am comfortable there, I can throw my Ego for a loop by learning a non-romance language such as German. I can brag that I can speak one or two foreign languages well after a lot of practice and that fuels my Ego but so that it doesn’t get too fragile, I temper it by learning a different language or trying to advance my Spanish or other learned language with more advanced material.
The Ego is constantly changing and evolving because our sense of self is different daily. The key is to not let it grow too big without putting yourself out there and being challenged or by deluding yourself by not ever trying anything new by putting your mental or physical abilities to the test. The best way to temper the Ego is to constantly challenge it both physically and mentally to have a more accurate measure of yourself against other peers in your field(s) or area(s) of expertise.
You should not ever ignore your Ego as it is your sense of ‘self’ and how you fit into the world, but rather you should not think of yourself as either the best or the worst in anything without going out into the world and seeing where exactly you fit in. As the popular expression goes, “you’ll never know until you try” and when it comes to the Ego or self, you must be testing yourself and by extension, testing your Ego to temper it or and keep it in check. The worst thing to do to yourself when it comes to the Ego is to continue to delude yourself by not trying, never challenging yourself, or not trying to go beyond the standards that you have set for yourself.