A Healthy Ego
A healthy ego is a good thing. We can’t navigate life effectively without one. Ego is the part of us that manages our lives. A healthy ego helps us manage our inner world just as much as it helps us deal with the sometimes crazy world around us.
It seems harder than ever these days to forge a healthy ego. The dominant norms in our culture have made it that way. Many norms foster an utter preoccupation with self. And this can easily lead to excessive self-focus or egocentricity. Other norms glorify the individual. And that can easily foster ego-inflation or grandiosity. Still other norms foster a sense of entitlement. Those norms are perhaps the most damaging of all to a mature, healthy ego. To function well socially, we need a mature and balanced ego.
So, how does one develop a healthy ego in our times? That’s what I want to begin discussing in this article.
I’ve written about egocentric thinking and its pitfalls before. (See: Charcter Disturbance and in several articles here on the blog.) Some disturbed characters engage in a lot of egocentric thinking. They’re frequently focused on themselves and the things they want. They don’t have the time or energy to think about much else. And some don’t care to think about anything else. (See also: Narcissists Have Pathological Egocentricity.)
By nature, ego is concerned with itself. However, we live in a social, interconnected world. Mature egos recognize this. They understand it pays to consider other things and other persons. Folks with a healthy ego understand that they’re a part of something bigger. And putting ego in the service of something bigger is what integrity of character is all about. Egocentric thinkers, however have a hard time seeing the bigger picture. Even when they do, they have a hard time pressing their egos into the service of something bigger.
A close cousin of egocentric thinking is egomaniacal thinking. Narcissists engage in a lot of this kind of thinking. They don’t just think a lot about themselves and their wishes. They also think a lot of themselves. It’s easy for the ego of narcissists to be becomes inflated. When that happens, folks can see themselves as special, superior, more powerful, or more important than others. (See: The Egomaniacal Thinking of the Disturbed Character.)
Getting the Balance Right
A healthy ego is ultimately all about getting the balance right. You want to be concerned with yourself, for sure. However, you also need room in your heart for the consideration of others. And you want to think of yourself in a balanced way, too. Thinking too little of yourself is just as problematic as thinking too much of yourself. You need just the right strength of ego, too. Being too weak-minded and unsure of oneself is just as problematic as being too strong-minded, confident, and inflexible. Sadly, in today’s world, getting the balance right can be quite a challenge.
Perhaps the hardest balance to strike in life has to do with what (or whom) your ego will serve. For most immature characters, ego remains strictly self-serving. It’s always about them. The egos of evolved characters, both recognize and voluntarily serve a “higher power” or reality. Persons of integrity realize that to properly care for themselves they have to care about more than just themselves. First they have to recognize that they’re part of something bigger. And they have to have the heart to want to serve that something bigger.
An Interview for an Upcoming Podcast
I gave an interview to Veronika Archer recently for her popular podcast. You can listen to my segment of You Get To Be You This Time starting tomorrow.
And expect an announcement very soon on the new Character Matters podcasts.