Ego and Ego Inflation
What is ego inflation? There’s a simple answer to that. It’s when we think too much of ourselves. Now, we all want to feel good about who we are. There’s nothing unhealthy about that. But we can carry things too far. We can exaggerate our importance. And we can exaggerate our accomplishments, too.
We all need ego. We need ego to navigate through life. So, having ego is a good thing. Some folks have a very impoverished sense of self. We say such folks have weak egos. And that’s not good. Having a weak ego can cause some very big problems. It can lead to a poor self-image. It can even lead to tolerating abuse. We all need a solid sense of self and self-worth. That’s why, in itself, ego is definitely not a bad thing.
A sound ego may be central to good mental health. But a healthy ego is all about balance. Some used to think you couldn’t have too much self-esteem. However, we now know you can. My clinical experience actually taught me that years ago. And in recent years the research has confirmed it. Unfortunately, in our narcissistic times, developing a balanced sense of self is not easy. (See also: Cultural Narcissism Fosters Character Disturbance.)
How to Inflate an Ego
You may wonder how ego inflation occurs. I wondered about this too, many years ago. So, I studied it. And I wrote about my observations in both In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance. At the time, there was no research to validate my findings. Today, however, there is. Turns out, there are indeed some reliable ways to inflate an ego.
Brummelman and some colleagues have conducted several “praise” studies. They’ve looked particularly at how we praise children. Specifically, they’ve looked at what we praise them for. The results proved more than interesting. Want to give little Johnny or Suzie a big head? Praise them for their beautiful blue eyes. Tell them how smart they are. Fawn over their talents or good looks. In short, encourage them to feel good about and value their God-given or nature-endowed characteristics. Claiming credit for and valuing what you didn’t cause can lead to ego inflation.
So how do you promote a healthy self-image? The praise studies have something to say about that, too. Pay attention to what little Johnny or Suzie does with their gifts. Watch how they conduct themselves. Most especially, praise them for meritorious conduct. Look for and recognize their little acts of heroism. The choices we make and actions we take distinguish us. They bespeak our character. That’s because they’re strictly of our own doing. And it’s not vain to claim credit for our pro-social choices and actions. Moreover, doing so is what builds healthy self-respect. (See: Merit: Healthy Self-Esteem – Part 2) (See also: Cultural Indifference to Meritorious Conduct.)
Ego Inflation in a Narcissistic Age
Our narcissistic culture has fueled much ego inflation. Our society tends to glorify talent. Moreover, we tend to overly reward it, too. And we place a premium on such things as good looks and achievement. Unfortunately, we pay too little attention to how folks conduct themselves. We simply don’t place much emphasis on character anymore. But that doesn’t mean that character doesn’t matter. In fact, it probably matters today more than it ever has.
Healthy self-esteem will flourish when society decides to make character matter again. As a culture, we have to recognize character again and to reward it. Some countries have formal institutions that recognize character. And they confer titles upon individuals for distinguishing themselves. It’s not about their wealth. And it’s not about their talent or accomplishments. Rather, the recognition has more to do with the contribution they’ve made. It’s more about what they’ve done for the betterment of all. That’s what reflects on on their character.
Some Changes Coming
Some changes are coming to the blog. First, The Judas Syndrome will be getting its own page. I’ll be posting some special content on that page. And there will be room for discussion there, too. It’s best not to have heavy religious content enter the discussion of other issues. So, having a separate page for such discussion should prove beneficial to many.
The new Character Matters program remains in development. Expect some announcements soon about the projected launch date. Additionally, expect an announcement on another new program that will focus more specifically on spiritual growth.