Updated: Feb 6, 2020
There is a ‘ying, yang’ quality to the Ego. Looking at the Ego feels like looking at two sides of the same coin. And possibly, how it displays itself is just as haphazard as flipping a coin. Will it be the healthy Ego or the unhealthy Ego?
The lack of Ego would lead to ruin, mental instability, a total disconnect between the conscious and the unconscious. So why is the popular thought that Ego is the enemy? Ego is defined as a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance. It is clear from this definition that if we are to look at Ego, we have to also look at Self.
I moved to the UK 10 years ago, and it took a year to get my first gig. Thankfully, that gig lead to other gigs and 10 years later, I have consistently had a thriving diary of work.
Those early performances sometimes sent me home in tears. British audiences are quite different than the enthusiastic American audiences that I had been used to. You could have given your absolute best performance, the performance of a lifetime, and the Brits will just carry on with their conversations and drinking as if you are not even in the room. Or, they will listen for the first two minutes of the first song, and then they’re gone. You’ve lost them.
My first encounters with this phenomenon was soul destroying. I would get home from the gig and say to the hubs, ‘they hate me.’ I was starting to doubt if I even knew how to sing. Something I’ve been doing practically my whole life. Suddenly, the joy was going out of performing.
Then I started to realize that what I actually liked about performing was the applause. The accolades. People waxing lyrical about how great I sing. So, without that, my self-esteem suffered. Why did it suffer? Because I was arriving at those gigs with an inflated sense of self-importance, and the Brits cut me down to size for it. And for that, I will always be grateful.
As soon as I started leaving my Ego in the car upon arrival to a gig, and walked in the place with the sole purpose of making sure whoever would be in front of me had a good time, I started finding the enjoyment of performing. It was a light bulb moment really, the idea that it’s not about me. It’s about them. And strangely enough, the less I needed the applause, the more it came. Sometimes it catches me by surprise when it does come, because I no longer need it. I’m not gone lie, it’s a pleasant surprise.
I want to understand what actually happens when one ‘checks his or her Ego at the door.’ What role does a healthy Ego play in how we navigate our world?
We are born without an Ego, which allows us to bond with our mothers, and insures survival during the vulnerable formative years. As we got older, we developed a social self, aka, the Ego.
If, during our young lives, we develop a secure attachment and we have lots of positive experiences we develop a healthy ego.
A healthy ego allows us to grow up with a loving sense of self, rock solid resiliency, the ability to solve problems creatively, the capacity to develop meaningful relationships, and a sense of meaning. An unhealthy ego is like a shield, protecting us from the outside world, but also preventing us from loving ourselves and our lives.
An unhealthy ego will tell you to stick to what’s comfortable, to avoid uncertainty, and to have unrealistic expectations of yourself and others. Unhealthy ego is rooted in fear, anxiety, limiting beliefs, and toxic thinking patterns.*
If we are to keep our Egos in check, we have to also be at peace with being vulnerable. This is where it gets tricky. Most of us hate feeling vulnerable, yet according to the author of Daring Greatly and speaker, Brene Brown, having the courage to be vulnerable can change the way we live and love.
Understanding this trifecta is a lifelong pursuit. Learning how to be who we are, and to love ourselves completely is easier said than done, but worth the effort, because if we can master this, our Egos will serve us well, and not lead us to self-destruction. A healthy Ego needs to be nurtured in order to thrive, which may require us to do some self-assessment to determine where our own Ego falls on the health scale.
Click on this link to see the characteristics of a healthy ego vs. an unhealthy one, and then be brutally honest with yourself about where you stand.
No one has a perfectly healthy Ego, but with awareness of how the Ego operates, we just may be a bit quicker at checking our Ego when it starts to wander in the wrong direction.
* Taken directly from an article here.