By: up Marco Gracian / Project Pilipinas
Ego and Self Esteem
We’re all born with self-esteem. There is no such thing as a shy baby – it just expects (and of course needs!) to be loved, taken care of, served etc. A baby never doubts himself or his sense of value – he cannot even conceive of doing so.
Then life happens: children get hurt, disappointed, ignored, yelled at, talked down to… so many things happen that shake us from that natural foundation.
Of course at the time we were too young to have the knowledge or resources to deal with the problem, so we come up with a plan B – stories that we tell ourselves about why we’re still worthwhile. This is what we call the “Ego” (this has little to do with Freud’s conception).
So some children have the story that they’re smart: they do well at school because they crave the love and attention they think this gets them. They have forgotten that they can be loved for just who they are. Others do it by being funny, show offs, rebellious… walk into any school and you’ll see these stories being formed and reinforced.
These stories are NOT us. They are not even true. Ironically, it is these stories that keep us from our personal power.
The Ego is a dissociated entity – it is an intellectual construct that is not plugged into our true nature. As such, all energy spent on the story is like blowing hard on a piece of paper to keep it floating. When your breath runs out – it comes crashing down.
The Ego feeds off other people’s responses. If they pay attention to you, it feels good. If they ignore (or criticize) you, the Ego panics – it’s happy little world is now threatened and it will do whatever it can to get back to the status quo. Even if that means sabotaging positive changes!
The Ego creates a strange pseudo-confidence that only functions in very tightly managed circumstances (if at all!). Outside of that we tend to lose confidence (like when we try and learn something new and feel afraid of failing).
One reason for this fear is “cognitive dissonance” – we have a mental image of how we want to be perceived, which we try to project to the outside world. This is the flawless “perfect person” most of us think we should be. But inside, we don’t feel like that. So we have an internal battle or clash between who we try to make others think we are and what we think we really are. The larger that gap, the more psychic pain we feel in trying to “perform”.
A performer is either constantly rehearsing to stay “in the zone” or she risks getting performance anxiety when she starts up again. Contrast this with an enthusiast that just loves what she does and doesn’t care how good it is. She cannot get performance anxiety as she has nothing to prove (but only enjoys)! Often her rate of progress (measured by time spent on a task) is also faster.
The Ego constantly demands external acceptance to keep it afloat. If you with hold this
acceptance, it starts to get desperate and will eventually crash. This is the source of much of people’s “bi-polar” experience in life: great highs followed by periods of lows.
Power and Force: The Question Of Ego
The desire to be “one up” or be better than someone else in some way is an Ego driven desire. Someone with true Self Esteem simply does not care if others are better or worse than him, because his sense of value and importance does not come from being compared to others (i.e.,external reinforcers).
Many people are drawn to developing themselves because they think it will give them power over others. Unfortunately they initially miss the point: true power comes from inside – it is about being able to move through the world unhindered. Like a candle that shines in a storm just as brightly without any fear of ever going out.
Power is the ability to be in command of the self at any moment so that no matter what the
external circumstances are you have complete access to all your internal resources so you can make the maximum positive impact that is possible for you at that time.
So power is independent of external forces. When people seek power over others – they use Force, not true Power!
Force ends up doing as much harm to the operator as to the subject – because it reinforces the ego boom-bust cycle. In fact, the more Force “Power” you have the more erratic these cycles become (i.e., higher highs and lower lows).
You see this in people that get thrust into “power positions” by fate: e.g., new rock or film stars, business gurus, politicians. If they have not been prepared for their sudden rise to power (e.g., through many years of hard work to understand the illusion of what they end up with) they go through an intense period. Sometimes they come out with true inner power. Sometimes they come out more neurotic than ever before – addicted to sex, drugs, alcohol or other problem behaviours.
Another important distinction between Power & Force is that people tend to resist being forced.
However, they are naturally inclined to surrender to Power.
Ego Protection Mechanisms
• Ego has a story to maintain (known as “Saving Face”)
• It will manipulate others to their detriment to save face
• It tries to create fear in you to prevent you from doing something where you might lose
face – i.e., where your story might get exposed as a lie (e.g. Performance Anxiety)
• It tends to blame others for mistakes or try to rationalize failures
• It is external to the self, so constantly needs to be reinforced merely to exist!
Ego Based Beliefs Are Weak
• They need external support (validation, acceptance, admiration etc) or they crumble.
• They prevent you from making the mistakes you need to in order to learn. Your learning
increases with the amount of things you’re willing to do wrong!
• It is more important to “save face” (i.e., preserve the story) than it is to get results. This is
the source of much of the destructive “Corporate Politics” that can be witnessed.
• It gives your true power away – you need others to validate, accept and admire you
instead of finding everything you need inside yourself!
How to Take Control of The Ego
• Know Your Self
• Your Identity – Who Are You?
• Your Values – What Is Important To You?
• Your Expectations – How Should The World Treat You?
• Deliberately Challenge The Story – have objectives that are not tied up with looking
good. E.g., when playing tennis, don’t play to win, but see if you can make the ball spin
one way or another.
This is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. It is about putting movement back into
those parts of life that have become paralyzed by the Ego’s attempts at maintaining its
Remember: What You Resist, Persists! So just accept it and get on with life anyway.
We all tend to be “addicted” to certain ways of being. We’ll unconsciously manufacturer
situations or excuses to feel angry, sad, frustrated, helpless etc. If you discover that you’re
getting “upset” once again, don’t take it too seriously. It’s just your body detoxing from
years of bad habits!
• Let Go Of The Outcome – this does NOT mean don’t have any goals! Simply don’t rely
on your goals for your sense of value. Goals are about directions not about points.