The Difference Between Self Esteem and Ego
There’s a lot of talk about “self esteem”, how to have it, what it is, what it means. However, what passes for self esteem is often simply ego. That might seem a perplexing statement. First let’s get a little clarity on what healthy self esteem is. It is a balanced and unexaggerated self respect and self love. It combines a healthy regard for the self with a healthy regard for others. Healthy self esteem esteems others as equally as the self. Others are treated and regarded as respectfully as the self.
Ego, on the other hand, always believes in its own self importance above the importance of others. Ego always requires outside approval, validation, and constant attention and gratification. Ego believes in its own superiority above all others. Some versions of ego insist on inferiority as a role. Both inferiority and superiority are lies though, and variations of the same theme — of feeling “less than” others. Here are some ways to recognize ego and distinguish it from self esteem:
1.) It’s ego when we are condescending, rude or disrespectful of wait staff, retail clerks, parking valets, or anyone we imagine is “less important” than us. Those with healthy self esteem are respectful to all they come into contact with.
2.) It’s ego when we use anger to manipulate others, get our way, or attempt to communicate our supposed superiority. Those with healthy self esteem have healthy boundaries and desire to communicate respectfully and non-manipulatively.
3.) Ego is about the one note song, “mi, mi, mi”. When we talk incessantly about ourselves and show no interest in others that comes from ego. A person with healthy self esteem does not need to be the center of attention at all times. Healthy self esteem is more frequently expressed by showing genuine interest in others, and making sure conversation flows among all participants.
4.) When we are expressing ego, we are spectacularly lacking in compassion. We judge harshly, show no empathy, and find fault easily. When we are expressing healthy self esteem, we are able to be compassionate without being codependent (unable to set healthy boundaries, “people pleaser”). We are able to understand the viewpoints of others and have a genuine interest in them.
5.) When we are being egotistical, we believe we know everything about everything and that we are right about everything we “know”. We believe that the opinions of others are “stupid”, ill-advised and just plain wrong. When we are coming from healthy self esteem, we are willing to hear the opinions of others and we’re able to entertain the notion that their opinion is their opinion and we don’t have to agree. Both people can be right (and OK).
6.) When we are coming from ego, we are unwilling to pay the least attention to the interests of others. We single mindedly expect everyone to share our interests, but don’t reciprocate. When we have healthy self esteem, we are curious about the interests of others. Even if we don’t want to actually share the interest, we want to share their delight in their interest.
7.) Impatience is frequently a sign we are expressing from ego. Often, it derives from feeling self important and that the world owes us attention (or priority) whenever we want it. Sometimes our impatience is actually the result of our own failures such as not leaving in enough time to get somewhere and being highly impatient in traffic. When we’re coming from healthy self esteem, we have highly developed patience and we live our lives strategically enough that we don’t waste our time in situations that require extreme patience.
There is a huge difference between ego and healthy self esteem. The most significant thing is that when we are coming from ego, it is obvious to everyone but us!