Hi, Carolyn: What is the difference between ego and self-esteem? “Ego” seems to generate all sorts of problems, whereas everyone needs good “self-esteem.” – Arkansas
“Ego” can have several meanings, depending on context. If you’re discussing “ego” as a part of someone’s psychic anatomy that just got bruised, then it’s interchangeable with “self-esteem.” “Self” is another definition of ego, and Freud had his own definition.
I suspect the guidance you’re looking for isn’t semantic, though. It’s
emotional: When does good self-esteem go bad?
Ego and self-esteem are the bond between who you are and who you perceive yourself to be. When your ego (or self-esteem) is healthy, you have a realistic idea of your strengths and weaknesses. When your ego (or
self-esteem) is unhealthy, there’s a breakdown in one of two directions – you have significantly more, or less, going for you than you think.
To assess your own health, think of ego as the security guard while self-esteem is the institution it protects.
If the institution – the self – stands soundly on its own, built by hard work, a sense of purpose and a sense of accomplishment, then it doesn’t need to hide behind a huge security/ego system to protect it. The result is a person who can shrug off failure, say, or rejection, or who can perform a so-called menial chore without fear of being lessened by it. It’s not needing a constant supply of approbation. It’s what people mean when they say, “S/he has no ego.”
When the institution of self is shaky – when a person is praise-dependent, or feels unworthy – that’s when it’s paramount to appear strong. Enter the ego staff, either to gin up bravado, or to churn out pre-emptive apologies; to create and shore up your appearance of invulnerability, or to tear you down before anyone else gets the chance to; to decline to admit being wrong, or to scour for new ways you can blame yourself; to attempt to control others, or to latch on to someone else; to chase away people who might get to know you too well.
Gauging your health may be as simple as checking your own maintenance program, for lack of a better term. When your view of yourself is clear, your instinct for self-preservation motivates you to take care of yourself, and/or the people around you. When your view of yourself is distorted or obstructed, that instinct is deployed for the sole purpose of maintaining everyone’s image of you – and, alas, to shooing scary self-knowledge away.
Dear Carolyn: My friend’s boyfriend broke up with her. It seems pretty clear from his actions that he does not want to get back together, but she is clinging to this possibility. Should I try to convince her it’s not likely? So far I’ve been trying to distract and not encourage her when she talks about him. – Va.
It’s not really your place to “convince” her of anything; after all, you don’t know the ex’s intent, you just know what you’ve seen and heard.
However, you can ask her, conversationally, what she has seen and heard: “Really? What has he done that has you thinking you’ll get back together?” Elicit facts, not hopes – that way, there’s a better chance her hopes will resemble those facts. Otherwise, you just do some waiting and hoping yourself.
I'm blogging from home today, while waiting for my computer to be fixed by our fine techs in the Spokane office. That means to I'm not listening to Scanner Traffic. ...
The Idaho Republican Party has announced four national speakers who will be featured at the upcoming state party convention in Nampa that runs this Thursday through Saturday: David Keene, Kimberley ...
Washington State forward Josh Hawkinson will join the Pac-12 men's basketball All-Star team as it travels to Australia in July for a series of exhibition games, including a pair of ...
RIVERS – Environmental groups are asking Gov. Jay Inslee to increase the summer time flows of the Spokane River, to improve recreation and to maintain the scenic falls in the ...