This essay is very unpolished and likely regret-able. Today I, once again, jump into the rabbit hole of my ego.
Is ego bad?
There are a lot of complexities baked into this type of question.
Well what is ego in the first place?
Ego, to me, is your sense of self. Perhaps the more technical definition looks like this: “ego is the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.” There are several other takes on the ‘role of ego.’
“Your ego is usually constructed of a name, a personality, and a story. Within this personal story is a collection of memories, beliefs, impressions and sensations about who “you are,” where “you came from,” what “you’re good and bad at,” what “you’ve experienced,” and on, and on, and on, ad infinitum.”Source
“Having an ego” is usually associated with arrogance and is a term used to describe someone who thinks they are better than others. Yet this is only one part of the ego. In fact, it is possible to have some positive self-esteem and some negative self-esteem – we are aware of these different beliefs at different times. The negative beliefs about our self make up our negative self-esteem, while our positive thoughts comprise our positive self-esteem. Together, the negative and positive esteem forms our ego.Source
Society places this semi-unique wrapper on “the topic of ego” that makes it challenging to talk about, be honest about, and debate. Is there too much ego in the world? Should we be more detached from our egos? Is ego bad?
While I do not think this is a topic I am ready to neatly synthesize into a single blog post, I do have thoughts.
The most relevant one that I have been thinking a lot about lately is that ego is humanity’s superpower, and we should stop trying to suppress it.
I wrote about the power of ego in an essay about craft:
I think it is important to recognize the power of ego. Ego makes us human. Ego is our superpower. The ability to be selfish and be proud is immensely important. And while the “trend,” I think, among good product people is to be really good at removing ego from decision making…I would argue we need more of a balance. We need more craft. We need more bold decisions that are not entirely rational. Numbers do not build products…people do. And people use products (for the most part) too!
I think this applies both broadly, to how society is shaped, and also very specifically, to how I make decisions and think to myself.
Importantly, as I say in my excerpt above, I do think we need a balance. I think people really good at harnessing their ego, balancing their ego, and understanding their ego are the ones capable of doing great things. But I want to emphasize is that there is a dichotomy and that we should stop suppressing our ego in its entirety. Rather, we should harness it. Ego is not our enemy. Our inability to truly understand it is.
On a broad level, I think modern society is built-in-a-way that very well crushes people’s ego before they even have a chance to dream big and let it explode.
The school system. Social media. Job recruiting. Working out at a gym. Those types of things are not built for the individual. They are built for the system. It is not that *we are the system.* Rather, we make the system run. We are the cogs, spinning.
No one believes in I. “There is no I in team.”
Again, I am not saying we need more selfish people. We need more self-efficacy. We need more craft and care and personalization. We need more people who believe in more I.
We need more opinions and people who think they can irrationally accomplish things. We need more team players, agreed. But that is not mutually exclusive from wanting more people to start things in the first place.
This essay will come back to bite me unless I make this clear: I do not think working with selfish people is good or rewarding.
BUT..perhaps this controversial opinion may hold: the world needs more ego, not less.
We need more people believing they can do things, regardless of the rest of society.
Is this an immature thought? Does this ask for selfish arrogant people? I hope not. I hope we can harness our egos for good, and become super-humans.
Also published on Medium.