What Is A Healthy Ego?
I'm not sure how common this is, but I have always thought of myself as two different people. I have always imagined that there are two individuals that characterize my soul and the average of those two people are my personality. Both of these individuals share a common goal, to be fulfilled and better off, but they disagree on how to do it. I'm not sure which of these characters is my ego, but I'm fairly certain one of them is.
As I back squatted at the gym this morning, I listened to a podcast about ego. The man speaking was talking about authoritarian ego - the type of ego that demands and instructs with fury and fear. I was quite struck by this; it was instantly apparent to me that I have a strong propensity to be a dictator to myself.
Just like a dictator, I too like to use fear tactics: If you don't make more money, no woman will ever love you. You need to smile more or people aren't going to think you're charismatic. I also like to use anger. Way to go moron, you blew it with that girl! You need to start acting more confident. You call yourself a man, but you're too afraid to quit your job?
This side of me - this authoritarian ego is basically a bully that I eat, sleep, and wake up with. Somehow, I have just sort of let that happen without much question. The guy in the podcast went on to talk about ego really becoming a problem when it believes everyone is out to get it. That mentality is what energizes a fear mongering, emotionally charged, irrational tyrant, and many of us live in service to one in our own subconscious.
So is there any such thing as healthy ego? I think there is. As strange as it seemed to type out that I feel like I am two individuals having a dialogue about myself, and what they think of him, this isn't as uncommon of a thought as it might appear. We have all heard phrases along the lines of, I don't really like myself. You can't love another until you love yourself. Those aren't uncommon ideas. And don't they imply that there are two persons inside of you? One that needs liking, and one that needs to do the liking.
Those are the internal characters we all have to deal with: One that needs to be loved, let's call him/her 'A', and one that is responsible for making the first one feel that way Let's call him/her 'B'. I like to think of B as a parent, wanting the best for A, but perhaps struggling to make the right moves.
We have all seen good and bad parents. Good parents usually lead by example; They pain an eloquent picture of a good life by living one themselves, and they teach their children what they believe to be right, while leaving it up to the kids to decide if they agree or not. Kids that are raised as such are often independent, emotionally healthy, productive, and successful.
Bad parents will usually employ the 'do as I say, not as I do' mentality. They hold their kids to impossibly high standards, with little to no grace or forgiveness. Their punishments are harsh, and their words are rigid. Children raised like this tend to grow up co-dependent, given that they have never felt approved of, extremely self conscious, and afraid. In better case scenarios, children raised this way end up successful in a worldly sense, but deeply unfulfilled.
In most cases, I would argue that both kinds of parents actually want the same for their kids: the best. They just have different methods of trying to make that happen. Our egos are exactly the same.
A healthy ego, or a healthy 'B' is a like a good parent. It acquires wisdom and knowledge, and shows it to its respective 'A'. A healthy ego doesn't demand perfection or impose harsh punishments. It doesn't praise it's 'A' for superficial things like physical appearance, monetary success, or social status, but rather for things like diligence, honesty, and hard work. A healthy ego is patient, and understanding. It's the friend you need and want.
Developing a healthy ego is a life long journey. It comes down to a lot of humility, seeking, and forgiveness, but it absolutely exists. Once your 'A' and 'B' start trusting one another, your 'A' trusting 'B' to love it unconditionally, and your 'B' trusting 'A' to do it's due diligence, you are nearly unstoppable. It's a cohesion we can and should all strive for. So ego is not the enemy (sorry Ryan Holiday), but rather an all too often misunderstood and misguided friend.