What is Ego?
When you are a serious student of the arts, sooner or later you hear about “Ego” (with a capital E to differentiate it from ego with a small e, as the word was used by Freud). It isn’t typically a compliment to hear, “Oh, she’s got an enormous Ego!”
What, exactly, is that? It’s hard to define precisely.
If you think of Ego as being very self-involved, that’s a good place to start. Someone with a big Ego is easily offended or hurt. You can give it other parameters, too. An Egotist is someone who tends to think he or she is much better or more important than everyone else. They are smarter, they have better ideas, a better position in life. They have the coolest or most important people for friends. They have more expensive clothes, they go to better restaurants and they go to only the best places for vacation. In general, they are laboring under the notion that whatever it is they deem as being important (people, places, things, events) is better than what other people have and that is very important.
With our work, this can mean they think they sing better or are better actors or dancers, directors, conductors, choreographers or authors. Sometimes they are much better but not always. The part that makes it not so nice is when the person is invested in this idea as if it is “who they are”. It is “what they live out of” as a state of their own consciousness. They don’t necessarily realize they have this attitude, although sometimes you would think it would be glaringly obvious.
Upside Down Ego
This can work in reverse, too. There are many people who are always on the down side of life. Everything is bad. They have chronic health issues, they are broke, they have no success, their relationships are difficult, they struggle with everything all the time. Rarely, if ever, are they OK. You can try to cheer them up but it rarely has any effect. If you pay them a compliment, 5 minutes later they are insecure, not believing what you said. 5 hours later they don’t even know you said it. They are draining to be around, just like the people who always think they are better than you.
Somewhere in between is self-esteem. Self-esteem is knowing you are good because you have tested this out. You trust you can do your job professionally and well because you have life experience behind you that says you can, or because others in the profession have acknowledged that. Your self-esteem isn’t based on being better than other people or worse. You don’t look outside yourself to compare yourself to others in order to know who you are, plus or minus. You know you can face a challenge or a failure and be OK. You know you can trust yourself to be honest, open, diligent and flexible. It’s not that you are perfect, on the contrary, it’s that you know all human beings have flaws. You maybe work on yours to get them to be less onerous, but you know that your quirks are there and you allow for that.
Not Stuck In “Ego”?
When you know that getting the job done is more important than how you feel about the job, you are in a good place and you have a healthy ego. When you realize that life is not always about your feelings and is sometimes unfair, it requires determination and patience, when you know that you will have ups and downs, but that your true nature can’t be touched by any of that, you are in a good place about yourself. You may not stay there all the time (unless you are a saint) but if you live there most of the time, consider that you are not stuck in “Ego” and be grateful for that!
In The End, What Is Ego?
It’s up to you to decide. If you aren’t sure and think you might be stuck in some aspect of it that doesn’t work, try gratitude as a remedy. Be grateful for everything all the time. It works.