We mostly talk about the Ego in a negative way. If a person has a big Ego they are typically somebody who is too big for their shoes, too full of themselves. The Ego is the part of us that contains our conscious awareness, our thinking and acting, our defences. It makes judgements, makes sense of this world, processes information, contains reason and common sense. It also contains our identity, our understanding of who we are and who we want to be in this world. So it's really important to develop a strong and healthy Ego so that we know who we are and become able to be independent, go out into the world and build a good life.
If our Ego is too weak, for example because we didn't get enough support, love, encouragement or appreciation, we will find life difficult. We won't have a good feeling of who we are and what we want. We might feel inferior, wounded, angry or depressed and might constantly have to deal with inner conflict, guilt and self-doubt. It's especially important to help children and teenagers to develop a good, strong Ego by mirroring them in a positive way: "I think you're really good at this or that; I understand what you mean; that's a very interesting thought; you are a good child; you are intelligent and beautiful; I'm convinced that you can do this!" etc. If we beat them down time and again they will not be able to develop a strong sense of self and identity.
The Ego can cause problems if it is inflated, if we totally overestimate our abilities and our importance, if we think that we're better and "bigger" than others. An oversized Ego lacks substance; it's like a balloon, full of air. But it can cause as many problems if it is deflated, too small and weak. Then we won't be able to find our feet in this world and create loving, warm relationships or to stand up for ourselves. Only a robust and resilient Ego can be a good partner to our Inner Self from where creativity, intuition and spirituality come.
In later life we might find that our standing in the outer world is not what matters so much anymore, that we naturally start to turn inwards. Then we may feel that to have an opinion about everything loses its importance, that status and image aren't enough anymore, that we become more interested in insight and wisdom. But if we never had an Ego of the right size, if it always was too big or too small, life will be difficult, scary or empty. So don't be afraid of Ego-strength, of an Ego with substance. Without it we can't mature, we can't be strong, loving and happy; without it we can't live a good life.
If you find yourself relating to the issues in this article, counselling can help you to find out more about yourself and how to discover your own inner strength.
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About Judith Schuepfer-Griffin
My name is Judith, and I'm writing in the way I do because I would like to make psychological thinking more accessible for everyone. I have noticed that it often helps to create a context within which new ideas make more sense. With my articles I'm trying to create that context and hopefully also an enjoyable reading experience.