Think about egotistical people you know. You probably have a certain amount of tolerance for them, especially if you have a reason to stay engaged in some common activity. But, assuming that you view the word egotistic to be synonymous with arrogant, self-serving, haughty, etc., then it’s likely you will find yourself looking for ways to at least minimize the time you spend with such folks.
Now, on the other hand, consider someone whom you respect, admire, enjoy being with. These folks have egos too, but not the inflated kind. Oh, they probably err here and there occasionally; they might be guilty of manipulating a conversation to bring out a particular strength of theirs. Perhaps they boast once in a while. The point is, friends and co-workers who learn to keep the ego in check are usually much easier to be with.
The difference implied in the two personalities above reveals duality inside the mind. In other words, if a person decides to be considerate to others, to refrain from bragging too much, to avoid being egotistical, then there must be a part of that person’s mind that stands outside of that ego in order to make such decisions. That part of the mind uses experience, maturity and wisdom to hold the ego in its place. This higher part of “you” is not your ego. Hence, it follows, “You” are not your ego.1
The ego itself, if it had its own way, would boast to everyone and shamelessly consume all the shrimp set out at cocktail parties. If unchecked it is an unattractive partner for sure, but the ego is an important part of our make-up. It protects us, to our advantage, because without a balance of genuine ego energy we would lack assertiveness, be terribly shy and eventually end up with personalities resembling doormats. Children go through the “terrible two” years, graduate into the rebellious teen years, and thankfully become maturing adults for at least a few decades. Along the way, the child’s ego is shaped by patterns of ebb and flow. When the ‘flow’ portion of that cycle lets the ego get too big, some embarrassing (or worse) event will likely cause it to pop. But like an over-inflated balloon the ego doesn’t disappear when it pops. Rather, it falls back into a more solid core and starts a new, more learned cycle from which to appropriately serve its owner.
Thinking about the ego in such a dualistic way may be simplistic, but doing so can help us with mental conflict and improved decision-making. We can weigh important and complex choices by asking ourselves, “What does my ego want here?” and “What does my higher self see as the best option?” The answers won’t be the same.
Differences between views can be more satisfactorily negotiated to a goal of “win/win” when the parties involved see them as being affected by the differences between people and their egos.
1 Our language obviously agrees: the singular pronoun you is plural. (To say, “You is a nice guy” would be poor grammar!)