Ego is not a dirty word

I have an ego. As a matter of fact, if you ever have the opportunity to sit and chat with me for any length of time beyond the initial pleasantries of making one's acquaintance, you will no doubt notice I have a fairly healthy ego. But that's a good thing. As far as I'm concerned, ego is not a dirty word.

Ego literally means the self, especially as distinct from the world and other selves, an appropriate pride in oneself; self-esteem. And the word self-esteem means pride in oneself; respect. So I'm sure you'd agree having a healthy ego is very important. Then why is it I'm constantly hearing people putting others down for having such large egos?

Is there an invisible preset limit to how much people are allowed to genuinely like themselves? To be confident, and proud of what they've done with their lives? To feel good about themselves? Or is it just more socially acceptable to walk with their heads bowed, never to acknowledge outwardly their hard-earned accomplishments, and to revere all those around them as more important than they? I don't think so, so why do you?

John Lennon (1940-80), the British rock musician and former Beatle, once said on The Tomorrow Show, that “If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or my music, then in that respect you can call me that… I believe in what I do, and I'll say it.”

It is completely natural to consider everything in the world, everything in the universe for that matter, as starting with you. You are the chosen center of the universe, and everything in it radiates outward from you. Everyone feels it. It's that natural. I mean, if you don't consider yourself to be the hub of your world, just what part of it are you?

Recently I had the pleasure of working the head table at a friend's open karate tournament, and like most tournaments I attend, I enjoyed seeing and chatting with many old friends and sparring partners. But on this particular day, I was also the recipient of numerous comments by several individuals who had observed this or that person's huge ego, as if this or that person's ego was a problem. “Look how he stands there.” “Look how she struts across the ring.” “Who does he/she this he/she is?” It was mind-boggling. I actually found myself anticipating the next complaint.

What I found absolutely amazing, aside from the fact all these people felt comfortable telling me their ego complaints, was that no two people complained about the same person. Every single person centered out as having a larger-than-life ego was somebody different. Black belt, brown belt, whatever. I mean the way it was adding up was that just about every person judging or competing that day had an ego problem. It was amazing!

Or do you think the ones with the problem were the complainers? Do you think his or her self-esteem might be so low that everyone else's appears so large by comparison? I'd venture to say yes. But don't get me wrong. I know that too much ego can also be a sign of low self-esteem. It really is a fine line, and one does have to find a balance. But then by whose scale do we judge where that fine line is?

Ego is one of the main ingredients behind what it takes to succeed at something, anything. Ego is what drives a professional athlete to rise to the top of his or her game and stay there. Ego is what gets a top rocker to the pinnacle of recording success, and it's ego that keeps him there. Ego is what drives a brown belt to know, not think, but know he's good enough to test for his black belt and pass. Ego is a good thing. So what's the problem? Could it be our belief system?

Okay you did it! You passed your grading and you were handed a brand new belt. And believe me, it doesn't matter one bit what color it is. From yellow belt to orange belt to green, blue, brown, black belt and beyond, you passed, and you have a right to feel proud of that accomplishment. You have the right to wear it with pride. You have the right to hold your head high without some jerk spouting off about your ego being inflated. So stop bowing your head and referring to your rank as “just a yellow belt or just an orange belt. Just a 1 st degree.” I hate the word “just”!

Someone literally hands you esteem, and as you tie it around your waist you're already qualifying your lack of it. You are what you are, what you are. Stop using the word “just” to describe anything in your life!

Respect your accomplishment and the work it took to attain it. Feel good about yourself. Brag a little maybe. Go ahead. You deserve it. I think every yellow page ad for martial arts clubs in the world say that by studying their system you'll gain self-confidence and self-esteem. What's funny is as soon as a student gets a little self-confidence and self-esteem, someone, maybe even his own instructor, “puts them in their place”, telling them they're still “just” this or “just” that, shooting them down. It's so sad.

I think you'll find that most people who put down those with healthy egos do it because they really don't have one of their own. If they can bring someone down to their level, even quietly behind their back, they feel they're somehow lifted up.

I'm sure we all would just love to wear our hair like that, wear clothes like that, walk like that and talk like that. But some of us don't because of what others might think. We're too introverted to express our flair for anything. We lack the self-confidence, the self-esteem, and the ego that would allow us to fly.

Remember this. No one ever shot down a plane while it was sitting on the tarmac. If you fly high, you can be sure some idiot, perhaps an idiot who himself has never flown, will try to shoot you down. For those with low self-esteem, it really is very uncomfortable being in the presence of people who think well of themselves, because it only serves to remind them of how badly they really do feel. In other words, those who lack genuine self-esteem feel small in your presence, and may feel the need to bring you down to their level.

So the next time someone comes up to you and complains that this or that person's ego is too big, rather than sneering in agreement, say to them, “Yeah. Isn't that great.” We should all aspire to feel great about ourselves.

I've always found it interesting how some people can see something good as being bad, or bad being good. I mean have you ever heard anyone complain about someone having too small an ego? Huh? What's up with that?

Anyway, till next time, stay sharp.

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