Ego versus Self-Esteem   3 comments

Carolyn Hax is the most knowledgable, straightforward and relevant advice columnist I have ever read.  Her column today in the Star Tribune has some powerful things to say about self-esteem: what is it and what it isn’t.

Dear Carolyn: What is the difference between ego and self-esteem? “Ego” seems to generate all sorts of problems, whereas everyone needs good “self-esteem.”


Carolyn says:

Ego and self-esteem are the bond between who you are and who you perceive yourself to be. When your ego (or self-esteem) is healthy, you have a realistic idea of your strengths and weaknesses. When your ego (or self-esteem) is unhealthy, there’s a breakdown in one of two directions — you have significantly more, or less, going for you than you think.

To assess your own health, think of ego as the security guard while self-esteem is the institution it protects. If the institution — the self — stands soundly on its own, built by hard work, a sense of purpose and a sense of accomplishment, then it doesn’t need to hide behind a huge security/ego system to protect it. The result is a person who can shrug off failure or rejection, or who can perform a so-called menial chore without fear of being lessened by it. It’s not needing a constant supply of approbation.

When the institution of self is shaky — when a person is praise-dependent, or feels unworthy — that’s when it’s paramount to appear strong. Enter the ego staff, either to gin up bravado, or to churn out pre-emptive apologies; to shore up your appearance of invulnerability, or to tear you down before anyone else gets the chance; to decline to admit being wrong, or to scour for new ways to blame yourself; to attempt to control others, to chase away people who might get to know you too well.

When your view of yourself is clear, your instinct for self-preservation motivates you to take care of yourself, and/or the people around you. When your view of yourself is distorted, that instinct is deployed for the sole purpose of maintaining everyone’s image of you — and to shooing scary self-knowledge away.


Posted October 20, 2008 by StPaulieGrrl in Mental Health

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3 responses to “Ego versus Self-Esteem

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  1. This is very interesting! Thank you for posting it.

  2. Carolyn Hax almost always brings up some point that makes me stop and think for awhile.

  3. I’ve marked her column. Thanks. 😀

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