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ego

 
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The word ego is one of those that gets tossed around messing do many things to different people that I think it's just not useful.

I think the concept that people are complaining about when they talk about someone's ego being big is vanity.

Self-respect is maybe a more useful word than the other more pleasant concept that people mean when they say ego.
 
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I think there are basically three things meant when somebody says " that guy's got a huge ego!"

1. That guy seems to know a lot about something. He seems very confident in that knowledge and he's willing to put his reputation on the line for what he knows. What guts!

2. I'm intimidated by that guy's knowledge set and confidence so I'll take a cheap shot by calling him names that typically get under people's skin. Maybe that will distract him long enough for me to figure out what do do next.

3. What a cocky douch-bag!


Now... as far as egotistical people are concerned, I give them a chance to prove that they are worth the frustration of dealing with the ego. Some are, some aren't.

Some time ago there was a discussion about "Would you rather be right or have friends?" This might fit in here someplace too. People who fall into that first category above are often willing to make social sacrifices in the name of accomplishing their goals. On the other hand, douch-bags tend to alienate people because they have false confidence in what they know. The end result is just about the same for both people, except one person actually has some knowledge worth knowing.

I think "ego" has become a socially acceptable way of calling a wise person an "asshole". A way of diminishing somebody's ideas without having to refute them. I some cases it's an effective way to shut down an idea or thought. To keep it from spreading.
 
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ego is all about you, not what you know or what you have accomplished.

self-confidence is a positive thing, as is being knowledgeble and even wise.
being egotistical implies a focus on one's self, rather than one's knowledge and experience.

 
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The problem with the term ego is that everyone has a definition of it, so it becomes a bit of a meaningless term. It means one thing to psychologists, another to buddhists, another to new agers and another thing in pop-culture. I am a student of buddhism, but avoid using the term 'ego' when possible, because people are likely to misinterpret based on their own understanding of that word.

Buddhism (not unlike permaculture) is based on the practice of observation, primarily of the observation of one's own mind. Classical buddhist texts describe the internal processes that lead us from having a body and sensations through to the conclusion that we have some sort of stable self that is separate from the rest of the world (ego). They also speak of a process of self-reification, which is a sort of confirmation bias - we believe we have a separate self and our mind reconfirms it second by second.

It's not that we don't exist, it's just that, in the buddhist worldview, our 'self' isn't quite as solid, separate and permanent as we tend to think. Where do I end and the world begins? Can "I" really exist as an independent phenomena?

It can be compared to an ecological worldview: Where does the plant end and the soil microbiota begin? Hard to say. Even in our own bodies, bacteria far outnumber our own cells. They are not just in our gut, but in our brains and everywhere else. Evidence suggest the bacteria exert significant effect on our thinking and behavior. (ex: toxmoplasma gondii, the crazy cat lady bacteria).

With ecology, it's quite a problem for us to isolate anything from anything else, and obsession with separating this from that has resulted in the precarious gambit of agriculture and civilization as we know it.

This is, perhaps, the central point of buddhism: You can't separate this (self) from that (other) - and the full catastrophe proceeds from the mistaken belief that you can. The belief in a separate, solid, permanent self (ego) creates human suffering in the same way pulling the cow out of it's pasture and sticking it on a feedlot creates suffering for everyone involved.

Albert Einstein summed up almost the entirety of buddhism in one succinct paragraph:

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest-a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.



As for calling out PW or anybody else on their 'ego', I don't see the point. Here's my favorite quote on egotists from Ambrose Bierce:

"An egotist is a person of low taste - more interested in himself than in me."





 
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At an event and hearing a lot of people on stages talking about ego in the negative while pointing at others.

I was on a panel and one of the other panelists mentioned "healthy ego" - I thought this phrase reflected really well on that person.  It is the first time I think I have heard someone talk about ego in the positive when speaking of others.

Last night we talked for a long time about ego.  We came up with an office scenario where somebody named "ben" had "too much ego" and it was quite the problem for the whole office.  And it was suggested that something should be done so that the volume know on ben's ego is turned down.

I took a really strong stand on this.   I suggested that there were 12 other people in the office - and they all agree that ben has an ego problem, while the rest of the group does not.  Further, I suggested that there were 113 business items that needed to be worked through and the 12 people were on one side, and ben was on the other side.  

I suggested that there were 2 problems:

12 people were focusing on ben's psychological health rather than the business needs they were supposed to be focusing on.  All 12 people were attempting to have things go their way using fallacy rather than doing the hard work on focusing on these 113 issues.  Specifically, they were convinced that they were right because of the bandwagon fallacy and the ad hominem fallacy.

It was then suggested that ben was overly intimidating and hostile in the workplace.  If that is the case, then I think it wise for the 12 to conspire to be professionals that focus on logic and reason while keeping a cool head - let ben lose his shit in front of a manager and get fired.  But if the 12 use fallacy instead of logic and reason and ben sticks to logic and reason, then ben should be promoted.

From the discussion I think it came out that the word "ego" was being used to say that ben had 47 units of knowledge, but his language suggests that ben has 97 units of knowledge.  In other words, ben is not as knowledgeable as ben thinks he is.

We agreed last night that a lot of this is relative and subjective.  But I was beginning to wonder if it might be reflective. If a person points at ben and says "ego problem" might it be a universal truth that ben would have the exact same opinion of the person with the finger?

Maybe the word "ego" is an indicator of a difference of knowledge set?
 
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There are so many meanings of the word 'ego', that it's almost impossible to talk about in a meaningful way without defining it first.  

I prefer the neutral meaning of ego which is, "a sense of self".  

My sense of self is pretty strong.  I've been through some things in my life that really put things in perspective, consequently, I know what I value, I know who I want to be in this world, and I most importantly, I know where my boundaries are.  There are people in this world that call this egotistical, but I don't agree.


Egotistical, in my experience, means that the person is trying to build up their self-worth at the expense of others.  Maybe they are constantly putting people down, or maybe they feel the need to brag about how great they are.  Perhaps they need constant reassurance from an authority figure or when they share information, they feel the need to list their credentials.  Possibly, they spend their time talking about all the things they 'deserve' and spend so much effort discussing the 'respect they've earned' that they never put any effort into actually earning said respect.  From the outside, this appears that these people have an inflated sense of self-worth, but I suspect the opposite is true.  It's like they are trying to prove to the world that they aren't worthless and this is the only way they know how.  I think this kind of behaviour is very damaging to social interaction.

In the post above, Paul talks about Ben and the 12 others.  I think both sides are acting egotistical to some extent.  Perhaps Ben is being insensitive?  I don't know the details, but perhaps his manner of presenting the information is one that constantly boosts his reputation more than it is useful to the company.  Maybe he's always putting people down with snide comments.  Maybe he really knows his stuff and the problem isn't fully with him - but knowing one's stuff isn't enough in a setting where one has to work with others, so maybe his problem is not taking the time to imagine that other people can't keep up with him and maybe he needs to phrase things differently depending on the audience.  The 12 others are obviously being egotistical in the expectation that the other person SHOULD change and the hubris that they are the ones to do it.  The 12 are foolish to imagine their boss doesn't notice what they get up to.  I think that both behaviours create poison in the workplace and need to go.  

If I was their boss, I would promote Sally for not engaging in these stupid mind games.  Sally comes to work early, stays late, gets the work done, presents the information in a clear and succinct way - so much so that she is almost invisible to the gossipy 12.  Maybe she volunteers for extra tasks because it gives her an opportunity to try out new skills.  Maybe she acts in a way that shows she feels competent with what she knows how to do and yet willing to learn new things.  To me, this behaviour is a well-developed sense of self.  Her ego is just right.


 
paul wheaton
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I think that if a person is going to point to somebody and say "ego problem" then the only possible legitimate license to utter it is if the person with the finger is free of any ego problem by the interpretation of anybody.  But if that is really the case, I think such a person would not feel the need to point to another and say "ego problem."

 
pollinator
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@Paul W: "....the only possible legitimate license to utter it is if the person with the finger is free of any ego problem by the interpretation of anybody.  But if that is really the case, I think such a person would not feel the need to point to another and say "ego problem."

It's been my observation that those most obsessed with pointing the finger and chiding "ego problem" will be the first ones to behave in the same manner when they get put into a position of power.  Seen it happen solidly in 4 cases of management in current and past employment.  What may be worth defining here, and it's something for which I did not find a satisfactory answer elsewhere on the internet, is the difference between 'egotistical' and 'narcissistic'.

Seems to me that every gathering of animals, human or otherwise, has leaders, either self-appointed or chosen by a consensus of the population.  In more egalitarian social units of humans, the one chosen as leader is often the one demonstrating wisdom combined with generosity.  
 
r ranson
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What if we combine "ego problem" with the definition I use, "sense of self".

A person has a problem with their sense of self?
Does that mean that they aren't the person they feel they should be?  To me, that sounds like their actions aren't matching their values.  There is a disconnect between what they do and who they want to be.  Maybe they feel trapped?  

Or maybe "ego problem" is as you say, words we use to put other people down - Putting people down is also a symptom of what I see as an 'ego problem'  (translation: with this definition, I agree with you, Paul).

 
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Can a person point and say "ego problem" without having an ego problem?
 
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Can one be human without some degree of ego problem? (not talking Jesus Christ or Dalai Lama here, but "just folks")
 
r ranson
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paul wheaton wrote:Can a person point and say "ego problem" without having an ego problem?



It depends on what we mean by "ego problem".

From the meanings we use in this thread, is it even possible for a human not to have an ego problem?
 
John Weiland
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Just adding another concept to this discussion which is the secure/insecure personality type.  If the ego can be roughly considered the sense of self, then one can have a secure or insecure sense of self.  I think it's commonly held that narcissists have an insecure sense of self that must be compensated for by an outward display of command and self-righteousness.  Again, how this relates to egotism, I'm not quite sure.  As the ego will have the self-reflective capacity to conceptualize mortality, there will tend to be some modicum of insecurity at this notion.  Nevertheless, the Gandhi types seem to be characterized by low insecurity and an ability to apply acceptance even to the low level of insecurity that they may possess.
 
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Can a person point and say "ego problem" without having an ego problem?



Yes.  I come from the horse world where there are some serious ego problems and you don't have to think you're anything special to identify when you're dealing with one of these people.  

To me, a person has an ego problem when they are

a) so self-assured in their own rightness they start failing to take the time to accurately assess a situation that they are giving advice on;
b) when provided with information that challenges their rightness, they refuse to incorporate that information and assume that the other person has given then bad information; or
c) they are so self-assured in their own rightness that they belittle, berate, or often scream at others.

In the case of horse trainers, they'll use violence against an animal instead of checking whether their training is correct or being willing to learn further.  They make themselves really easy to spot.
 
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the hidden underlaying issues in all this is how our society mistakenly understands POWER as abuse, as domination.
and that people are taught to both want that and fear/hate that, the distorted form of power =abuse.

the weird twist is that - this isnt true power, but the opposite,  as pointed out earlier here - it's insecurity, its weakness, its fear.
true empowerment seeks to empower others, always, i strongly believe this is a truth.

and how people are afraid of their own power...what's that quote again ? about not being afraid of one's darkness but of one's own light?
that would fit here.
 
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Well, I am dragging this up from the grave because narcissism has been a main focus of my life recently and narcissism and ego are often wrongly combined. Narcissism is often equated with too much ego. However, in reality I have found through research and experience it's two different things. Narcissism is a lack of emotional responsibility. This leads to a sort of two-year-old (maybe less??) sense of self and acknowledgement and respect for others. An emotion such as jealousy isn't acknowledged and put in it's place, instead it is the reality for the narcissist. The narcissist may then say the person they are jealous of is egocentric and self-promoting,  et cetra with no realization that they are emotionally projecting. Because of their emotional disability, they will treat people as pawns for their own will, not realizing that people have real feelings of their own. They have trouble with close relations and shy away from them, often mistreating those closest to them without any realization that they are doing so. They often have a huge amount of insecurity and will have odd emotional responses, like adult tantrums. A narcissist may be an egocentric person because of their emotional disability, but someone called  "egocentric" may simply be a normal person recieving jealousy from a narcissist. In my experience,  a normal person exposed to regular narcissist abuse where they are called " egocentric" "selfish" "self centered", etc. may internalize the ideas that they need to adjust their "ego". However,  that's like saying you need to change your eye color. Ego centers itself naturally if you cultivate self insight and emotional awareness/responsibility.

If you respect others thoughts, will, and opinions, know where your emotions end and reality begins and can acknowledge your emotions,  then your probably not a narcissist. Of course,  a narcissist may have no idea they aren't fitting those categories, but I am thankfully not a narcissist, so I don't know for sure what one thinks. In summary,  I'd say rather than focusing on "ego" or "humility", if you want to not be a bad person, focus on cultivating mutual relationships where emotions, will, and ideas are safely expressed and acknowledged.

To bring it back to Paul. I am not close with you and I'm not a psychologist. However, I would find it hard to believe that a narcissist would create forums where the gentle people are to be acknowledged and allowed to thrive and opinions other than yours, sometimes contrary to yours are allowed to exist. I have also heard you admit your feelings and mistakes publically in talks. Maybe all the Paul lovin' you get or the changes you made to the world get to your head sometime. Maybe all the negative voices thrown at you throughout your life have cause you to black out on some important messages, but I would be surprised if it was anything more than that.



 
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I think usually when there's an accusation of too much ego, it means that the speaker has made some negative personal judgements and they want to present that information in the context of the other person having some character flaw. So they can blither on about how we need to have less ego, but in reality it's a preamble to a personal attack.

For me, it's similar to when I hear namaste. I know it's not going to be good , so I just wait to see what comes out next.

It was recently revealed to me, that the reason I married my wife, is because her age relative to mine, gives me a great deal of ego gratification. This person has never met my wife or observed us together. But my relationship is nothing more than an ego trip. Good to know. I'm glad that the lady telling me this, told me so bluntly. Now I know exactly how much stock to put in everything she says, from now on.
 
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