John Bentley - Is there anything wrong with a big ego?
Delivered 16 Jun 2004
  1. What must we do to further our self-interest?
  2. Or, to ask the same thing, What must a person do so that their life goes best?
  3. In order to answer that many issues need to be addressed.
  4. One issue is to think about the nature of the self and specifically .... Ego.
  5. Is there anything wrong with a big ego? Yes. Lots.
  6. Use of Terms
    1. The word "Ego" has at least three different meanings as it is used in at least three different contexts.
    2. Not
      1. One context is the Freudian. A freudian analysis of self seperates the psyche into: id; ego; and superego.
      2. Another context where the term "Ego" is used is in the problem of personal identity.
        1. I don't mean the problem that teenagers are alleged to face of choosing, say between seeing onself as ferral, goth, rapper, or whatever.
        2. I mean the classic problem of trying to understand what makes you the same person you are today as you were a week or 10 years ago.
        3. In the personal identity context "Ego" might just serve as a synonym for the "I" or "Self".
      3. Then there is the slang context.
        1. It is in the slang context we might say that someone has "a big ego."
    3. Is
      1. Let us consider not the Freudian context, nor the personal identity context, but the slang context.
      2. For it is the slang context, the slang understanding of self, that best serves the question "What must we do to further our self-interest?"
        1. Bad
          1. Consider a phrase like "she has a big ego"
          2. Generally that's used to judge someone as NOT serving their own interests.
          3. So there is a slang use of Ego signifying condemnation.
        2. Good
          1. There is also a slang use of Ego signifying commendation.
          2. As in "she has a healthy Ego"
          3. And that would be to judge someone AS serving their own interests.
      3. Good Ego and Bad Ego
        1. Instead of talking of "big" or "healthy" ego let's use "Bad" V "Good"
        2. So, let there then be two terms "Bad Ego" and "Good Ego" that correspond to these slang concepts.
        3. For the remainder I will explore what "Bad Ego" could mean and leave "Good Ego" entirely up for discussion.
  7. There are at least 4 commonly recognized attitudes that we might identify as types of "Bad Ego"
    1. Desire to rank self against others: to rank or to compete.
      1. Imagine I am a pumpkin Farmer.
      2. And I enter a pumpkin Farming Competition to see who has grown the biggest pumpkins.
      3. My concern to produce the biggest pumpkin might make way for a concern to prove my superiority over others.
      4. "My pumpkin is bigger than all of yours. I'm the best."
      5. Others seeing this upon my parade on the podeum might say: "What a goose. He compete's just to boast his own ego."
    2. Desire for others to judge you well: to be liked.
      1. Imagine i'm at the bar and I see X and think ...
      2. I approach and say Hi, ... I farm pumpkins
      3. Her friends arrive and intervene.
      4. If X even bothers to waste more time on me it might be only in describing me to her friends.
      5. "That guy tried to impress me in virtue of his pumpkin farming, what a goose, what an enormous ego he has."
      6. The attempt to impress another is an expression of a desire that they judge you well, that they like you.
    3. Desire to be the centre of attention.
      1. Someone might be at a party and get so fidgety that they are not being attended to that they continually cut others off to express themselves.
      2. The slang slur that captures this type of Bad Ego might be: "Hogging the limelight"
    4. Self-Esteem
      1. There is a 4th type of Bad Ego even more insidious than the previous.
      2. More insidious as there has been, unfortunately, amongst some the recommendation to strive for and aquire it.
      3. The recommendation is to aquire: Self-Esteem.
      4. I take Self-Esteem to be, obtaining an emotional satisfaction from judging ones skill, achievement, or character.
        1. An emotional buzz from judging oneself.
        2. Note that unlike the previous it is meant to be obtained independently of any thought about others. That's what makes it a self estimation.
        3. The insidious recommendation is, that if you were the last person in the universe, you should be able to say: "Wow. I'm great because I my farming technique produces big pumpkins."
        4. This is to boast self-esteem.
        5. Some even recommend aquiring self-esteem quite regardless of any skill, strength of character, or achievement.
        6. That is, the recommendation is to chant to yourself, some sort of consoling affirmation, as in:
          1. "I am great, I am great, even though my crop was late."
  8. Bad Ego is at root:
    1. These 4 attitudes, that we might identify as "Bad Ego": To rank the self against others, to be judged by others, to be the centre of others attention, to judge oneself, of themselves, are harmless.
    2. Of themselves they may even serve one's interest.
      1. So to rank oneself by competing in the pumpkin farming contest can be an opportunity to share pumpkin growing ideas. It could also serve as a motivator for your pumpkin growing efforts.
      2. To seek the jugements of yourself from others can be a source of valueable information that helps you to improve.
      3. To be the centre of someone's attention, however briefly, is necessary to express yourself. Expressing yourself is necessary to sharing ideas.
      4. Judging onself, can be a mere critical examination of one's character, skill or achievement. This is vital for self improvement.
    3. Either of these 4 attitudes need to be coupled with something else in order to be counter to self-interest and so deserving of the label "bad ego."
    4. They need to be coupled, I offer, with a desire to feel significant, special, or important.
    5. If that's right then it is most useful to think of Bad Ego as, at base, a desire to feel significant, special, or important.
    6. From now on I'll just use the word "important" where we could just as well use "Significant" or "special".
    7. So It is useful to define Bad Ego as either
      1. The desire to feel important by ranking ourselfs against others.
      2. The desire to feel important by having others like us.
      3. The desire to feel important by being the centre of attention.
      4. The desire to feel important through judging oneself.
    8. What's wrong with feeling important?
    9. Seeking the feeling of importance is counter to self-interest as it distracts from a full participation in worthwhile experiences.
    10. We can examine this claim in reverse.
      1. If we think about the most worthwhile of experiences we might see that there is no place for regarding the self as important.
      2. There maybe no place for regarding the self in any way.
      3. When you are having worthwhile experiences, those that are full and satisfying, you do, as the cliche describes, lose yourself in the moment.
      4. If we think of the some terrific experience:
        1. Say surfing, fucking, great conversation, or reading and writing about a subject of interest.
        2. When immersed in these we stop regarding ourselves and wholey and soley take in the experience.
  9. Is it possible to get rid of bad ego?
    1. Bad Ego, getting a big head, is an enormously seductive vice and possibly requires a constant vigil.
    2. Yet.
    3. Most people, most of the time, seem to have gotten rid of Bad Ego. It would seem they have either an explicit or intuitive understanding of it, and quash it.
  10. How can we ensure don't fall prey to the vice of bad ego?
    1. One way is just to ensure we are not motivated by a desire to feel important (or significant, or special) but motivated to have good experiences.
  11. Here is the summary.
    1. In answering "What must we do to further our self-interest?" there are many things we need to consider.
    2. One useful consideration is "Ego" as used in the slang sense.
    3. The slang use of "Ego" designates something negative or postive: what we might call "Bad Ego" or "Good Ego"
    4. Is there anything wrong with "bad ego"? or a "big ego" as it's usually called? Yes.
    5. Bad Ego, as defined, is counter to self-interest.
    6. One simple way to avoid suffering from bad ego is to ensure our actions are not based on a desire to feel important.
    7. Aiming, instead, at good experiences, is to serve ones interest.
    8. Aiming, instead, at good experiences, helps make one's life go best.