Is it possible to be confident without an ego?
People often think that confidence goes hand in hand with an inflated ego.
Some people fear that if they become more confident they will have an inflated sense of self that may be off-putting.
The reality is that confidence and ego are two entirely separate things and that it is, in fact, possible to be confident without an ego.
That being said, there is still a relationship between confidence and ego. But, it is entirely possible to be confident without being bombastic or egoistic.
The Relationship between Confidence and Ego
Before we look at the key differences between confidence and ego, it is important to first realize what these terms mean.
What Is “Confidence”?
Confidence refers to being secure in yourself. This is the ability to have faith in your capabilities and stems from a high level of self-worth.
Confident people have conviction in who they are and what they do.
They have a growth mindset and believe that they can improve and be better.
They are not put down by others’ perceptions of them because they know and appreciate who they are as people.
This is not to say that confident people have zero insecurities or that they do not have an inner critic.
Rather, they learn to accept their insecurities and can silence their inner critic when needed.
They also count on intrinsic motivation and rely less on extrinsic motivation or external motivating factors such as approval or praise.
Confident people also have the ability to control their emotions.
They can take a compliment when because they trust in themselves and they are able to take credit when they achieve success.
What Is “Ego”?
The ego, on the other hand, rather relies on high self-esteem. The term “ego” was first coined by Sigmund Freud in 1923.
The ego, in a general sense, refers to the way we look at ourselves.
It has less to do with seeking approval from within and rather needs approval from others.
The ego operates out of self-interest and seeks out situations to be proven right.
It needs constant validation to flourish and is resistant to anything that opposes it.
The ego relies on a sense of self-importance and often allows us to ignore those parts of ourselves that may be clear to others.
People with an inflated ego often command a discussion or take over a room.
They need to be heard above all else and may hinder the free flow of conversation and ideas in order to assert their self-importance.
They are resistant to feedback that counteracts their self-beliefs and craves validation to enhance their sense of self-importance.
So what are the key differences between having an ego and being confident?
The biggest difference lies in the fact that the ego seeks validation and approval from external factors whereas confidence is driven by internal factors.
Confidence is the internal awareness and acceptance of one’s abilities, whereas the ego refers to a sense of self-importance that needs to be constantly validated by others.
A confident person can accept criticism and feedback and use it to improve themselves whereas an egotistical person will be resistant to any feedback that opposes their views of themselves.
Confident people take credit where it is due and can take a backseat when needed.
The ego flourishes on accolades and praise and needs it to thrive.
Confidence means you carry yourself with determination and grace and that you can balance talking and listening.
The ego often wants to take over a conversation in order to ensure that they, above all others, are being heard and validated.
Is Having an Ego Bad?
Having an ego is not in itself bad. Everyone has an ego. The problem comes in when you have an inflated ego or a big ego.
The ego plays a big role in determining who we are and how we connect to the world. It is an important part of our self-worth and self-esteem.
We use the ego as a mechanism for navigating our innermost desires.
But, because it is based on desire, the ego lacks substance. It is self-importance without self-assurance and needs validation from others.
The ego will go far to be validated, which is why having an inflated ego can be detrimental to your health and social relationships.
Having a big ego may mean you overestimate your abilities and will not assist you in achieving your goals in life.
It also means that you will use people as means to an end to receiving the validation you so desperately crave.
Questions To Ask Yourself
So, if we all have an ego, how can we know if it is out of control? How do we know if our ego is in check or out of control?
To determine this, we must first ask two important questions.
Does Your Ego Control Your Behavior?
If someone has an inflated ego, it means that their actions are driven and controlled by their egos. But how do we know that our behavior is controlled by our egos?
Firstly, people whose behavior is controlled by their egos always need to be right. They hate losing and always need to win an argument.
These types of people also struggle to accept criticism or feedback, even from their partners or loved ones.
They may become jealous of other people’s success or sulk when they do not win or succeed.
When the ego controls behavior there is also a lack of accountability and people may often blame others for what went wrong in their own lives.
They also talk about themselves, constantly and are less interested in what others have to say.
Ego-driven people also like to compare themselves to others of a lesser social status in order to validate their own sense of self-importance.
Is Your Ego “In Check”?
If your ego is “in check” it means that you can control it. This means that you can listen to others and appreciate their input without getting defensive.
It is also listening to others and taking an interest in their lives and not talking about yourself incessantly.
Controlling your ego suggests that you can allow others to succeed without feeling jealous.
Or you can accept when you are wrong, when you lose or when you don’t succeed.
You also take responsibility for when things do not work out and do not resort to blaming others.
We all have egos but we need to “leave them at the door” in order to flourish in social situations.
Leaving your ego at the door means entering a room and not allowing your sense of self-importance dominate your behavior.
When you act in this way, you rely on internal validation and not external validation to build healthy self-esteem.
Focus on Building Self-Esteem, Not Ego
So, if ego relates to self-importance, where does self-esteem come in? Well, self-esteem is actually the opposite of ego.
Self-esteem refers to someone’s trust and confidence in their own capabilities.
There is an inverse relationship between the two where an increase in self-esteem leads to a smaller ego.
This is because self-esteem derives from a healthy concept and is correlated with being confident.
Self-esteem is a quality that “down-to-earth” people have. This is why it is important to cultivate self-esteem as opposed to ego.
Self-esteem is an inner knowing and belief in oneself and often goes hand in hand with confidence.
Cultivating self-esteem means cultivating confidence but cultivating ego means building an inflated sense of self.
Self-esteem means that you have a good sense of self-worth, but not to the detriment of others.
So, what if you have low self-esteem? People with low self-esteem struggle to validate and trust their own capabilities, self-worth, and sense of self.
People with low self-esteem inevitably affect those around them, often to their detriment.
For example, research shows that if one partner in a relationship has low self-esteem, this can negatively affect both partners.
Other research has also found that self-esteem is positively correlated with career aspirations and career success.
So, self-esteem plays a critical role in maintaining social relationships and other factors of social development.
Self-Esteem and Ego
So if there is an inverse relationship between self-esteem and ego, does that mean someone with low self-esteem has a big ego. Well, sort of.
This is where the distinction between fragile and secure self-esteem comes in. Someone with an inflated ego has fragile self-esteem.
So self-esteem is present but largely dependent on validation from other external factors for its survival.
Secure self-esteem is the type of self-esteem that is not associated with a big ego or inflated sense of self.
Having secure self-esteem means being validated and secure in your own belief in yourself, despite external factors.
People with fragile self-esteem may expect impediments in work-life and personal success, emotional and mental health, and social relationships.
People with secure self-esteem are resilient, and confident and often experience personal and professional growth.
So, how can we ensure that we achieve confidence without building ego?
How can we retain secure self-esteem when becoming confident and avoid creating fragile self-esteem or an inflated sense of self?
How to Control Ego while Building Confidence
Becoming more confident is an important social skill but it can be problematic when your ego inflates along with it.
As we build confidence, we inevitably build on self-esteem and it is important to ensure that we are seeking out the right type of self-esteem.
One of the key ways to keep your ego in check as you build confidence is focusing on cultivating secure self-esteem and not ego or a fragile sense of self-esteem.
Luckily, there are many ways to ensure that your focus remains on growing self-esteem and that your ego does not grow with your confidence levels.
Most of these aspects rely on breaking the negative attachment to self.
When we act from a place of ego, and not self-esteem we are enforcing a negative attachment to self.
We cultivate a sense of self-esteem that needs validation and approval from others.
This fragile sense of self-esteem leaves us vulnerable and can shatter any confidence that has been built up in a second.
Controlling the ego is about redirecting your attention to your limitations and weaknesses and accepting them as part of who you are.
It is about being secure in who you are and accepting that you are a person with limitations.
Let’s look at some of how we can control the go and build secure self-esteem when trying to become more confident:
- Value Yourself: Know yourself and value who you are without engaging in excessive self-admiration.
- Engage in Altruism: Help others without expecting anything in return.
- Accept Your Limitations: Know your limits and accept what you can achieve.
- Acknowledge Feedback and Criticism: Accept help and feedback from others without taking it personally.
- Stop Comparing: Accept and believe in your journey and do not focus on what you lack or what others have.
- Seek Internal Validation: Strive for validation from within, and not from others.
- Focus On Intrinsic Motivation: Do things because of the fulfillment they bring and not because of the reward or gains you may receive from other people.
By now, you should realize that building confidence does not mean that you have to grow your ego as well.
In fact, it can be quite dangerous to have an inflated ego as it relies on constant external validation.
Because we don’t necessarily have control over external validation, the ego can easily be undermined which can lead to decreased confidence.
Rather, we should focus on building self-esteem. This is about cultivating an inner knowledge of our capabilities and relying on internal validation.
Building self-esteem will mean we can keep our egos in check as we grow and build our confidence levels.