It gives you an identity. It helps to give form and direction to ambition; it makes you assertive and helps you to present your own authentic self in the world. The ego really wants to win and is prepared to up the stakes in all kinds of ways to do so. It will help you at certain times in your life. We can’t function without an ego. It can be a driver for your own personal growth and development. It is something very useful. No ego - no career.
When does it get in the way?
The ego wants to win; think in terms of win-lose, it demands from others and does not flinch from overburdening you with demands. It makes no effort to avoid tension and conflict. The ego doesn’t make choices about what to win. A battle is a battle; go for it! Whether it’s about the best business deal with your top account, most flexible yoga position; perfectly ironed clothes for the kids, or the most original cup cakes for the school.
It demands recognition from others in the way you want to be seen. Funnily enough this makes you kind of dependent. Dependent on the approval of others. You measure yourself by the appreciation that comes from the outside world. This causes individuality to distort into individualism and the desire to achieve deteriorates into a demand to achieve and to be recognized for it.
What about men?
“But don’t men have this too?” I hear you think. Men are simpler about this. If they want recognition they boast, if they want admiration they buy a Porsche or some gadget or other and blatantly show it off.
Women complicate things, there has to be recognition, but it has to be spontaneously given by the other. Women expect the outside world to sense their needs so that they don’t have to express them themselves. Just like you expect your partner to spontaneously understand that you need a romantic dinner very soon, your manager has to understand how important you find it that he complements you for all the extra hours you’ve put in. If I have to ask for it, it doesn’t count!
Bristling with tension, I’ll-do-it-myself-then mentality, emotional manipulation, the ego saps all the joy out of life. Here is the road to being undermined, exhaustion and burnout.