How to Deal with Our EGO

Taken from UNIBUDS Annual Magazine 2002, a talk given by Rod Lee

There are many different point of views on what the definition of ego is. One one hand, the big ego is always over-inflated self-importance. The constitutions of the big ego are selfishness and arrogance. On the other hand there is ego grasping which leads to low self-esteem.

The Over-Inflated Ego

A person with a big ego could sometimes appear to have high self-confidence. However, there is a fine line between self-confidence and inflated ego. One needs to have self-confidence. If there is no self-confidence no goal can be achieved. However, on the other hand, the self-inflated attitude builds one’s image to be greater than what one really is. One can do this either externally or internally or both. For instance, one could be claiming oneself as being an expert in a particular field. This becomes a problem when they are faced with other people’s conflicting opinions especially from the same field.

Self-inflation usually results in boasting to others in a way that relates back to selfishness and self-interest. It’s not a pleasant experience to be with people who talk only about all their achievements, or how good they are, because we get a distinct impression that they are actually not interested in us. Their interest in us is merely as partly to their grandeurs and to be there to witness their glory or their extraordinary talent.

It will become a barrier if the over-inflated ideas about our selves are getting larger. A problem will arise when we realise that we do not meet our own expectations and it leads to a sense of frustration. This is where the ‘should personality’ comes in. For example, “I should sit in front of the class”, “I should do this … I should do that…” The self-ego therefore doesn’t mean true self-confidence.

Arrogance is another product of the over-inflated ego which leads to a very destructive relationship. We can’t tell the arrogant person anything as he insists to know it all or as if he has all the knowledge. For instance, they will say “No, no, no.. don’t tell me. I know that, I think…” This characteristic really becomes a problem to the relationship. All of us like to be in some forms of relationship, be it friendship, marriage, etc. However, if there is a know-it-all attitude, the relationship is only coming form one side – where one becomes the witness to the other person’s altruism.

We can be a conceited person and be successful, but at the same time, we make a lot of enemies. It doesn’t create harmony in our lives but a lot more conflicts. In a workplace, for example, if the person in-charge has only one opinion and that he thinks his opinion is right, because he knows, so then there is no teamwork nor expansion of business. A common statement in the business world is ‘The fish stinks from the head down’. That applies to an organisation which is dependent on the leader. That organisation leader may employ consultants and experts in various roles and fields to work in the company. However, if he is too arrogant to listen to them, then the expansion of his business is very limited unless he has the knowledge of everything within that business, which of course, doesn’t happen.

Part of arrogance is pride, which can be defined as ego by proxy. For example, the child is fantastic, so the parent is fantastic. In reality, however, pride doesn’t end up being so much advantageous to us. It doesn’t build better relationship when it is. “Empty things make noise”. It is when someone feels a lack of something in their lives that they make noise, and this too applies to arrogant people.

Ego grasping resulting in low self-esteem

On the other hand, the opposite side of the over-inflated ego is ego grasping. which manifests itself as low self-esteem. This could be seen in feelings like “I’m not good”, “No, no, I could never do that”, “No, I’m hopeless”, or “I’m terrible”. If this kind of attitude continues, it almost translates into self-hatred, thinking that “I’m a worthless person” or “I’m not good”. This is also a problem for us. Sometimes this negative ego may even be attention-getting device as well. For example, “Oh, I’m no good. You think so? Oh…”

One way a child could suffer from low self-esteem is due to high expectation from the parents. This kind of situation is sometimes may even trigger suicide among children. This is because the child gives up when they finally could not face the consequences of not meeting their parents’ expectations.

Dealing with ego

The basic primus of all beings is to find happiness. The arrogant person thinks that if they press you with their supremacy, it isd going to make them happy. The other person with low self-esteem thinks that if one just does not notice them, it will make them happy. However, the truth is that both extremes do not make anyone happy.

Buddhism being the middle way recognises these extremes. Both these extremes are not useful to us. They all come from the same basis (i.e., the over-inflated ego or low self-esteem) which is self absorption.  They do not step outside themselves to see the bigger pictur. People with low self-esteem never turn around and ask you genuinely “How are you?”. Similarly the arrogant person never asks “What your story?”. It does not happen because they are so absorbed in their extremes of “I” and “my” experiences that they do not have any room to move. This becomes a suffering situation.

In Buddhism, we want happiness and we avoid suffering. The secret is to find out the “technologies” of the mind that brings the happiness. We need to slowly find out what works for us. If we only have self-interest in mind, then we learn very little.

Honesty within ourselves and to others is very important. Pride and arrogance cause dissociation in relationship. Lack of self-esteem teaches us not to achieve anything. Therefore, we have to find ourselves a way to deal with excessive pride and a way to deal with low self-esteem. We constantly want praise and never want blame. We want high positions but not low positions. For example, “My rock is better than your rock. Mine is from the top of the mountain, yours is from the bottom of the mountain”. Doesn’t this all seem ridiculous? We can change the information in terms of bits of things, but not our personality. Our personality is still the same problem.

The reason we need to manage our ego is because it doesn’t give us happiness. People with low self-esteem believe that they are not good and thus constantly projects themselves in that way. As a result, people often become superior over such persons and even get easily irritated and angry with them. For example, they would be saying, “Loook at what they’ve done!” or “How could you do that?!” This causes the person with low self-esteem to feel even more melancholic and insignificant.

On the other hand, when we look at this irritation and anger more closely, we realise that we can’t be angry with someone else unless we feel superior to them. We have to feel self-righteous to be angry. To be self-righteous one has to have the opinion that my ideas are far greater than others. This could also cause conflict for the person who thinks this way.

All in all, we must practice healthy opinions regarding ourselves. We shall not be over or under-inflated because we know that it will cause problems for us. We have to recognise from our own attitudes. At the end of the day, it is us who are experiencing happiness or suffering. We are the ones who should make a choice to start living a more balanced life. 😀


9 responses to “How to Deal with Our EGO

  1. Srivalli

    About selfishness linked to professionalism

  2. non

    keep up your good work! 🙂

  3. miss

    tips on dealing with ego person

  4. Adithya

    great work! nice post

  5. Hayley

    Very helpful just by reading it gives peace.

  6. good article… i somewhat figured out what kind of personality am i… i have a Ego grasping resulting in low self-esteem problem. And i have suffered through out my life. Because i have been obese through out my life and since my childhood i always have heard only one comment from all the people around me and that is:

    “Oh look at her, she is the fattest in the whole school/college/family/party/office etc with the most beautiful facial features. Oh imagine how beautiful she could be if only she were slim.”

    And believe me people swear about this sentence. I have heard this sentence so intensely in my life that now since i am about 50 kgs over my ideal weight i keep on thinking only one thing all the time that i am not good at any thing in this world because this sentence has made my life very strange… i have a very strange behaviour. At the same time while feeling very very low about my body i keep on thinking i could be the most beautiful girl in the party ONLY if i were slim and one day i will reach there. This kind of thinking is giving me low self-esteem and pride both at the same time… i like to think about only my future and only myself… because i feel i dont have time to think about other people while i have my own biggest problem of life that i am soooooooo obese and unhealthy. I am unable to do alot of works in my life due to physical limitations and low self-esteem.

    So with the help of your article i have at least discovered what kind of ego do i have but i cudn’t really get the idea of HOW CAN I GET RID OF SUCH KIND OF PROBLEM… please help me and guide me through…




    • roujinlim

      Hey Fama

      Sometimes, we have no control of what kinds of thoughts come into our mind. But remember, you always have the full control of how you deal with them. It takes a bit of practice to realise that the thoughts don’t define you. The thoughts are merely thoughts, and they come and go. The low esteem you have I believe mainly is aggravated by your thoughts. Believe it or not, one negative thought feeds another negative thoughts — it’s like domino effects. The problem happens when we believe in the thoughts and identify it as ourselves. So, I think just be kind to yourself, and hold the patience to overcome the negativity you have. Don’t let others’ negative remark affect your state of being. You have the same right as everybody else to be happy. Your body issue is just a part of your life — not the whole thing. So, focus more on something good in you and nourish it. Help others, as it could make your life happier.

      All in all, just be kind and gentle to yourself. Forgive as many as you need… 🙂 Hope it helps!

    • uha

      yes i agree with u i am uha

  7. COBIE


    I struggle with the super ego. I always feel that I am somehow behind the rest of society. I take responsibility for my life, but do not subscribe to the opinions of society in such a way that it runs my life completely. I have started to work half day so that I have enough time for my art. I’m a musician and writer. This is great and was very difficult for me to do, yet I feel guilty about it and financially careless. I want to be employed by spirit, as Caroline Myss puts it, but do not have enough faith in myself and the universe yet. I feel guilty about this too. I know that I should be patient and kind towards myself, but find this to be very hard work. I long for synchronicity and calmness. Help!!! Can anyone give me practical tips on how to remain calm? I am turning 30 soon and pressure from society is mounting. I believe in what I’m doing, but have doubts from time to time.

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