Some people work hard to be the center of attention. They may do this by flaunting possessions, like their car or clothing. Or they might show off their social status through touting their income, body shape, or the size of their home.
Sometimes they simply remind you frequently about how smart, successful, or great they are. And they may have friends or colleagues that admire them.
Does this sound like you or your partner? Ask yourself: are these behaviors driven by ego or self-esteem?
Sometimes it’s not so easy to tell, but there is a distinct difference between the two. And while self-esteem is healthy, ego isn’t.
Here are a few signs that someone has self-esteem:
- They are connected to their real authentic Self, expressing their thoughts and emotions in appropriate, connected ways.
- They behave in a way that aligns with their core values.
- They treat themselves and others with respect, compassion, and empathy.
- They are comfortable setting, maintaining, enforcing, and reviewing healthy boundaries.
- They are confident, connected, open-minded, and curious.
- They embrace ideas, people, culture, and customs different from their own.
- They do the right thing even when no one is watching.
- They take responsibility for their actions and behavior.
- Their behavior matches their internal goodness and Core Values.
You could compare someone with self-esteem to a rock: solid. What you see on the outside is also on the inside.
Here are a few signs that someone is behaving based on ego and has low self-esteem:
- They are disconnected from their real Self, showing a false self to the world.
- They don’t behave in a way that aligns with their Core Values.
- They are often thin-skinned, quick to become angry when someone has a different point of view.
- They make claims about themselves without having the accomplishments to back it up.
- They call a lot of attention to themselves when they are doing the right thing.
- They blame others for their own failures and missteps.
- They often feel personally attacked and lash out.
- They often devalue other people in an effort to feel more powerful.
- They are addicted to Criticism (and ALL criticism is self-criticism, as all love is self-love).
You could compare someone with low self-esteem to an egg: fragile. Empty on the inside.
People often develop a large ego because their caregivers did not support their real self during childhood. They may have been treated as though they were incompetent, inadequate, unimaginative, or disappointing.
So, they create a false self to show the world that they are the exact opposite of these things. Creating and maintaining this false self takes a lot of energy. And since it is based more on appearance than action, it is an incredibly fragile façade. It is there to protect the person from feeling bad about themselves.
Does This Sound Like You?
If this rings true to you, you should know that your real self is still there. It’s inside you. Your ego is just acting as a placeholder until you can connect with your real self.
To access and accept your real self, you need to start by letting go of the negative labels and images that were fed to you during childhood. Then work to behave in ways that match your core values – even when no one is watching.
This won’t be an easy process, but it will help you to develop a deeper connection with others. Instead of using your energy to maintain that fragile false self, you can work towards building relationships with others who will love and support your real self.
As you reconnect with your real self, your self-esteem will rise. And as your self-esteem rises, your ego will fall. It won’t be needed anymore!
All of this individual work can best be done in couples therapy versus any other individual mode being a distant second. So, if you’re blessed now with a current partner and have a competent Couples Therapist, and especially if you both have Imago’s Couples Workshop under your belts, you’ll be able to build a stronger, healthier, and happier relationship with yourself and your partner.