Sigmund Freud first introduced the concept of “ego” in the1920’s with a meaning that was more complex in scope than what we can cover in this blog post. However, what we think of today as “ego” is defined by a person’s overall “sense” of self-worth. (Important note: By “sense” of self-worth, we’re referring to a person’s own judgment of themselves and not necessarily what is factually accurate).
Now, there’s nothing inherently negative about having a realistic evaluation of one’s own self-worth. The problem occurs, however, when a person has an inflated ego, which tends to poison his or her perception of self and the world.
Prideful. Self-absorbed. Conceited. Arrogant. These qualities describe a person who is egotistical, or full of ego. This person is“ all me, all the time”—exuding the belief he or she is the center of the universe. Popular examples of egotism can be found in Gaston from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Patrick Bateman from American Psycho and Regina George from Mean Girls.
Other than being downright obnoxious, egotism is especially dangerous to those in recovery. A person full of ego will likely struggle with the key components that make a strong foundation in sobriety. Here are some examples of how ego might interfere:
- Difficulty remaining teachable: When a person hits rock bottom and is new in recovery, it’s much easier to be willing to take suggestions. As more time passes and the memories of active addiction begin to fade, a person tends to become less willing to take the advice of others in recovery. A person full of ego holds the belief that they already know everything worth learning.
- Trouble giving up self-will: The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous refers to this as “self-will run riot.” In other words, a person full of ego believes they always know best. They are “like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players” in their own way.
- Lack of interest in support: A person full of ego often feels as though he or she is better than others or(as noted above) that there isn’t much they have to learn or gain from a support system. Additionally, egotism can be off-putting and alienating.
The good news is that an inflated ego can be counteracted. One of the best ways to do this is by learning about and practicing humility (which means to think about yourself less—not to be confused with thinking less of yourself). Learn how to cultivate humility in this excellent article from PositivePsychology.com.
If you’re in need of recovery support, First Step Recovery can help. Contact us today!