OPINION: Your ego and your significance

Scott Rainey

The ego is an incredibly complex idea, and it is often quite misunderstood. We often think that someone who arrogant or full of themselves is “egotistical,” but it’s more than just the way one views themselves. Understanding the extent of the ego should be important to today’s college student.

We are surrounded by thousands of people here at Kent State each day, making it nearly impossible not to compare ourselves to others. In a sense, it’s good that we do this.

Humans are social beings, and we need to have an understanding of where we fit in our society so we can effectively work within our space or try to climb the ladder of success. We also need to look to others to know what works, what doesn’t work and what is possible to achieve so we can understand our limitations and how to deal with them.

In another sense, it’s harmful to compare ourselves to others. We think we know how much better or worse other people are, and we’re trying to compete with them for social status, success and happiness.

This is especially problematic on social media. Most people already know that what you see on social media isn’t necessarily a reflection of reality, but still we compare ourselves to others based on their number of likes or the quality of their posts.

This can easily become the thing we’re trying to chase. Your ego wants you to be popular, attractive, and wealthy. It wants this because in some sense your identity is based on what others think of you. If you have the nice car, the big boat, the social status, the likes and popularity, you’ll be happier, right?

When we start to understand that the ego is this thing trying to take control of us, we see that it does more harm than good. When we do succeed, we feel good. When people like our stuff, we feel good. Most of the time, though, we end up chasing things that won’t actually make us happier, and in the process, we hurt ourselves. This is where having an understanding of the ego is beneficial.

The best way to understand the ego is to stop identifying with it. Instead of “I want the thing,” it becomes “my ego wants the thing.” This tiny separation can make a world of difference in how we connect and relate to others.

Once you see when and where your ego arises, you can more easily understand what you really want, and you’ll be able to think more critically about the decisions you make. When envy arises, and it will, you’ll be able to recognize that it’s your ego trying to take over. It’s not really trying to help you, it just wants that thing that someone else has.

Seeing this clearly will help you think about what you really want. Do you want people to be impressed or do you want to connect with them?

This doesn’t mean we should try to destroy our ego at all costs. There are aspects of it that are good. We want to care about what others think of us on some level because that’s a big part of how we succeed and feel fulfilled. It is a part of our identity, and identity is important.

The ego is a part of us, but it isn’t everything. Keeping good perspective about when it it’s trying to help you and when it’s trying to hurt you will undoubtedly make you a more effective human being. We’re all just trying to have a good day, aren’t we?

Scott Rainey is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].