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Ego is a complicated thing. From a psychological perspective, our ego is the part of us that is concerned with self-esteem or self-importance. Our ego tries to argue that we are good, competent, well-liked, and successful. It gathers information from our environment to support this view, like the compliment from our friend or the good score on our last test. Some degree of ego is good and necessary. We need to feel competent enough to navigate the challenges and obstacles in our lives.

Ego Can Hold Us Back

However, ego can also hold us back in many ways. First, if we want to improve or get better, we actually have to focus on our weaknesses or the things we are struggling with. You won’t be able to shore up your weaknesses if you are constantly focused on how great you are. Our ego can hold us back from focusing on the things we need to improve.

Ego Can Hinder Our Perceptions

Also, our ego can hinder the accuracy of our perceptions. Because our ego has an agenda—convincing us that we are good or accomplished—it’s not an unbiased observer. It doesn’t perceive the world as it actually is, but causes us to look at the world with rose-colored glasses. This hinders our ability to engage with other people and the world as they really are.

Ego Closes Us Down

Finally, the ego actually closes us down from learning and growing. If you’re invested in having a picture of yourself as competent, smart, and accomplished, you might not be as willing to take a “not-knowing” and curious stance, which is required for learning and growth. All learning involves being open to new information and perspectives. Growth involves moving away from where we currently are and toward something new and (hopefully) better. The ego keeps us stuck, because it is invested with maintaining and supporting the status quo.

Action Step

If you start to feel yourself becoming defensive, press the pause button. Check your ego at the door. Your ego might make you feel better in the moment, but it isn’t really serving you in the long run. Experiment with setting your ego aside, and see what opens up for you.

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