A Brief Exploration of the Ego

In Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche, he lists three theoretical constructs which are propounded as a description of the activities and interactions of the mental life of a person.

The three are: the id, ego, and super-ego.

All these are expressed together as a person’s ‘ego’ which, in psychoanalysis, is simply defined as the conscious part of the mind that is responsible for the identity of the individual expressed in the ‘I’ or ‘self’.

The ego is in constant interaction with the physical world and is closely linked to self-confidence, courage, pride, among others.

An un-moderated ego is bound to attract negative attention to a person. People would translate this to mean arrogance and conceit and refer to the person as having a ‘big ego’.

The other side of the coin is not rosy at all.

A below the average ego is likened to timidity, self-doubt and lack of courage.

The golden mean here is to strike a balance where one is not too assertive and not too docile.

One of the things that we fail to realise, however, is that we are the ones that feed our ego.

We water its roots and manure it but are unskilled to prune it when it begins to grow beyond its supposed boundary.

Humans are not born with a wild ego but they develop it often over lived experiences.

A child grows to the point that he or she believes that some measure of self-worth has been achieved by mere hard work and so the person must be recognised as such.

This is exemplified at events where the keynote speaker may not stand up to speak if you do not call out all the titles and accolades.

This is largely born out of societal expectations which we often fall prey to as a result of our desire not to have the ego bruised.

Similarly, some starve their ego.

The reason is that they do not understand the diet of the ego.

It is not trying to live a quiet life that makes one have a depreciating ego but rather the opposite.

With a decreased ego, one feels satisfied and contented in whatever position is occupied.

These are the ones that would not even want to draw too much attention to themselves and could even decline a public speaking engagement and rather choose to remain at the back – free from people.

This is not humility but timidity. It is a consequence of a depreciating or depreciated ego.

So how then is a balance created with something so fragile as the ego?

One way, perhaps, is to examine our conduct with the actions of those with either a big ego or a small one and then we can strive for a balance.

The balance really lies within the tight grips of humility.

But humility itself, with the tight grip, is slippery.

The reason is that once an individual says, ‘I am humble’, the person ceases to be humble.

Pride does come in many forms. This is why we must not think of ourselves as humble but rather strive to be good and kind. These are the hallmarks of humility.

However, there is a challenge here. The challenge is that of creating a balance so as not to be proud especially when the goal is to be humble.

But this in itself is a cause for worry. The question is, why would anyone want to be seen or regarded as being humble?

The answer lies in the ego. Often, people like to be referred to as good.

They like to appear like saints without blemishes. This is the role of the mask.

This is why once we are accused of any wrongdoing, we bicker and fight just to ensure that ‘our names are cleared’.

The solution remains that we must be true to our intentions and strive not to bring harm to anyone. This is never an easy fix.

Perhaps the true way, which is the hard way, is to remind ourselves every day about our littleness compared with the size of the galaxy.

We must realise that our knowledge is little and there are still lots of things that we do not know and things that we may never know such as – mathematics.

This is why a person that graduates with a Bachelor’s degree is not as humble in accepting and celebrating as the one that graduates with a Doctorate.

The more we learn, the more we realise that we are probably not what we think ourselves to be.

Finally, there is no written prescription to life.

We cannot be quick-tempered and seek for herbs to take to cure us of anger.

In the same regard, we neither have a quick fix nor are shortcuts worth our while. It is a slow and grinding process.

To be ‘good’ requires an effort just as to be ‘bad’ does. Nothing comes naturally. Not even love.

But we can make our lives a happy one. We can, in our minds, have a picture of the kind of person we want to be and slowly peel off the layers that restrict us for arriving at that.

This slow and painful process is growth. It is what we need if we must become the best versions of ourselves.

The world needs us in our best version. Nothing more and nothing less. This is our golden mean.

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Mr. Onugba is a project management professional with experience spanning from the creative, ICT, and development sectors. He has coordinated projects with funders such as OSIWA, European Union, German Embassy (Abuja), Ford Foundation, Mercy Corps Nigeria, Perspectivity (Holland), MacArthur Foundation, Culture at Work Africa, among others. He also consults for various Non-Governmental Organizations and facilitates workshops on Conflict Management and Prevention, Leadership, communication, Peacebuilding, Creative Writing and Film. Anthony has also worked in several organisations. These include AIICO Insurance PLC, ChamsSwitch Limited (a subsidiary of CHAMS PLC), Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, and the African Writers Development Trust (AWDT). He holds a certificate in film production and directing, IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), project management, and computer studies. Anthony is the Founder of Writers Space Africa (WSA) and the African Writers Development Trust, which he currently runs. He is the brain behind the annual African Writers Conference and the annual African Writers Awards. He is a multi-genre writer with works spanning poetry, prose, drama, and children’s literature. He has authored seven books which include Mixed Emotions (2005), Reflections (2010), The Chronicle of Christ (2011), Amanda’s Crime (2015), and Lavender Tales of the Summit (2021). Some of his articles have been published in national newspapers and on his website. Anthony is currently the Vice-Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors (Abuja Chapter). He is an animal and nature lover and a star-gazer. He loves to walk in the rain, kiss animals and go mountaineering. Contact: penboss@anthonyonugba.com


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