Do you often feel that you have an elevated sense of self-worth? Or perhaps you’re extremely sensitive to failure. Maybe you’re even so confident in your abilities that failure just isn’t an option for you. Regardless, these are all signs of an ego that could be a bit over-inflated. And if left unchecked, it could cause harm to your relationship with others – and to the world around you.
Our egos can be a huge asset to us during our lives. They can drive us to succeed or even give us the confidence we need to navigate many of life’s challenges. But they can also cause harm to others and leave us feeling much more important (or entitled) than we actually are. And this is where a healthy dose of humility can play a key role in keeping our egos in check.
We all have an ego. And while some egos are larger than others, it is often by nurturing humility that we can learn to deflate our egos and approach others with compassion and empathy.
How Can You Tell the Difference Between Confidence and an Inflated Ego? According to Lukin Center Psychotherapist Lauren Bomberg, LPC- BC-DMT, “An ego is defined as our sense of self-importance,” she explains. And our relationship with the world often depends on our ego for us to be able to navigate anywhere from our place in the world. However, an unhealthy ego can bring us more challenges than triumphs along this path.
“A healthy ego knows its value without needing reassurance, values self-reflection, and has a growth mindset,” Bomberg says. And those with natural self-confidence may also value these characteristics as well. For example, a naturally self-confident person will know where their strengths are as well as their weaknesses – and they’re typically comfortable in admitting what they can and cannot do.
An inflated ego can be debilitating even though it may masquerade as self-confidence. And the power of humility can work to reduce an over-inflated ego – offering us the following benefits that can make our lives much richer and mentally healthier than we may even realize.
1. Active Listening
Active listening is the ability to truly focus on what is being said – and to care about what is being said. This also enhances our interpersonal communication skills and can become a valuable asset in both our personal and work relationships. And when we are able to cultivate a humble mindset and detach from our ego, active listening becomes much easier.
When you have an inflated ego, active listening is not an easy task, and this may stem from a feeling that we need to stand firm and protect ourselves. According to Lauren Bomberg, “An inflated ego or arrogance can come from a place of protecting ourselves. We become defensive or defiant, and even dig in our heels and say it’s got to be this way or no way at all. And this can make us less open to others’ opinions or solutions,” she offers.
Those with a large or inflated ego are often rigid or extremely firm while maintaining their position. But if you’re able to embrace humility, you can become more flexible and allow other possibilities or solutions to exist – and acknowledge their value.
According to Bomberg, “A healthy ego creates space for curiosity, possibility, and flexibility whereas an unhealthy ego has a locked mindset, is rigid, defensive, and this may even stem from an insecurity,” she says.
When we embrace a humble mindset, we begin to allow more into our lives. You begin to see greater possibilities and solutions where they may have not been evident before. And this can be a powerful tool when you’re faced with challenges that require tough decision-making skills.
Those with an inflated ego often operate with very little accountability for their actions or for how they feel. And when it comes to managing your own emotions, developing humility can lead toward greater ownership and accountability – and being honest about how you really feel. This can also help nurture healthier relationships with others and with the world.
Where accountability regards owning up to your own actions and decisions, it’s also associated with being honest and genuine about your position – and admitting when you’re wrong. But those with an inflated ego may have trouble with accountability.
“An inflated ego might come from a forced or contrived place, or from having to defend your position to maintain some level of status for yourself,” Bomberg explains. However, by embracing humility, one can become more genuine and accountable. And by being more accountable, you may also develop stronger bonds with others through the foundational elements of transparency and trust.
Most people are uncomfortable when they begin feeling vulnerable. And this is natural for the most part. However, with an inflated ego, embracing and being empowered by your vulnerability can be challenging. By embracing humility, we can let our walls crumble and be content with what troubles or bothers us in a much healthier way.
“Being humble shows that you’re ok with not having all the answers, that we can be vulnerable and that we’re ok with our own flaws and shortcomings,” Bomberg states. And by acknowledging where we need help, or where we’re hurting, it is within this space of being honest with ourselves that a greater level of humility can be reached.
5. Growth Mindset
Perhaps the most powerful benefit of embracing humility is how it can allow you to develop a growth mindset – where you don’t see failure as a problem but rather as a springboard for growth and opportunity. And as Lauren Bomberg offers, “A growth mindset will embrace making mistakes as part of the learning process, rather than it being a failure.”
A growth mindset is also about challenging yourself to ask for help. And when you have an inflated ego, the rigid element associated with this position often doesn’t allow room for much growth or possibility when things do go wrong.
A growth mindset seeks out challenges and works to enhance your life. And through humility, this mindset can be much easier to achieve.
How Can Therapy Help Nurture Humility?
Therapy offers many tools for anyone looking to embrace humility and separate themselves from a rigid way of thinking caused by insecurity or a disproportionate sense of self-worth.
In therapy, Psychotherapist Lauren Bomberg often guides children through their emotions by promoting “bendy thinking,” and uses this as a tool for helping them to look for alternative solutions or explanations to solve problems. And it is within this creative space that a growth mindset can also be developed. As Bomberg explains, “If we can be creative, it can help improve our flexible thinking and problem-solving skills. And it can help us to get ourselves unstuck from a fixed or rigid way of thinking,” she says.
Additionally, asking for help also requires admitting that you have a need for help. And often, sharing that form of vulnerability with another person can be just as liberating as it is challenging. It is in this capacity that therapy can offer a patient the tools to invite more humility into their lives and see life’s challenges as possibilities rather than obstacles.
Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist psychologist and founder of Lukin Center for Psychotherapy in Ridgewood, Hoboken, Montclair, Jersey City, Englewood and Westfield. He has extensive clinical and research experience spanning individuals of all ages, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. He specializes in men’s issues, couple’s counseling, and relationship problems. His therapeutic approach focuses on providing support and practical feedback to help patients effectively address personal challenges. He integrates complementary modalities and techniques to offer a personalized approach tailored to each patient. He has been trained in cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior, schema-focused, and emotionally focused therapy, and has also been involved with research projects throughout his career, including two National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies. He is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New Jersey Psychological Association, Northeast Counties Association of Psychologists, New York State Psychological Association, The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, The New York Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy, the International OCD Foundation, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACSB) and a regular contributor to Psychology Today.
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