Confidence Vs Ego: What’s The Difference?
There's a fine line between positive self-esteem and cocky arrogance, says Anja Zauers
Confidence – it’s a tricky little thing. For many, feeling confident in themselves is a daily struggle and if I’m being honest, for a long time I was one of those people. Whether it’s being more outspoken, seeing yourself in a positive manner or having the courage to simply put yourself out there and try something new, it’s important to understand that these things don’t just happen overnight, but rather develop over time after having some chats with yourself.
I wouldn’t say I’m an overly confident person, but over the years I’ve learned to push myself to be the best that I can be, challenging myself in ways I could have only imagined maybe a few years previous, thanks to some kind words of encouragement from family and friends. And yes, having support from your loved one’s mean the absolute world, but when it comes to confidence, and having self-confidence in particular, it’s so important to understand that most of the work comes down to you.
Someone who has good self-confidence can often be regarded as being big-headed or cocky, when in reality that’s not the case at all. If anything, that’s probably your ego creeping in. And look, many of us are guilty of buying into the common misconception that ego and confidence are essentially the same thing. The reality, however, is that these two concepts are quite different and believe it or not, it is possible to build your confidence without giving your ego a run for its money. Sound like your kind of thing? Well, keep reading then!
With the lines of confidence and ego easily getting blurred, Maria Lynch, Confidence Coach from confidence-building.ie gives us simple a explanation to help differentiate the two. “Ego refers to our personality while confidence is an inner feeling of having trust and faith in our own abilities.”
How easy would it be, if to become more confident there were a set of rules that you could learn off and BANG you’re ultra-confident. Sadly, that isn’t the case but although confidence isn’t something that can be learned, the good news is that it is a state of mind – one which we have complete control over. Confidence comes from feelings of well-being, acceptance of your body and mind (which is your self-esteem) and belief in your own ability and skills.
But why is it important to have confidence? Well as Maria points out you will need it to take on challenges and opportunities that are presented to you. “You don’t need to have a definite path or clear action plan at the start but somehow you know you will get there in the end so you say yes! to opportunities.”
When it comes to improving your confidence, Maria keeps it simple. “Aim big and start small. Stretch your comfort zone: Try new things, listen to new music, watch new films, travel to new destinations. Engage in activities that will challenge you. Learn new skills, engage in new hobbies to stimulate your mind and give you a sense of purpose.” These are small yet powerful suggestions that slowly but surely will help build up your confidence over time.
Unlike confidence, the ego operates out of self-interest. It seeks approval, accolades and validation at all costs in order to be seen as “right”. It is resistant to feedback and assigns motives where there isn’t any.
When it comes to ego, there can be both unhealthy and healthy aspects of it so understanding how to control it can majorly affect your road to confidence. “The healthy aspects will be our essential qualities and gifts of each personality type,” says Maria. Such qualities include humility, gratitude and appreciation.
Depending on how one defines ego, it may seem like something desirable — or something to be avoided at any cost. Speaking about ego, Maria points out that the “less present and mindful we are in any given moment the more reactive/egoic our behaviours will be,” making us come across as more reactive and our communication less effective. While the more we cultivate presence “we will be less reactive” and as a result confidence should come more naturally as a by-product of this.
Success is a prime example of where you will see confidence and ego battle it out. When it lands at your feet you might gain confidence in your abilities and contribution to the world, or, you can let your ego spiral out of control so it seeks more and more approval. This is the negative and unhealthy side of it.
Confidence Minus The Ego
Now that we’ve separated the two, there are ways to encourage confidence and at the same time, control ego.
Firstly, look for ways to be humble. When we remove ego, we uncover our humility, which as mentioned before, is one of the essential qualities available to us. It’s an attitude where we don’t need to put ourselves above others, but we don’t put ourselves below them, either. You don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations and when you value your own sense of selfworth, it’s easier to have confidence in yourself and appreciate others.
Try connecting with a higher purpose, as when we’re not tethered to something that connects us to a purpose higher than ourselves, that’s where our ego takes a hit. Ego tells us that meaning comes from our accomplishments and power over others, that material things will bring us fulfilment, while confidence springs from a clear understanding that we use our talents, skills, and abilities in ways that truly do bring us satisfaction.
A more obvious one, try out a new hobby skill! Let’s say you have zero rhythm but you’ve always wanted to go to a dance class. GO! Nothing will knock your ego a peg or two down like making an absolute shambles out of yourself in front of others, but if you’re having fun who cares? Bring a friend, family member or go alone. No one’s going to judge your moves if they see you having the time of your life. Infact, they’ll probably get envious of how carefree you look! So who cares what people think? To be confident, you’re really going to have to let go of those negative thoughts and step out of your comfort zone.
“As long as we are alive, ego will be with us,” says Maria. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s a bad thing. “Self-awareness will show us where to look and how to be in alignment with our essence. We are more than our ego or personality type. We have extraordinary potential. and it all starts with self-awareness.”
As your confidence grows and you become successful, it’s important to stay away from feeling or acting superior to others. Remember – nobody is perfect and there is always more that you can learn. What’s that saying again? Ah yes, fake it til you make it girlies!!
Celebrate your strengths and successes, and recognise your weaknesses and failures. Credit and compliment others sincerely. Be polite, show an interest in what others are doing, ask questions and get involved. No doubt you will soon be swarmed by people, asking for your secret!