You have probably heard the phrase before, “It is all in your head.” That phrase is referring to your “ego” and the impact it is having on your conscious decision making, the thoughts we hear, the thoughts we tell ourselves.
Everyone has an “ego” and understanding the health of yours and how it influences your daily thought processes can be extremely beneficial. Your ego is your conscious mind, the part of your identity that you consider to be your “self” but it’s not where our identity lies. Oftentimes, our ego is in survival mode. It keeps us protected from anything we perceive as dangerous.
To get an understanding of how your ego could be contributing to your overall happiness, we must first talk about ego development. We all have either a healthy, underdeveloped, or overactive ego.
What Happens in our Childhood
All egos are first developed as a child. A healthy ego is built when we have lots of positive experiences and a secure attachment to loved ones (like being wrapped in a cozy blanket). Those who have a healthy ego can grow up loving themselves, being resilient in times of struggle, problem-solve creatively, and develop meaningful healthy relationships. Healthy egos tend to set boundaries and know the difference between their feelings and the feelings of others. They know what they like and don’t like and they know the difference between themselves and others.
An underdeveloped ego is formed when we experience trauma or fail to have our emotional needs met as a child. An underdeveloped ego compensates by developing protective mechanisms to block out the painful things (kinda like a shield). This can lead us to be frequently reactive or codependent. When we weren’t shown proper love, we don’t trust others and when we don’t trust others, we can’t be ourselves. An underdeveloped ego is built to protect us from the outside world but because it is always in survival mode, it prevents us from learning and loving ourselves.
Those “Not Enough” Feelings
People with an underdeveloped ego may frequently feel not good enough, feel broken, turn to substances for comfort, expect perfection, and require a lot of emotional validation. For example, if you worked hard on a project for work and turned it in and heard nothing you might become depressed or anxious. That is not to say that what you turned in was bad, it might have been great, but because you didn’t get that pat on the back you were longing for you assumed it was the worst. This is when the ego contributes to making you unhappy. Think of it like a plant. Your ego planted a thought seed and it continues to grow unless you acquire the skills and knowledge to kill that thought. This is how an underdeveloped ego can sabotage relationships, too.
People with an underdeveloped ego tend to develop codependency behaviors. They want to make others feel happy so they can feel happier about themselves. That might sound like a good thing but it can also be dangerous to a person’s self-worth. You are not in control of anyone’s happiness EXCEPT your own. If you are dependent on those around you and they are not happy, you won’t be happy and will think negatively about yourself because you couldn’t make the external world perfect or happy.
Believing What Your Brain Is Telling You
Someone with an overactive ego tends to generally be defensive, have narcissistic traits, and dislike being wrong because they feel if they are wrong then their survival mode will be threatened.
When you have an overactive ego you aren’t able to talk yourself down and convince yourself that your spouse is really ok or your friend really was just busy. You start to believe all the negative things your brain is telling you. “My husband must be dead on the side of the road.” “Guess I am not friends with that person anymore.” This type of ego can make it difficult to keep and maintain relationships.
Overcoming Your Ego
The good news is by recognizing that it is potentially “all in your head,” you can take steps to heal and move forward with a healthier sense of self. Pay attention to your unhealthy habits. Are you always comparing yourself to others? Do you frequently jump to the worst-case scenario? Do you not believe that you are good and deserving of things? Do you have trouble admitting you were wrong?
I can work with you to identify why you might feel the way you do and what can be done to heal. With the right tools you can grow a healthier relationship with yourself and others. You are worthy and deserving of self-love. You are NOT BROKEN.