The Thin Line that Separates Confidence & Ego

The pandemic has thrown us off-kilter in so many ways — work environments, values, goals, and even personality traits have shifted, perhaps out of what was once the status quo. While I believe many of us have moved beyond the misconception that confidence and ego are the same, we still may be unclear about the inherent value of both

Can ego go bad very quickly? Yes, I believe so; but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a time and place for it. Now in 2022, how do we find the balance between confidence and ego without becoming entitled or narcissistic?

First, let’s clarify what I mean when I say “ego,” and how that differs from confidence. With ego, I’m referring to someone’s sense of self-importance, and in the more psychoanalytical realm, their simple sense of Self, and how that Self interacts with the world. Confidence, on the other hand, is certainty and trust — sometimes in our own abilities, and sometimes in the abilities of those around us. 

Ways to Find Balance Between Ego and Confidence

So, how do we create a balance between confidence and ego: 

  1. Develop confidence first. Of course, on some level, we’re born with an ego, but try to focus your energy on strengthening your confidence first. The key here is to lean away from arrogance and into justified faith in yourself. That requires some experimentation with how you work best on your own and with others, during both calm and chaotic times. For this, you’ll need time, a trial-and-error attitude, and the ability to pay deep attention.
  1. Ask yourself four questions. When confronted with a situation that requires a mix of confidence and ego, pause and ask yourself a few questions:
    1. What do I believe is important?
    2. How can my beliefs fit into what the group thinks is important?
    3. Am I leading myself toward a meaningful outcome?
    4. How can I also demonstrate to others that they can make their own way?
  1. Become more comfortable with ambiguity. Slow down and make space for curiosity and reflection on other people’s thoughts and opinions. The next time something ambiguous occurs, try not responding right away. Allow yourself to see the situation from multiple perspectives. 
  1. Lean into vulnerability. The dangerous side of ego rears its ugly head when we turn our backs on vulnerability. Ultimately, this just leads to fear and defensiveness. Vulnerability allows us to reflect and apologize if we’ve made a mistake. It also allows us to express when we’re scared or unsure, thus making us more resilient.

Having Both Confidence and Ego

Confidence can be built, whereas ego is inherent, but can be shaped for the better. There’s no reason to think you’re unimportant or practice false humility. Know your worth, and know how to leverage your worth. Along the way, help others do the same.