The word ego has become something of a negative term these days, and tends to conjure up images of self-obsession and arrogance. When I say that someone has a big ego, it usually translates to, “That person is full of themselves.”
But there’s more sophistication to this word than most people realize. In a more Freudian sense, the word refers to the center of the self, and a sense of self-awareness.
We’re often told, especially in religious circles, that to be too focused on yourself is to lose the ability to focus on others, and this is true in a certain context. When we’re spending too much time worrying about ourselves and our own needs and desires, it’s really difficult to have any genuine care for others, and this could be called self-centeredness.
But there’s a key difference between self-centeredness and what I’ll call a centered self. To be self-centered is to think only of one’s own personal needs and possible gains. To have a centered self is to have a deep understanding of those personal needs and the nature of who you are as a person. It’s an awareness of your identity as a human being, but not an obsession with that identity or that human being.
The problem is, most people can’t seem to think of the self at the center as a good thing, but only as a source of arrogance and egotism. The key here is to understand what having a centered self really is. Of course, as a college student, I realize I’m not really at all qualified to say I either understand this or have the authority to tell others how they should. So, I’m choosing to merely encourage others to begin exploring the concept of the “self;” how to replace self-centeredness with a centered self.
Let’s go into a little more detail about self-centeredness. I’m sure we all have some concept of this, and certainly some personal experience with it. Self-centeredness is thinking only of your own interests, and pursuing only the things that personally benefit you. To my mind, this self-centeredness is a distortion of the true vision of the self that we should have. Our self should be very important, indeed central, to us, but this should not take the form of pursuing our vain and vague desires, at whatever the cost.
A self at the center should instead take the form of self awareness. Most people place a fairly high value on themselves, and this is only to be expected. But we should not use this value as a way to justify thoughts of self-superiority or self-righteousness. We should use this value to realize our importance as members of the human race. And on a more spiritual level, we should realize that our self-value is a metaphysical thing as well! The self I’m talking about in this post isn’t our physical body; it’s our soul, or our essence, if you will. It’s a self that goes beyond anything we’ve done in this life or anyone we consider ourselves to be. In other words, the self is the soul, and it must be at the center of everything we do.