Is Confidence Ego? -Warning: Why the Ego Has Got to Go

is confidence ego, relationship between confidence and ego

Since I have been making an attempt to describe confidence for my clients in a way that empowers them in accomplishing their goals, I realized that I wasn’t quite sure where the dividing line between Ego and Confidence is. So today, I decided to research the topic. This is what I discovered.

So, Is Confidence Ego? Confidence is not ego. Confidence and ego are quite different. Confidence demonstrates a high level of self belief (having faith in yourself), vulnerability and openness; whereas, the ego primarily promotes self-interest and is self-glorifying. This is what makes ego so different from confidence.

So how do you know if you are dealing with someone who is driven by ego or confidence, and how do you know if you are acting out of confidence or ego? Finally, what do you do if you are stuck in a relationship (work or personal) with someone with a huge ego? This is where it gets a bit complex. However, there are some straightforward fail-safes that can help you navigate both areas. Here they are.

What are the tell tale signs that someone is an egomaniac and not simply confident?

Egotistical people are self-seeking. They are opportunistic. They are looking for an advantage for themselves and are willing for grab the advantage even at the cost of others. Think about Gaston in the Disney princess movie with Belle.

What is ego exactly?

You may remember Ego, Super Ego, Id from your academic studies. These are psychoanalytic terms and have nothing to do with what we are talking about here. I remember the class where I discovered the three topics above. My take away was:

  • Ego – Jock
  • Super Ego – Total Jerk
  • ID – What I needed to get my school lunch.

Alright for the nerds out there (like me), just to make this complete. Here are the actual definitions of the above.

  • Ego – organized conscious mediator between the person and reality
  • Super Ego – only partly conscious, represents internalization of parental conscience and the rules of society, and functions to reward and punish through a system of moral attitudes, conscience, and a sense of guilt
  • Id – completely unconscious and is the source of psychic energy derived from instinctual needs and drives

Alright back to the point.

The best definition I found on Ego for our discussion is (and I am paraphrasing here.)

Someone who is driven by recognition at the cost of others. Someone who wants to have a permanent “me” parade, unwilling to consider others in the equation who want to dominate others to further inflate their lofty sense of self, even when it hurts others. Their pseudo-self-confidence keeps them hidden neatly behind a curtain (think Wizard of Oz). If anyone gets too close they will go out of their way to make them look bad. It’s all about perpetuating an image of dominance.

Confidence on the other hand is self-belief rooted in a willingness to accept the consequences of their actions.

So what’s the difference between confidence and ego? If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be “humility.”

What is humble confidence? Someone who is capable and willing. They have faith in their abilities are not interested in making a mockery of others.

Is confidence better than ego?

Absolutely. We may attract ego-driven people into our lives. That’s a whole different topic (wink), but at the end of the day most of us desire to be around people that are pro us. Confident people are a joy to be around because the conversation doesn’t have to be about them and can be about them.

In some of the reports I read, confident people make relaxed eye contact whereas egomaniacs are always looking for the next opportunity and seldom really look at you.

Ego vs. Humility

I think we would all agree we’d rather be around people who are confident over the tipped scale ego hungry individuals any day of the week. It’s funny when we start looking at humility.

When we look at the key characteristics of humility, we find an individual who is:

  • kind and gentle
  • not self-seeking
  • happy to see others win
  • don’t think of themselves higher than they ought to
  • correctable
  • willing to be coached and interested in learning

What is Ego good for?

While in most cases ego is something that is perceived as negative, I can think of at least one scenario where ego could be useful.

When you need to Posture.

There are times in life where you are met with obstacles so great and a scenario so significant that you may need to draw on your “fake it big” muscle. The cost of not doing so is simply too high. Think competition. I think fighters do this. In reality they may not know if they can win the match, but if they come off too humble, no one wants to tune in. You get my point.

What does confidence without ego mean?

Again, here we see the idea that ego is self-seeking to the point that is detrimental to others. You can be confident without being an egotistical person. Here’s how.

A good way to keep the ego / confidence balance in check is to ask yourself whether you can still learn something about a particular area. This can also be asked of someone else. If there answer is that they know it all, they have something to prove. If they have something to prove, then you know that ego is at play.

A confident person sees that they can always progress on some level.

Is pride and ego the same thing?

This is a nice question. If we look at, we are told:

pride is:
a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

It’s easy to see here where this can be a slippery slope. On the one hand it is OK to be proud of you achievements. On the other hand, if it is what you fixate on most, it could be considered pride, which will catapult you back into the ego oasis.

How to deal with people who have huge Egos

It’s often hard to see when someone is ego driven. What may come off as a willingness to help could actually be a well-organized strategy to take advantage of you. This is especially true if you are dealing with someone who is pretty slick about it all. One of the best questions I discovered to figure out whether someone is trying to help or setting me up is to ask.

What kind of person would need to say or do this?

If that one doesn’t work for your particular scenario, you can also ask this question:

What would have to be true about this person if they say or do this?

Here is an example. Let’s say your boss asks you if you would be willing to take a pay cut in exchange for more over time (possibly far-fetched I know, but it makes a point). Ask yourself what kind of person would do this? Is it someone who wants to help me or someone who sees an opportunity for themselves. If the answer is that the situation is more about them helping themselves, red alert. I hope this helps.

Related Questions

What is confidence vs. Arrogance?

It is safe to use the word arrogance instead of ego. Arrogance is an outward display of self-worth. It’s a better than you attitude. This is basically the same as the word ego described above.

Although arrogance is not so much as someone who is looking to celebrate themselves directly rather more indirectly by trying to convince you that you don’t qualify or are not on the same level as they are.

Either way the win is the same for these individuals. It generates a feeling of self-importance for them.

Can you have high ego low self-esteem?

Although not always the case, often high ego is a veil that conceals low self-esteem. It’s hard to spot on the surface because the individuals always seem so confident, but beneath it all, if they have a need for approval and recognition, it comes from a deficit that they haven’t been able to fill.

The approval of others can be a bit like a drug. Often people with high-ego and low self-esteem will need it constantly and will throw a tantrum when they can’t get their fix.

I hope that this post has helped you recognize and understand how to deal with people with ego issues.


Kat Clukey

I am so glad you are here, and have chosen to spend your time reading my blog. Since 2013, I have been on an intense mission to read books, go to seminars, and generally turn myself inside out to find out why some people seem to feel good in their own skin while I've struggled with self-worth and low self-esteem most of my adult life. I hope you find insights that help you on your journey!

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