Making friends as an adult is a far more complicated process than when we were kids. “They’re in my class” is replaced with bigger questions about values, beliefs, and attitudes. No attitude irks me more than someone with a big ego. If that’s the first impression I have of a person, it’s really hard for me to shake that and see them differently.
What Exactly is a Big Ego?
It’s easy to confuse personality with ego, especially if someone is type A. Maybe they’re loud and high energy, a “life of the party” type person. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have a big ego, but I think the big ego people with those personalities reveal themselves quickly. Type B people can have big egos too, but if you’re quieter and more of an introvert, then a big ego takes a little longer to see. Whatever the personality type, anyone can have a big ego.
So when I say “big ego,” I think I really mean an unhealthy ego. If we define ego as one’s self-esteem, and sort of this inner belief about our outer importance, then some ego is certainly good. I want a healthy level of value of myself, where I think I’m competent at what I do, and when people meet me they think I’m worth spending time with. Approaching each day with a healthy confidence is necessary. We need to feel that we are capable of handling whatever our day will throw at us. That healthy ego is usually balanced with some humility. We can realize that we’re not perfect and we have more to learn, but we can tackle the day to day without becoming a nervous wreck.
But when our success and self-importance becomes the primary way in which we see ourselves, that can turn unhealthy.
Why Do Big Egos Turn Me Off So Much?
I think my distrust of people with big egos stems from my childhood. I don’t know how much I was bullied, but all the way through middle school I remember being picked on. It was probably no more than any other kid, but some of those experiences definitely stuck with me. That’s why I loved high school so much. I finally felt like I could be myself, and there was a group of people who accepted me for me.
When I meet someone who seems to have an over-inflated sense of themselves, I put my defenses up. In my experience, people that think too highly of themselves usually think too little of others. There’s a very good chance I’m not being fair, but when I meet someone who approaches the world with bravado and a desire for others to notice them, then I’m out. That sounds like a relationship that will be extremely one-sided, and that’s not a relationship I’m interested in.
Genuine relationships require genuine people. If we’re artificially pumping ourselves up to impress others or to cover up our insecurities, then we aren’t being honest. If our thoughts are primarily about ourselves, then it’s hard to see what others need and what we can provide. Whether we’re talking about a romantic relationship or a friendship, there’s a certain reciprocity that makes a relationship worthwhile to both people. I want to pursue relationships with people where I feel valued, not taken advantage of.
How I Need to Improve
Part of me sees this as a healthy approach to dealing with unhealthy people, but I also see the danger in making assumptions too quickly. When I meet a person with a big ego, it’s really hard for me to be friends with them. I can very easily peg them as a certain type of person and write them off. They’ve got a big ego, there’s no way we can develop a friendship, so I’m not going to waste my time.
Of course the problem is that first impressions are only impressions. It takes a while to get to know someone and see what really motivates them. I wonder how many people I’ve written off because I was so quick to judge? How many people have I misunderstood?
I’m just a husband. A dad. A guy that loves Jesus and is trying to follow and understand him more. I’m just like everybody else trying to figure things out. When we start to think we’re special and better than everyone else, that’s when our ego gets out of control. That’s when we let our overblown sense of self-worth and importance cloud our view of the world around us. We stop listening because we already have it figured out. We stop looking for those in need because we’re looking out for ourselves. We stop valuing our friendships because we overvalue ourselves.
While I don’t want to subject myself to toxic relationships, I also want to make sure I’m not rushing to judgement. I need to give people a chance, and not be afraid to actually get to know them. I also want to make sure that I approach each day with a healthy confidence. If I let my ego run rampant, then I can’t live the best life I can. I want to have an attitude that welcomes people and invites them to get to know me. When that happens I can have the impact that I’m supposed to have.