Ego vs Esteem

A young lady approached Picasso in a restaurant and asked him if she could keep the napkin on which he’d been doodling. Picasso said it would cost her 40, 000 francs. The lady retorted “But it only took you 10 minutes” to which Picasso replied “Madame, it took me 40 years.”

Esteem is acknowledging the fruits of your efforts while striving for better.

In another anecdote, two young artists in the 1930s started with painting billboards for the growing Bollywood film industry, one rose the ranks to be known as M. F. Hussain, while the other stagnated. The latter during conversations would often remain blind to any feedback, and assumed himself nothing but the best, despite the reality being otherwise.

Ego is the organ that justifies one’s shortcomings, selectively focusing on narratives that helps them maintain a consistent self-image in their mind.

What appears self-confident to us, could be perceived as over-confidence, ego, or arrogance to others. The opposite extreme being what would appear humility to self could appear a benign nature to the other. To be able to decipher whether the intent is ego or esteem, whether it is confidence or over-confidence is usually confusing for many. Balancing these softer aspects is often the key to healthy relationships.

In this edition, we interview Smita Mittal, where we talk about ego, esteem, confidence, NLP, her book, and her journey. Smita has 28 years of rich experience in the field of education and counselling, where she has impacted more than 1000 families positively. Based on her experience, she’s authored a book - Living Through Relationships- Destiny Or Freewill

Q: Tell us how did you get started.

I used to be in a teaching profession and had students come to me to discuss their problems. They would open up to me, I would listen to them and try to sort the matters. If I would find difficulty, I would turn up to the school counselor and be the mediator between the students and counselor.

These cases started growing and I would be gratified by the positive impact that I made in the lives of these blooming little buds. I started to seriously consider getting full-time into it. That is how it all began.

Q: Tell us about one of the cases that you still remember.

Long back when I was teaching a student of mine dropped by my home, and looked dejected. I was taken aback! “What are you doing here? How do you know the address?”, I asked.

She reverted that her driver and my driver were friends and that she asked her driver to be dropped at my residence.

She was about 12 years old and started talking about her parents in a dead tone. I listened to her, and when she started narrating her story, she broke down. She mentioned that she was an adopted child and that her parents had hidden this fact until this from her. She mentioned that she no longer felt the same bonding with her parents. All the love, care, and emotions that existed until now, did not mean much to her anymore. She used to hold her father in high regard, look up to him as a role model, she would look at him as a person with high integrity, but all that was lost. The girl was so emotionally drained that she went to sleep.

I let her take a rest and dialed her mother. Upon hearing this, she too broke down. Initially, I would counsel them alone, then in twos, and finally together. There were lots of blocked emotions, a strong sense of betrayal. It took about 3 months of counseling to bring them back to talking terms, and about a year for things to come back to normal.

Finally, she has grown up to be a graceful and responsible lady. They are all together.

Q: What are the major trends that you have seen shifting when it comes to people and problems over the years?

While as a society we take a lot of pride in our ancient culture and heritage, there is lots of incest and sexual abuse that is kept under grabs and cover. The same things are continuing now.

In the nineties mothers from well-off families were busy in kitty parties, now all the moms have a professional responsibility to cater to. It translates to double income lonely child.

The peer pressure is the same. The only added pressure is social media, and a child is not cool until the number of likes and comments quota is met.

Q: Tell us a little about self-esteem. Not the textbook definition, but something that would help build a perspective.

Human personality is layered. It occurs in patches of grey and not absolute black and whites. So it is not possible to classify an individual as someone with high self-esteem or low self-esteem.

Self-esteem develops because of the experience and perceptions that an individual has about himself. If I perceive that I am a good learner, a good cook, a good singer, a good painter and I find validations of the same in the external world, then the self-esteem in that particular area grows.

Self-esteem in any area is the summation of the inputs that the mind has been receiving from outside right from childhood. If someone offers a positive compliment it affects the child positively, and if someone offers a strong criticism, it has a negative impact. If someone has consistently been scoring good grades in a particular subject, that eventually translates into strength, and if someone is constantly been struggling with something without rewards, it translates into a weakness.

Experience is the mother of esteem.

The beauty is in every area your self-esteem is different, and it is never too late to change it if you properly focus your efforts.

Q: How do we know, in which area we have high or low self-esteem?

Here’s an exercise. Take a pen and paper. For each of the list items below, close your eyes, visualize yourself, and note down the image or feeling that you experience on a scale of 1 to 10, then move on to the next item.

  • As a professional that you are.
  • As a person.
  • As a husband.
  • As a father.
  • As a son.
  • As a brother.
  • As a friend.

Now you have a clear idea of the image that you carry about yourself in each of the fields. You need to focus on your strengths and work on your shortcomings.

Q: How should one go about handling low self-esteem?

The brain collects amazing amounts of data, mind processes it. That data processing usually follows patterns, and that pattern is self-talk. This is THE most important aspect when it comes to self-esteem.

For instance, if you are weak in a certain area, analyze the internal dialogue in that area and gradually try to convert that into a positive tone. Its triggers in the outside world have affected the self-talk in the inner world, positive self-talk in the inner world can change circumstances in the outer world.

Superficial self-talk however would not help, one needs to delve deeper into the subconscious, and understand what is holding you back.

Q: In the light of self-esteem where do ego and confidence stand?

Self-esteem is about Perception and Experience, whereas confidence is a matter of belief both temporary and permanent. Like self-esteem, confidence varies in different spheres of life.

For instance, you dress up in your best attire for a party. When you walk in, you are high on confidence, but say when a drink spills on the dress, the confidence shakes and you are not as confident as you were just a while ago. Confidence is a matter of belief. Initially, you believed that you looked good, but suddenly doubt took over that belief.

Q: If a person is successful at times the high-headedness is discounted, and for someone who has failed the confidence is looked down on. How would you differentiate ego, confidence, and esteem?

The ego is unwilling to see the reality. It justifies all its assumptions. It is living inside the head denying every criticism or feedback. It assumes itself to be a king/queen inside the head. The best part is that a person with an ego never realizes that he has an ego.

An over-confident person would fight reality and in the process make a fool of himself.

A person with high self-esteem can see his work critically, and digest constructive criticism without being a very harsh critic of himself.

A confident person holds his work in high regard.

The sad part is in daily usage it is the confidence of the person disagreeing with us, is what we term as ego.

Q: Let us talk about your book. What was the inspiration for the book?

I look at things in life through the lens of relationships. Success and failure are a function of how you handle relationships. It is this idea that is expanded into the book.

My friends told me that I am a good storyteller and they suggested that I should write a book.

Q: Tell us about your thoughts on relationships.

A relationship is a way we connect, interact and react with ideas, people, subjects. It is not restricted to humans. There are some ideas that you relate so much with that you build a career out of it, and there are cases when you hate something that you ruin your career. All of it is coming from within us - how we connect, interact, or react. For instance, anger or happiness is inside us, any external object is a mere trigger. All the resources are controlled by the mind. The soundtrack is going on inside the mind.

Q: Tell us about relationship with our self.

The first and foremost relationship a person has is with the self - the inner person that he or she is. If I have a positive self-image I will meet and greet others with that image and based on that people will respond.

Everyone is a bundle of positives and negatives. To have a healthy relationship with self translates to accepting oneself with the inherent strengths and weaknesses and being comfortable with them. It is being open to critically analyze the capabilities and shortcomings. Focus on strengths and be aware of weaknesses. Magnify the goodness. Be mindful of weaknesses and heal them.

Q: How does one go about magnifying strengths and healing weaknesses?

If you are good at something it is rather easy to deal with, keep up the practice and efforts.

When it comes to handling weakness. Try and build a trigger in the external world that prevents the negative self-talk inside the mind. For instance, I am not a techie. If I happen to indulge in negative self-talk about my shortcomings with technology, I would rather try and stop that and try to create triggers in the external world that would prevent it from going inside my head.

Q: Most of the time the root of this negative self-talk lies in the early years. How does go about handling the inner child?

Go back in time. Meet the child as the caring adult that you are today. Address the fear, confusion, nervousness, insecurity of the child. If the inner-child or past-self is sad, depressed, or nervous then the persona of the confidence will never be strong.

The inner child needs to be satiated, it wants more attention, love, and care. The incidents of the past that have not had closure need to be dealt with.

As an adult, you can provide proper closure. At least you can provide some explanation, address the voids. It is very important to handle those feelings. If the child within you is not satisfied, he is nervous. It will not allow you to live in peace, it will trigger anxiety and nervousness.

Q: What do you think about the role of free will when it comes to relationships?

I do believe destiny presents options and choices, and it is with free will that we decide which door to open. When I open the door it is pre-decided what all I have to experience. Destiny will again offer choices.

You often come across people who married for love but ended up experiencing bitterness. You use your free will to marry the person you want to but you experience what you were destined to because that is karma.

Q: Coming to your practice. What is NLP? Can it be used to change one’s psychology?

In the perspective of NLP, Neuro refers to the realms of the brain, nervous system, and senses. Linguistic is the language-internal and external.

Each one of us is a huge storehouse of information accumulated over time. Normal humans can tap only a fraction of it. The brain collects the data and the mind analyses and triggers biochemical processes. If you are watching a film. You know it is unreal. When the lead role in fighting the mind will get agitated. All this is the language that is going to be sub-conscious.

Programming is how you program to optimize things for yourself.

Q: What is the difference between NLP and Positive psychology? Does it help or does it have a placebo effect?

NLP is situation and need-based. NLP is amazingly effective for anxiety and nervousness and ensuring people have a good night’s sleep. The applications are unlimited.

Psychology addresses things at an emotional level. NLP has got more to do with the subconscious. How to address the root cause of problems.

That’s all for this article!

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