Ten years ago my brother responded with profanity when a cousin questioned his knowledge of Finance. Last month, I rebuked the same cousin for wasting my consulting time.
"I have helped 'average applicants' get into top Business Schools"
An indirect "You know who I am " statement. Classic Ego. God Syndrome. Whatever you call.
Ego is not the enemy.
Ego means you care about what you are doing. You worked hard to earn what you have. You begged, borrowed, exaggerated, worked 16-18 hours every day, for 5 years, honing your skills, making laughable mistakes to barely survivable gaffes. But here you are. You learned. You are still breathing. You competed with some of the best minds. Many quit. You survived because you carried on the daily drudge and demoralization that comes with pursuing anything worthwhile.
Your earned your ego.
Compare that to, name dropping, and taking credit for someone else's hard work. Sports Fans have this peculiar tendency. Painting the face and endlessly talking about how 'my' team won. You didn't win. The players won. They practiced. They worked hard. They got the paycheque. You just wasted 1-2 hours watching someone do what they love. Ego by association with brands, sports team, actors, movies, relatives or special privileges you accessed because of who you know, just creates arrogance.
Mediocrity breeds arrogance. A false sense that you have power over someone else. Waste your time controlling someone else when you can't even control your impulses and time. Keep living in an imaginary, "I am better than them," without contributing anything for the world.
Ego needs excellence. Except if you have recorded your work in some form - movies, music, and writing. Then you can live in your mediocrity. Momentary sparks of excellence recorded and worshiped by 'fans' are enough to feed the ego.
Ego becomes a problem when you stop moving. Pat in the back is an exercise in delusion. Ego doesn't give you the right to smother in nostalgic stories about the 'struggles' of the good old days. You had to do what you had to. The clock doesn't stop. Pedestals are not laid out for your war stories. Those who lost the magic touch will talk about 'mindfulness,' 'privileges,' 'smelling the rose' and lecture others about the importance of 'loyalty' and 'family' while they indulge in every backstabbing and intimidation dance.
But you need ego to get out of a rut. The deep hole of helplessness, misery, and failure. Ego pushes you out of the ditch. Grab whatever memory the ego throws. Your tale of heroism is fuel for your next work. It might be the last sniff of oxygen you need to CREATE excellence.
But remember - No one cares what you did yesterday.
Earn your Ego. Everyday.