Sunday Firesides: Don’t Borrow an Ego

The Observer has been running Sunday Firesides, in which we pose questions to our readers and hold open discussions on the topics. This week’s topic is “Don’t Borrow an Ego”.

Is the first thing you do if you have a disagreement with your landlord to seek advice from Mom and Dad? Do you quickly enter a query into Google when it comes to mind? Do you text a buddy when your partner does something that irritates you?

These actions are referred to as “borrowing an ego” by psychologists. (Here, “ego” refers to the portion of the mind that prepares, determines, controls impulses, and gives you a feeling of self, not overbearing pride.) You externalize your executive control, agency, and identity to other minds when you borrow an ego (human or robotic). “Reaching out in a time of need and allowing someone else’s frontal lobe do the job,” says Dr. Meg Jay.

Of course, asking for aid, guidance, and comfort from others is important and beneficial at times. However, we frequently do it too hastily, too sluggishly, and too aimlessly.

You miss out on the opportunity to build your own resilience if you call your parents every time you have a difficult day at work. When you contact a buddy for help every time you have a problem, you miss out on the chance to improve your problem-solving skills. You shut a place where you might have utilized your critical thinking abilities if you Google a meaty subject as soon as you think of it.

When you borrow an ego, it may help you get through a difficult situation, but you must return it; in the meanwhile, your own ego stays unused and undeveloped. When you take a minute before depending on the brains of others to see whether you can solve a problem on your own, you establish self-confidence and construct an identity that you own rather than one that you borrow.