Self - respect v/s Ego

Past few days I have been thinking about something. It started as a thought, turned into discussion with friends and now the next step is this post. Please note, I did not say it ends in a post. Because, this is not the end! I expect some input from the reader’s as well...

What is self –respect and what is Ego? Is there any difference? If yes, what?
Let us talk about the definitions:

Self – respect: The quality of being worthy of esteem or respect
Ego: An inflated feeling of pride in your superiority to others

According to me, there is a very thin line between self-respect and Ego. One ends and the other begins. Ego is overdoing self-respect. I also believe that the line is never fixed, it shifts. So how do we exactly study the line, I thought.
I tweeted my thoughts and received response from one of my followers who also added that “Self - respect is a positive spin and Ego a negative spin to the same trait. To be simple one could say Ego - I am the best, Self - respect - I am not worse than anyone else.”

I found this interesting and decided to study “the fibres of thin line” between the two. I had a discussion with a few friends. Most of them had to say the same thing, a few differed. What follows is the discussion between friends and me.

Let it be self – respect or ego, both are subjective. What might be self respect for me might be ego for someone else. As a friend says, "we humans are weird creatures, sometimes we do what we don't want to or we think after doing so you just can't judge them, you know you can’t find out what kind of person one is, label them and they will shock you. So just make it simple, each one of us has the right to set our own boundary and we should respect it and not label them as egotist, egoist, negative or whatever”

Apart from being subjective, both are conditional – depend on the circumstances. What might seem like self –respect in one situation might be ego in another. When I questioned a few friends with examples, they had different answers. A few justified the action taken during that particular situation as being self respect whereas a few said it was nothing but the ego.

The e.g. I gave was:

If you are friends with A, just friends, less than good friends and more than acquaintance, have had conversation in the past however suddenly A stops responding. Ignores your attempts to strike a conversation! You then decide to give up. This “giving up” is self respect or Ego?

Like I had expected majority of people said it was self respect. Yes, majority. There were a few who said it was ego. A friend also added that it depends on the friendship with A. Another friend said it was self – respect because had it been ego, “you” would have not tried to start a conversation with A, at all.
Yet another good friend of mine said, “You never know what it is on A’s side, maybe A has his/her own reasons. Maybe A does not have time, is busy doing something else. So, the decision you take is based on your assumptions that you are being ignored, that is human nature." She said it was Ego to give up trying to strike a conversation.
This friend was the first person to whom I asked the modified question.

Modified version:

If B is a common friend to you and A. You come to know that A has been talking to B while ignoring your attempts to converse, what would you do? And, what would you consider this as?
To this she said she’d stop trying and this giving up would be self –respect.
Also, if that person has straight-away instructed her to not try talking then she would refrain from doing that as her self – respect.

The friend who said that we humans are weird creatures had an interesting answer to share:
For first example: See when you give-up without any response from other party, it's more or less because of your own assumptions because second party is not at all involved.
For modified version: Depends on person and circumstances. She might even go and talk to A and get things clarified. On the other hand, in different situation, maybe different person, she might choose not to talk to A, rather not talk about the problem. She added - if you two are mature enough, you never ignore each other completely; we tend to overlook the problem and behave as if nothing has happened. Sometimes, it is necessary to behave that way because man is a social animal.

Yet another friend at twitter said in first example he might have given up due to self esteem, or he might have just given up hope... less chances of ego. In the modified example, if A does not talk to him, he will obviously be hurt... but whether that hurt also affects his ego will depend on how much he values the friendship between A and him. There might be a different relation between B and A, I might know B from school; A might know B from some social activity. All relations are different, so you cannot compare them.

I was still thinking –

If we say that self – respect and ego are subjective and dependent on circumstances and, the thin line shifting accordingly, is it not true that both self – respect and ego are just perceptions?
I asked a few questions to a good friend by email. The conversation is as follows:

1. According to you, are self - respect and Ego two sides of the same coin or they are the continuation of a line. As in, one ends and the other begins?

I think they are not necessarily related. Ego is just a term to describe a psychological concept, whereas self-respect has more to do with ideals and character.

2. If latter, do you agree that there is a very thin line of differentiation between the two?

I think, in fact, sometimes they can be opposite.

3. Do you agree that the line is ever shifting?


4. How would you differentiate the two? Define the fibers of the thin line ...

See number one. Ego is merely a concept, yet unproven that it exists at all. Ego could be another term for self-centerdness, in which case ego would not be a good thing. However, self-respect is always good because it is something everyone should endeavour towards, and allows us to also respect others.

5. What is self respect for you might be Ego for someone else, so do you believe that it is subjective?

Possibly, since ego is merely a concept and not a proven fact. Therefore, ego is probably open to interpretation.

6. What is self respect in particular situation is Ego in another, so do you believe that it is situational?

Possibly, See number 5.

7. If the above two points are true, then ... can we say that Self- respect and Ego are nothing but just perspectives?

Ego could perhaps be perspective, but self-respect is not.

8. Let us talk about an example: You are friends with someone ... say A. Just friends ... a little more than acquaintance and less than good friends. You both communicate with each other on regular basis. All of a sudden A decides to stay aloof. Has nothing to do with you or the topics you discuss. You try to strike a conversation, it is neglected. You try for some time and then give up. Now, this giving up, is self - respect or Ego?

It depends why you do it. If you stop talking to the person because you don't want to waste his/her time and yours, and because you don't push yourself on others, that is self-respect. If you stop talking to the person because of self-centerdness and ill-directed pride, then it is possibly ego.

9. Modification in point 8: B is a common friend to both of you. You three meet at a party. This is sudden, not decide. A talks to B but ignores you. How will you react to this? And, would this reaction be your self - respect or Ego?

I really wouldn't care. I have plenty of friends, so I don't care if someone doesn't want to be friendly with me. I also don't begrudge others friendships. We are all different, and cannot be liked by everyone, nor should we expect to be. In my opinion, my reaction would be based neither upon self-respect or ego, but upon common sense.

10. If after a few weeks, A decides to talk to you, how would you react? If you choose to ignore A, would that be your self-respect or Ego?

Again, I wouldn't care either way. If I thought we had something in common, I would perhaps interact with A. If I thought A were being manipulative, I probably would avoid A. That is because I try to avoid drama. Again, that would neither be self-respect nor ego, but prudence.

To all the friends to whom I did not ask the last question, please think about it and send in your answers or just leave a comment here.

If I am asked the last question, I would say it would depend. Subjective and Conditional! I might not talk to that person, might talk to that person but my future actions would be biased or I might talk to that person totally forgetting what had happened.

There are a few topics, which are too complex to fit into solid blocks of thinking. You cannot be sure that you will react to a particular situation in a particular manner every time. Think about this –
You have read this post, managed to reach here without feeling sleepy, you are obviously asking these questions to yourself. You will take your time to come up with an answer.
But –
If life throws such circumstances your way, would you really think and take a decision, or react? Would you even think once, forget twice, before severing your contacts with A? Especially if you are thrown in together as in modified version?
Would you not react spontaneously?
Would you ask yourself, behaving in what manner would be your self – respect or your ego?
Like one of my friends says, “We are humans we are not conditioned to think normally, but give in to our emotions. If you go by emotions and react instantly, there is a very high chance that it is ego. I doubt there'd be many people who'd think through this whole situation before hand, and prepare a response for it or even wait to think and then react”

Now, you think! Take your own time and leave your views in comment section :)

Ok, last but not the least: An interesting article written by a friend few years ago.

Mula Paul says -

"According to me EGO is the one which kills a person as human whereas Self Respect grows a person to be a perfect human. As per my opinion characteristics of a person who has EGO - will not able to accept success of others, will always think that he is superior, will not make an effort to listen or learn from others, will never accept knowing he is wrong SELF RESPECT - cares for people around him, always try to learn, accepts if he is at fault, will not feel if he has something to learn from a person who might not be lower than him(be it on age, designation, education wise), will always try to not to boast or go for false pride, respects private space of others and will never feel bad if a person ignores as there might be several reasons for that."

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