the difference between ego and confidence

Some people think ego is their friend, while some people believe it’s their enemy. To a certain extent, ego can be helpful but beyond it, it can be toxic.

According to the Oxford dictionary, ego means a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. It’s good to have a tiny slice of it but if we tip the scale too far, it leads to a life filled with delusion and grave mistakes.

Consider a Venn diagram between ego and confidence (as shown in the image). Confidence is the white region and ego is the black region, and the gray region is where ego overlaps with confidence. The gray area is when ego serves us, but by itself ego is a dark force to reckon within.

Believing in ourselves is great but when it is based entirely on delusion and false evidence, then that’s when ego becomes a dark force, an enemy, and it leads to our downfall.

As Ryan Holiday explains in his impactful book Ego is the Enemy, “Ego is the enemy of what you want and of what you have: Of mastering a craft. Of real creative insight. Of working well with others. Of building loyalty and support. Of longevity. Of repeating and retaining your success. It repulses advantages and opportunities. It’s a magnet for enemies and errors. It is Scylla and Charybdis.”

He further distinguishes between confidence and ego in one of his blog articles: “Confidence is based on what is real—it is earned. Ego is based on delusion and wishful thinking—it is artifice. Confidence doesn’t alienate us from others. On the contrary, it allows us to relate to others better—because it has removed insecurity and fear from the equation. When you are confident you can be empathetic and vulnerable. Ego makes us an asshole. Confidence—as anyone who has ever stepped foot into any martial arts studio can tell you—has the opposite effect. Confidence is calm, compassionate, curious, careful. That is: it is all the things one needs to be creative.”