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Self Esteem and a Quiet Ego

Transcending Self-Interest book

How does self esteem impact our lives and creativity? How do traits like egocentrism and narcissism relate to self esteem?

In his post here on PsychCentral, Steve Bressert, Ph.D. explains that Narcissistic Personality Disorder is “characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others.

“People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet. While this pattern of behavior may be appropriate for a king in 16th Century England, it is generally considered inappropriate for most ordinary people today.”

From Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms.

In an article on these aspects of personality, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman notes there are two kinds: “overt” narcissists who tend to be “aggressive, self-aggrandizing, exploitative, and have extreme delusions of grandeur and a need for attention,” and “covert” narcissists who are “more prone to feelings of neglect or belittlement, hypersensitivity, anxiety, and delusions of persecution.”

He refers to reseach by Jonathan Cheek and colleagues finding that higher scorers on a “Maladaptive Covert Narcissism Scale” tended “to also score higher on tests of entitlement, shame, and neuroticism, and tended to display lower levels of self esteem, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. In contrast, maladaptive overt narcissism wasn’t related to shame, self esteem, or neuroticism…”

See his article for more: 23 Signs You’re Secretly a Narcissist Masquerading as a Sensitive Introvert, Huffington Post, Oct 30, 2013.

The quiet ego

This image is from the book: Transcending Self-Interest: Psychological Explorations of the Quiet Ego by Heidi A. Wayment, Jack J. Bauer, Editors.

The summary notes the term quiet ego refers to “an ego less concerned with self-promotion than with the flourishing of both the self and others.”

In his post on the site of Susan Cain, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman refers to this book and notes “The researchers found that those with a quiet ego reported being more interested in personal growth and balance and tended to seek growth through competence, autonomy, and positive social relationships.

“While a quiet ego was positively related to having a higher self-esteem, it was also related to various indicators of self-transcendence, including prosocial attitudes and behaviors.”

He adds, “This is consistent with the idea that a quiet ego balances compassion with self-protection and growth goals.

“Indeed, a quiet ego is an indication of a healthy self-esteem—one that acknowledges one’s own limitations, doesn’t need to constantly resort to defensiveness whenever the ego is threatened, and yet has a firm sense of self-worth and value.”

From The Surprising Benefits of a Quiet Ego.

Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of books including Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined and Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind.

Susan Cain is author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

We all want it

Elizabeth Mika, a provider of assessment for gifted children and counseling for gifted adults, notes that “high self-esteem is something we, Americans, all want.

“To be sure, a similar obsession with self-esteem is rarely, if ever, found in other civilized countries, whose languages often do not even possess an adequate equivalent of the term.

“Here, however, self-esteem is a major preoccupation of psychologists, educators and pundits alike. Whole enterprises are built on the conventional wisdom which teaches us that high self-esteem is good, while low self-esteem can be hazardous to our health.”

But, she adds, “Let’s face it, having chronically high self-esteem is often a sign of either stupidity, delusion, or a lack of conscience — or all three combined. So what is so desirable about it? The feeling-good-no-matter-what part?

John Lennon“On the other hand, the most creative and morally advanced people are typically not models of high self-esteem.

“Their inner lives are often plagued by self-doubt, worries, fears, and feelings of inferiority.

“One reason for this chronic insecurity is that they base their self-evaluations on very high personal standards…”

Continued in my longer article Self Esteem and Self Confidence and Creative People.

Photo: John Lennon once expressed a perspective on some of the self esteem challenges experienced by many creative people: “Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.”


Self Esteem and a Quiet Ego

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2016). Self Esteem and a Quiet Ego. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 15 Apr 2016
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