Deeper Look on Our Ego & Defensiveness

Mar 8, 2009 by

Imagine you are driving, and you find out that you’re almost run out of gas. You stop by at a gas station. Just before you went into the mini market, one person told you that your car has some leak, and ask you to check it out. What will be your reaction? You’ll be happy to double check your car, and you must be thankful for them, even if you eventually found out that they were wrong, you are still happy, at least someone is concerned and making an effort to tell you. It’s always good to check, and to ensure that everything is OK.

Circle of Protection
Creative Commons License photo credit: furryscaly

Now, imagine the one in question wasn’t your car, but your idea or your business decision. How will you react? Rather than happy about it, most people will be turned into defensive mode. They will be trying to defend their idea.

The two scenarios above were taken from Egonomics by David Marcum and Steven Smith (review). The book has given me some insights on defensiveness, and here is what I want to share with you.

What are we defending…, really?

The second scenario above relates with defensiveness, because often it relates with our positive image we’re trying to hold. Car has nothing to do with our self image, but our decision and ideas? Those are things that reflects our intelligence and self image, or in short, our ego. As David and Steven put it…

Fear is the mortar that holds together the wall of defensiveness.
~David Marcum & Steven Smith (Egonomics)

Ego and defensiveness were born by fear. It’s the fear of losing what we have or what we can have. If we are not defending our ego, than who will defend them? If we lose now, will we lose again and again in the future? What will happen if we lose our face? How can we face the future then? It’s interesting to see how we can overestimate the result of our one mistake. It’s the fear of failure that leads us to be defensive.

How are we defending ourselves?

Defensiveness can easily deal with spinning our facts and ideas. We can easily exaggerate, understate, manipulate, and fabricate the information we give.

And seriously, defensiveness blocks our potential to learn. What I experience was that we often rationalize our mistakes. We put our weaknesses as an excuse. We put misunderstanding as the issue, and we daydream if only the other person understand the perspective and motive that we have.

I have read many books on personality, strengths, etc, and in a way they can become an excuse of what our personalities are, and how other people should understand us. It’s good to understand ourselves, but it’s no longer good if we disillusion that as the only reality.

We defend our enslavements,” said an unknown philosopher, “as if they were our freedoms.” Freedom comes from inviting reality checks while at the same time holding a positive self-view. The feedback we get won’t always be accurate; the data we receive filters through the biased lens of the one giving it, as well as the one on the receiving end. But what other people tell us does represent their perception of us, and we should remember that their perception is their reality. So if we want to work effectively with them, we must understand their reality.
~David Marcum & Steven Smith (Egonomics)

How should we change?

Does that mean we need to be passive to let go defensiveness? The answer is not to be unassertive person. That is the other end of the spectrum where we have lack of ego. The answer is how we can detach our idea from our self-image or identity.

It’s a very strong point that Egonomics emphasize, how we bring the intensity from our identity (that we are defending) to the ideas (that we are proposing).

There is nothing wrong with defending an idea. If our intent is to let the best ideas win, we should be able to take any stance, on any topic, in any arena to test the strength of what we’re debating.
~David Marcum & Steven Smith (Egonomics)


3D Full Spectrum Unity Holding Hands Concept
Creative Commons License photo credit: lumaxart

Ego is an asset, but it often becomes a very expensive liability in our life. Not only getting defensive, we are also being comparative, showcasing brilliance, and seeking acceptance when we have problem with ego.

Defensiveness, together with comparison and competitiveness, caused us to be blinded by the opportunity to see what the goods that others have. When we need to prove our identity, when we don’t have a secure identity, it’s hard for us to see how others can be better than us. But even worse, it’s hard for us to learn from them. And the big rewards, as David Marcum and Steven Smith put it very well…

If we can drop our defensive posture and listen, it gives us power-power to be influenced and power to influence others.
~David Marcum & Steven Smith (Egonomics)

Hope this article inspired you to manage your ego, and manage your defensiveness. It’s a process, but you have to start now!

Managing ego,

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  1. I think the ego keeps us from truly living our full potential!!!! Its a chain the ties us down!

  2. Hi Miguel, it’s true for uncontrolled ego. We might feel the impact gradually, but eventually it can be deadly! Thanks for your comment.


  3. “Intolerance itself is a form of egoism, and to condemn egoism intolerantly is to share it”
    – George Santayana

    This is the most appropriate quote that I could find to describe a formidable problem with handling our egos.  Need I say more?

  4. Hi Nicole, a great quote, thanks for sharing it! Similar like humility; there is no such award in humility, as if there is one willing to receive it, it’s not humble anymore.
    Open minded is also difficult, open minded can’t condemn those close-minded, open-minded learned from close-minded instead.

    I also think that humility is a very important in managing ego, egonomics share it as 3 characteristics of humility: “we, then me”, “duality” (I am good and I am not), and “one more thing” (constructive discontent).

    Hope it’s useful!

  5. Kenneth


    just passing by … love your blog … nice articles … keep blogging! 

  6. Robert this is an interesting topic. If you can put aside your ego you can be so much more content. Also once you put aside your ego it is easier to succeed because you are more willing to embrace new ideas.

  7. Hi Jeremy, great to have your comment here. Like one author says.. if you want stay happy, try stop thinking about yourself.

  8. Great ideas and concept to share and pass the interesting ideas.


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