The Stroking Of The Ego

We all do it, I suppose, and we all like it. The stroking of the ego. Sounds almost erotic, doesn’t it? And in a way, it is. We all like to be told we’ve done a good job. We like to win. We like to be liked, to be well thought of. Those feelings release endorphins in the brain, to feed the pleasure center of our primitive minds. So is feeding our ego purely biological? When we have positive feelings, our chances for survival go up. So it seems feeding the ego is nothing more than animal instinct. Or is it? Humans are very competitive. Sports is huge throughout the world. Competition in business is huge. Where does the need to be “better than” come from?

In the animal world we see survival instinct all the time. Two buffalo face off and ram heads, fighting for the right to mate with females. Survival. After it’s over, and there’s a clear winner, does the winner gloat about it? Does he bully the loser? From what science can tell, this doesn’t happen. So in animals, competition begins and ends with survival. There seems to be no other purpose for it. But in humans, competition is only partly survival instinct, and mostly feeding the ego.

I remember in grade school when we would have a phys ed class, the teacher would pick team captains for a game. Inevitably the teacher would choose the most athletic and sports minded kids for captains. These two would then strut around for a minute like male peacocks with their feathers all showing. They would revel in the attention and bask in the imagined glory of being good enough to be picked team captain. And then it was their job to pick their team members from the class. Of course they would choose their friends first, who were also athletic and ego driven. The fat kids, and the skinny kids, without athletic ability were always chosen last.

You might look at this and say that it’s just primitive survival instinct to choose the best for your team in the hope of winning. And that may be part of it. But mostly I think, it’s just ego driven, wanting to be the winner, wanting everyone to think more highly of you than of the losers. But why is that? Why do some need to have their ego stroked more than others? In the animal world, males fight for the right to mate. Once they win that right, or lose it, then it’s over. The competition is done. But with humans, some are highly competitive. Some need to win, all the time. Their chosen sports team has to be the best. If they’re not, if their team loses, they take it personally. This shows up in business as well. Some are constantly driven to out do the competition. Of course in business, being better than your competitors means making more money, and I get that, but I think it’s more than that. There is a drive in a lot of people to be the best. For no other reason than simply recognition as such.

Wars have started this way. Arguing about whose balls are bigger has gotten a lot of people killed. We can see it in our own president. All the winning he talks about, the constant need to belittle others, to make them seem, “less than.” His insistence on calling the COVID 19 virus “The Chinese Virus.” It’s all meant for one thing, to stroke his own ego, by making others seem worse than himself. Why is there such a need with some people to compete in this way? The biggest problem is, is that it’s never satisfying. It has to be constantly repeated over and over, kind of like a drug. Feeding the ego, getting those feel good chemical flowing in the brain is exactly like a drug addiction. It feels so good to win, to be the best, that some people just can’t get enough. And it flows from people, to countries. Some countries have to be the best. The biggest military, the best scientists, etc. etc. Who carries the biggest stick? We Do!!! Hooray for us!!

Sadly, we just keep going like this. We never learn anything from it. Wars started over trivial things have killed many. And what do we learn from war? How to make bigger, more deadly weapons, that’s what. Our egos have set us on a path of self destruction since the beginning of time and it’s really amazing to me that we’re not all dead yet. It was ego that had our president telling us that the “Chinese Virus” was a Democrat plot to make him look bad. And it will be ego that pushes us into the next war. Sorry that there isn’t any good news here, and of course this is just my opinion. And maybe ego is just driven by survival instinct. Maybe some have more of it than others because their drive to survive is stronger than mine. Unfortunately, it means the ones that survive will be the least suited to do so. And that ultimately means that the human race will eventually die out. Who knows what will come next.


  1. American society is the most powerful example of the ego-driven rat-race you’re talking about, Butch. But we are now being handed the best opportunity, the best ever in our history, of being able to evolve into a more fair way of living together.


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