Ego investments are objects, ideas, people, or anything outside of ourselves that their success or failure impacts our sense of value as well. When we are invested in something, we hold stake in its success and ownership (at least in part) for its failure.
Lets take for example the Psychology Fanatic project. I have invested tens of thousands of hours in the creation of a large database of articles and definitions. The time, effort, and engagement given to this project has become part of me. I invest significantly in its success. When a particular article is published that largely fails or draws harsh criticism, I feel it, my emotions depress. I am invested. Psychology Fanatic is an ego investment.
Ego Investments Are Not All or Nothing
Being invested in the stake of something is not an all or nothing proposition. Our level of ego investment may vary from object to object. Some failed investments sting, dragging our sense of worth down with it. Others may only cause a tinge of discomfort that we quickly move past.
Many factors play a part in the amount of personal ego at stake:
- the amount of time and effort invested
- the personal creative involved
- Our own security
- Other investments
Subjective Evaluations of an Ego Investments Success
When we are heavily invested in something, it is difficult to objectively assess successes and failures. Because when the cost of failure is high, we refuse to see obvious facts. Consequently, we deceive ourselves.
We protect our ego by protecting the invested object. Whether it is a project, a politician, or a scientific theory, we subjectively interpret facts to protect from the devastation of failure.
Protecting Against Ego Investment Losses
We shouldn’t protect against disappointments by avoiding ego investment. We should take pride in our work, giving a piece of ourselves into the success of our projects. However, we don’t need to emotionally detach in hopes of curing the bruises from healthy ego investment.
A few guidelines for proper investments of ego: The investment must match the object being invested in. Occationally, we can overly invest in objects deserving little concern. An overly invested ego emotionally overreacts to small investments. For example, a small investment might be be having a supervisor reject an idea during a brainstorming session. A group debates and discusses dozens of ideas without any particular idea amounting to more than a momentary thought. We must identify overblown emotional reactions and implement emotional regulation techniques, and, perhaps do some soul searching to unearth why small rejections are leading to serious ego injuries.
On the other hand, we hurt when someone rejects our life’s work or the project fails. Significant time, effort and sacrifice leads to significant ego investment. The object invested in and the amount of ego invested match.
We Should Diversify Our Ego Investments
Just like financial investments, ego investments need to be diversified. We can build our sense of self on multiple areas of interest. Equally, we should invest in a variety of intimate parts of our selves. While an important project may fail, we are still propped up by other successes. We need multiple areas in our life that strengthen our security. If we are heavily invested, we need outside evaluations to clearly measure successes and failures. It is nearly impossible to objectively evaluate a project we are heavily invested in. The stakes are too high. Science has long determined that for an experiment to rise above bias, research designers must implement a double blind structure, protecting against researchers intense desire for certain results.
A Few Closing Thoughts
We should be passionate and invested. Markedly, we try harder when invested. Our investment may determine the differences between success and failure. However, blind investment has its pitfalls. We may over invest, ignoring obvious signs we are a failed venture. We may never recover sunken costs. Accordingly, we may need a variety of resources that boost when ego investments fail. We can structure our lives with a variety of passions to keep our sense of self alive and positive, even when one or more of our investments fail.