The ego, which is responsible for our personal identity – and subsequently an over-inflated view of one’s self – is a big problem for us, especially when it comes to self-defense.
Two cardinal defensive sins are over estimating your abilities and underestimating those of the threat. Both of this problems stem directly from an enlarged ego. You think you’re good enough, and so you don’t practice. The ego is fragile, and will do almost anything to keep from being “embarrassed.” This prevents us from training or practicing, especially around others. How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh, I’d just embarrass myself around you guys?”
The only way to learn is to train – studying under someone better - followed by plenty of practice. And during practice you have to focus on your deficiencies, as opposed to just doing what you’re good at. The ego is afraid of making mistakes, so it never steps out of its comfort zone. You’re going to make mistakes, both during training and practice. The ego is competitive, and the best way for it to “win” is to never play. But not participating isn’t going to be a choice when the threat is attacking.
The ego prevents you from judging possible threats. You “see” a group of teenagers acting out, a weak, skinny man yelling because he’s irritated or an unstable elderly woman walking around with a butcher knife. Instead of labeling them as a possible threat and moving away your ego underestimates and ignores them. Except just as you pass by at arm’s reach they attack you, and with much more speed and force than you imagined possible. Your ego has prevented you from evaluating the danger and the resulting threat.
The bloated ego is responsible for the majority of our social problems. Traditionally, and still the case in a lot of societies, hubris – having an over-inflated identity – was considered a bad thing. This is not the case in American culture; we’re raised up to become over-inflated ego balloons. Lauren Slater, in the article “The Trouble with Self-Esteem,” reports that there’s no evidence showing that low self-esteem is a problem. “(P)eople with high self-esteem pose a greater threat to those around them than people with low self-esteem.”
Have you ever noticed that people with giant egos are the most insecure and are constantly launching full on defensive actions? “I can’t believe that guy cut me off in traffic!” The ego has been bruised. One thing leads to another and the result is a violent road rage incident. Once someone starts thinking they’re better than others, above everyone else and deserving of “more” they feel free to act accordingly. I shouldn’t have to work,” they think. “I’ll just go out and take what I want from others,” comes next. And they’re willing to use violence to achieve their goals.
Keep in mind there’s a big difference between having a large ego – which is bad – as opposed to having confidence – which is mandatory. Through training and practice we develop confidence. When forced to shoot in order to stop the threat you’re thinking, “I’ve made this shot a thousand times on the range, this time is no different.” Without confidence you would freeze, stuck in doubt.
It takes enormous discipline to fight the instinctual desire to feed and inflate the ego. Resist this, and focus on becoming confident, but living with humility.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of The Book of Two Guns, AR-15 Skills and Drills, featured on GunTalk’s DVD, “Fighting With The 1911 and has regular columns in Gun Digest and American Handgunner.