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What Causes an Overinflated Ego?

A healthy ego can be a positive attribute for your well-being. It's important to believe in yourself and want to do well in life.

But when someone has an overinflated ego, they aren't just confident and self-assured. Instead, they have a distorted sense of their capabilities, and they often disregard societal rules to get what they want.

People with overinflated egos tend to feel entitled. However, even if they get what they want, it's never enough. They always want more, and they feel a profound sense of emptiness over what they believe they lack.

The ego gets in the way of relationships. These people don't accept loss easily. They want to be the best at everything they do, even if that "win" harms someone else. Likewise, they desire constant approval and recognition. They want others to validate their worth- often because they can't do it themselves.

Finally, an overinflated ego can cause people to act like victims. They often blame other people or situations instead of taking personal accountability. They don't own up to their mistakes, even if they're glaringly obvious.

What Causes People to Have an Overinflated Ego?

Many factors can cause people to have an overinflated ego. Let's get into some of the common ones.

Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is often the main catalyst that triggers an overinflated ego. Low self-esteem can result from several factors, including:

  • a history of rejection.

  • perceived or real series of failures.

  • a history of trauma.

  • being shamed, bullied, or put down by others.

  • having a mental health issue like depression or anxiety.

  • having intense feelings of guilt, shame, or worthlessness.

Some people cope with their low self-esteem by overcompensating for it. Instead of acknowledging their internal self-loathing, they seemingly "manpower" their way into a different way of thinking. This process is usually subconscious and automatic. They convince themselves they are above the rules or better than other people to avoid reflecting inward.


Narcissistic people tend to have overinflated egos. Narcissism lies on a spectrum, and the symptoms range from having mild self-centeredness to having a narcissistic personality disorder.

Narcissism consists of a pervasive pattern of:

  • arrogant thinking and behavior.

  • lacking empathy for other people.

  • needing constant validation and admiration.

  • believing your needs are more important than anyone else's.

  • having a sense of entitlement over what you want.

  • having an idealized perception of self.

  • exploiting other people without feeling ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed.

  • treating other people as objects or as subservient.

Narcissism comes from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. If the person is aware of these tendencies, that insight is the first step towards making a sustainable change.

Enabling and Codependency

People can maintain their egos when other people enable their behavior. In codependent relationships, people often want to maintain a sense of peace, even if that peace comes at a steep cost. Usually, someone has to sacrifice their needs to keep the other person happy.

People with overinflated egos tend to gravitate towards people who will reinforce their grandiose sense of self. They don't want to be challenged or dismissed. They want people who can validate and approve of them.

As a result, they find people who will essentially "put up" with their behavior. Even if their loved one becomes frustrated, they don't want to start a conflict.

Poor Attachment Issues or Trauma

It's important to experience unconditional love as a child. Everyone needs to feel like have inherent worth and that their needs matter. But people who grow up in dysfunctional households may not receive this basic need.

Many times, they are taught believing that love is conditional and that they have to prove themselves if they want attention. In some cases, even their best efforts go unnoticed, or they get punished.

Trauma can impact every aspect of someone's functioning. It can make people feel unloved and unsafe. The overinflated ego serves as a protective measure. It's a subconscious shield to avoid being vulnerable and letting people get too close.

These people want to feel loved and connected with others, but they've had too many experiences of rejection and betrayal. Instead of leaning into a new opportunity for closeness, they become domineering and self-centered. They often avoid emotional intimacy because it leaves too much room for getting hurt.

What Should You Do if You Have an Overinflated Ego?

First, it's important to recognize that you aren't a bad person. Egos are a function of other issues, and an overinflated sense of self is a symptom of a deeper problem.

It's important to think about the cause of this problem. What leads you to feel superior over other people? When does your ego get in the way of your relationships or performance?

Therapy can help you develop more appropriate strategies for managing your ego. You can learn healthier ways to showcase your self-esteem without stepping on others. Contact us today to learn more.

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