The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ego as “the opinion that you have about yourself”.

Further down the page, there are two examples of the word ego used in a sentence.

“I have enough ego not to want to give up easily in any contest or competition”

“A star athlete with a refreshing lack of ego”

While the first sentence implies that ego is a good trait, the second suggests that a lack of ego is good. This suggests that having ego is bad. How can ego be both good and bad?

The difference lies in the relationship between your ego and those around you.

Ego is a good thing if you use it to advance towards your goals while respecting the contributions of others and not harming them. This is how the word is used in the first sentence.

Ego is a bad thing if you use it to harm others and not recognize their contributions in your attempt to get ahead. This is how the word is used in the second sentence.

Contrary to what most people believe, ego is not intrinsically bad. Ego is what drives entrepreneurs to build companies, politicians to reform countries, and athletes to win championships. Ego is only bad when it’sĀ used to hurt others and take credit for what they do. In other words, ego is only bad when you let it be.