IIM Lucknow taught me one thing – Management is all about competing, being the best or at least above average. The side effect of which is that success is followed by ego. High achievers–CEO’s, top athletes, rock stars, prominent surgeons, scientists or researchers–often seem to be well endowed in ego. But how much of this is ‘healthy’ and where does the line draw for the unhealthy? Well in academics too, researchers develop this ego – again no offense to anyone – but it’s just my observation till date. Before we jump to any conclusions let’s start with the basics.

What is Ego?

What ego is depends largely on who you ask. 🙂 Philosophical and psychological definitions abound. Popularly, ego is generally understood as one’s sense of self-identity or how we view ourselves. It may encompass self-confidence, self-esteem, pride, and self-worth, and is therefore influenced by many factors, including genes, early upbringing, and stress.

The popular concept of ego is a far cry from what Sigmund Freud elaborated at the turn of the 19th century in his seminal work on psychoanalytical theory. Freud distinguished between primary (id) and secondary (ego) cognitive systems and proposed that the id, or unconscious, was characterized by a free exchange of neural energy and more primitive or animistic thinking.

Ego in academia

Being a part of academic fraternity, one thing is quite obvious, which Freud misses out is that genes, upbringing and stress acts as a 2nd order factors determining the extent of ego in an individual. I will not comment on the first two factors but the third factor plays an important role. A researcher undergoes the plethora of thoughts and waves while bringing out a new theory, validating earlier work or even doing a lit review. The best part is that it seldom happens that 2 researchers think alike. Same issues, same data but the final paper will always vary and this brings the so called EGO into the play.

From Aura to Nagergy

Research scholars during their journey with research inherit all the above 4 characteristics i.e. self confidence, self esteem, pride and self worth along with a contended heart. No research is complete and for every research there is an equal and opposite research. This starts getting reflecting in real life of researchers and thus the healthy academic ego of scholars fall prey to unhealthy personal ego and clashes. The good and the positive aura of ego in professional excellence, if not handled with care, gets convert to a nagargy (negative energy) in personal life.


Anyway, people may vary in their thoughts and as said earlier it depends on who u ask but if someone asks me, I would define ego -> as an individual’s grandiose self-importance and such extreme preoccupation with self that “One lose the capacity to see things through other people’s eyes”.