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Esteem Without Ego

“I’m really good at drawing.” It’s a very matter-of-fact statement made by Emily, a participant in the show Down for Love. She knows that this is something true about herself, something that she can do with confidence. She isn’t bragging. She isn’t looking for a compliment. She isn’t in any way trying to prove her superiority or even compare herself to people around her. She is just stating a truth about herself in the context of a life that is filled with both limits and gifts, challenges and opportunities, vulnerabilities and strengths. It struck me at that moment that she had high self-esteem without a corresponding ego.

Watching Down for Love helped me realize that there’s beauty in a lack of ego alongside a corresponding sense of esteem. Something deeply good and true emerges from humans who have esteem for themselves without ego. Who are able to love themselves as they love others. 

Penny is also able to talk with straightforward candor about her abilities and her challenges. She can say that she needs modifications on some school assignments and that she is a good writer. She knows that she has challenges with change and that she is great at making a plan. And, as I’ve probably told you before, she also is able to laugh at herself when she makes a mistake, or when one of us points out a personality quirk. She has esteem without ego.

The late preacher and pastor Tim Keller said more than once that the gospel of Jesus doesn’t ask us to think less of ourselves. But when we are walking in the way of Jesus we will think of ourselves less. Perhaps that’s another way to say that when we find ourselves in Jesus, we will lose our self-protective ego without losing our self-esteem.

I’d like to develop a high sense of esteem for myself—and those around me—without an inflated ego. And I suspect my daughter, and the characters of Down for Love, are helping me to imagine what that would be like.

More with Amy Julia:

S7 E3 | Netflix’s Down for Love with Robyn Paterson
Penny in Her Own Words: What I Thought About Netflix’s Down for Love
Down Syndrome and a Lack of Ego

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