Characteristics of Ego Strength

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In Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory of personality, ego strength is the ability of the ego to deal effectively with the demands of the id, the superego, and reality. Those with little ego strength may feel torn between these competing demands while those with too much ego strength can become too unyielding and rigid. Ego strength helps us maintain emotional stability and cope with internal and external stress.

Ego Strength Background

According to Sigmund Freud, personality is composed of three elements: the id, the ego, and the super-ego. The id is made up of all the primal urges and desires and is the only part of personality present at birth. The super-ego is the part of the personality that is composed of the internalized standards and rules that we acquire from our parents and society. It is part of the personality that pressures people to behave morally. Finally, the ego is the component of personality that mediates between the demands of reality, the urges of the id and the idealistic, but often unrealistic, standards of the super-ego.

Where the id compels people to act on their most basic urges and the superego strives for adherence to idealistic standards, the ego is the aspect of personality that must strike a balance between these baser urges, moral standards, and the demands of reality.

When it comes to mental well-being, ego strength is often used to describe an individual's ability to maintain their identity and sense of self in the face of pain, distress, and conflict. Researchers have also suggested that acquiring new defenses and coping mechanisms is an important component of ego strength.

High Ego Strength

People with well-developed ego strength tend to share a number of essential characteristics. They tend to be confident in their ability to deal with challenges, and they are good at coming up with solutions to life's problems. They also tend to have high levels of emotional intelligence and are able to successfully regulate their emotions, even in tough situations.

An individual with solid ego-strength approaches challenges with a sense that he or she can overcome the problem and even grow as a result.

By having a strong ego-strength, the individual feels that he or she can cope with the problem and find new ways of dealing with struggles.

These people can handle whatever life throws at them without losing their sense of self. People with good ego strength tend to be very resilient in the face of life's difficulties. Rather than giving up in the face of an obstacle, these individuals view such events as tasks to be mastered and overcome. Even when very difficult events or tragedies occur, those who possess ego strength are able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and move forward with a sense of optimism.

Low Ego Strength

On the other hand, those with weak ego-strength view challenges as something to avoid. In many cases, reality can seem too overwhelming to deal with.

Individuals with low ego strength struggle to cope in the face of problems and may try to avoid reality through wishful thinking, substance use, and fantasies.

Low ego strength is often characterized by a lack of psychological resilience. In the face of life's challenges, those with low ego strength may simply give up or break down.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Besharat MA, Ramesh S, Moghimi E. Spiritual health mediates the relationship between ego-strength and adjustment to heart diseaseHealth Psychol Open. 2018;5(1):2055102918782176. doi:10.1177/2055102918782176

  2. Freud S. The Ego And The ID And Other Works. 1923.

Additional Reading

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.