Since I'm not particularly one who outwardly expresses themselves at all, people tend to get the impression that I'm not arrogant or have an ego. And this typically applies to the more reserved, quiet sort of individuals. I think it's because our perception of arrogance is more flashy: having expensive possessions, having a strong personality, etc. But ego still pervades regardless whether it is out in the light or not. And I'd say that it's more dangerous in that regard as a result.
Ego is one of those things that is easily threatened, because it's built on something that isn't real. It thinks that one's existence is invalidated by someone else's ability, talent, status, wealth, etc. It could be threatened by literally anything. And I strongly believe that ego doesn't helps with anything in the slightest. Ego is not a reflection of one's ability. In fact, I believe that it's entirely disconnected from our ability. We can function just as well, if not better, if we have humility. Ego is just extra baggage that makes us feel threatened when someone "invalidates" us with their own existence. It makes us want to fight an entirely self-fabricated being that has literally no threat to ourselves as an individual, and we just end up hurting ourselves in the process.
And as I have learned through many years of pain with bad self-perceptions, ego is not defeated by self-deprecation. It still points the attention to one's self. I've seen plenty of cases (and I've done this as well) where the person intentionally trashes on their own hard work and ability so that other people can validate their ability for them. And it still is blatant attention seeking, but it is more of a result of being in a vulnerable, broken state as opposed to thinking that one is the best at everything. I suppose it's more of an act of self-preservation and validation as opposed to wanting to prove something, which is an entirely different issue.
Because of the many issues, discontents, and hardships with living with my egotistical self, I've been trying to pull it by the reigns and suppressing it. And my perceptions about certain things have changed as a result, which I want to share, as I believe it has made me a more happy individual.
A perception which recently changed as I tried suppressing my arrogant self is to realize that everyone has value, and has something unique to bring to the table. Maybe I'm not the best artist mechanically, artistically, etc., but there's something that I could give to others that no other person can give. And it applies to everyone. You, dear reader, have something that you can do which is not within anyone's ability to do, so you have value, whether you know it or not. It may not be tangible as of yet, but it's there, I'm sure of it.
This is quite the paradigm shift because no longer does one's existence get invalidated by someone else's ability. There are many facets to every sort of craft or skill, and each person will have a different strength compared to others. Because of this mentality, I'm no longer threatened that someone is better than me, because they have something to contribute to the world that is not within my power to do. And vice versa.
I like thinking of this as delegating a job to someone else, like managing a business. Someone may have outstanding ability in X or Y, so I let them do what they're best at. They may be not be the best at doing Z, but this other person is, so now they have responsibility as well. And I have my own job to fill that these other people can't fill, so I have my place as well. This is why I'm extremely grateful for people who work in every occupation, no matter how lowly. Whether they are a janitor, garbage collector, carpenter, whatever, they are still fulfilling a role which is contributing to the welfare of others, and one person cannot possibly do all of that on their own, now could they?
I think there is a reason why we feel threatened by someone else's expertise: the world values a handful of skillsets. And if one does not have said specific skill, they're entirely disregarded. The same thing occurs if you simply get outmatched in terms of skill: you get ignored entirely. In an occupational sense, you could lose a job (or not even get one), your business could crumble down, etc. There are real world consequences as a result of this, and it could very well be a real threat to your livelihood. Valid point. But does this necessarily have to apply for everything, even hobbies? It's a hobby, for crying out loud. Why does the very core of my being have to be invalidated because someone is doing some activity as a job while I'm doing it as a hobby?
I've learned to disconnect myself from any sort of activity. When I do anything, I don't even want to think about myself and the implications of my character as a result of doing said activity. So if someone compliments me on something that I do, I say a simple "thank you" and that's about it. I simply acknowledge that a person took time out of their day to lift someone up, and that's great. But that's simply it. I don't take it further.
Taking it further means that whatever the other person said had further implications. That is: overexaggerating someone's words to stroke our own ego. A simple compliment could turn into a deadly blow if ego decides to spin it around. "Maybe I am the best at X" one may tell themselves, but literally the compliment was just how they did a good job at doing X. It may feel good in the short-term, but something is bound to threaten that "I'm the best" mentality at some point. It's just inevitable. How I see it: the moment I try cobbling together a false sense of self founded by the perceptions of other people, I'm bound to be very unhappy.
So when I do any sort of activity, I don't talk about it, nor do I create myself to be someone that I'm not because of said activity. I just... do it I suppose. It's because I've realized that no matter what I say or think, my ability is not going to change unless I work on it. No matter how I make myself to be the best at anything, my work will prove whether or not my talk is true or false. A quote which I had read from a book about craftsmanship went something along these lines:
It's not exact, and I put it into my own words, but the same message applies: let the work do the talking for you. People can rail on a person's work all they want, but if their work manages to hold its ground, then who looks like a fool now?
Personally for me, ego likes to talk its way out of it. It's like doing job interviews and writing CVs: you put as much jargon and undecipherable nonsense in there and somehow you get the job. But then you're in the job and suddenly you don't know what you're doing. That's basically how ego works: it gets you into situations where you inevitably get punished, because it puts you into a place where you're not supposed to be. And that's what ego literally is: thinking that you're something when you are not.
All humans have an ego. It's inherently a part of us. Which is why it makes it so difficult to be humble. But it's something that is to be taken step by step. Trying to push it all at once may lead to... explosive results. Or for me personally, it leads to wrong ways to handle it; or rather, more impulsive solutions that are off the cuff and typically don't work in the long term.
It's going to hurt, but it's for the best.