Eggos are a staple in this house and that commercial is definitely marketing genius, but today I wanted to talk about egos. How can we let go of the ego to be our best selves? I have been reflecting about egos a lot for a few reasons. 1) Given the political climate, does one’s ego allow them change their mind easily, or is it just too hard? 2) We all have egos, so why are some seemingly “grander” than others that drive them in a way that can be detrimental. 3) Do I have the right balance of ego as my identity is a bit in flux? To level set on the definition I am working with, an “Ego is a persons sense of ‘self-esteem’ or ‘self – importance’.” Thank you Wikipedia for getting right to it.
We all have egos. We need them. A healthy dose of self-esteem is brilliant! It allows us to take risks, have confidence in ourselves, have a solid self-identity, be comfortable in our skin. Egos can also be harmful. One has to be right and we don’t make space – mainly for oneself – to change our minds, or learn from new information. Parenting is hard on the ego too. How is my child’s behavior and actions not a direct reflection on me? The ego tries to force everything in our sphere to be about us! It’s like my sister reminds me, “hey, it’s not about you!” Are you sure…? Our natural inclination is to make it about us. Freud, genius.
A few weeks ago I met up with three former colleagues. All who have worked alongside executives in different capacities over the years. What we decided, as the four most brilliant women in the room, (no ego there, and we were the only four in the room), that the executives we enjoyed working with were the ones that were definitely driven and confident, but their egos, or self importance, were not at the forefront of their interactions. They recognized it wasn’t about them, it wasn’t about ‘their title,” “their department,” “their status.” The best leaders identified their ego, had high self-esteem, therefore didn’t let much self doubt get in the way of their ambition, but they also didn’t think they always knew the way or had all the answers. Leading people is about about listening. Steve Jobs poignant quote. “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” I would say why this doesn’t happen, is because the ego gets in the way. ‘I know better.” “This is why I am the boss.” “I have the title and accountability.” Every great leader I worked for listened to what I thought and said, genuinely trying to gather more data. Not pretend listening waiting to find a spot to interject and share with me why my logic was faulty or what else I didn’t think of. Not allowing new information or data to permeate is where egos are damaging. The beautiful thing about humans is we are highly capable to assimilate information. Hunting and gathering new data, new insights, new science. But then the big ego gets in the way, it blocks the new information or justifies how what we know is no longer serving us. But the pesky ego makes us feel like we must save face, save the identity, and we don’t allow the new data to support growth. How do we let go of our ego so we can release ourselves from fear of failure? Shifting corporate culture to encourage “failing forward”, massively powerful! It is when we learn the most. When we are able to let go of our ego is when we are the most free. Nothing to prove. Nothing to measure up against. When it isn’t about our self-importance we have the most profound impact on others, ourselves, our creativity, our output, and on and on.
As I think about myself on my journey of figuring out what I want to be when I grow up, the ego allowed me to nose dive off the cliff. The self-esteem was there to know I could do something. But how do I make sure I keep that in check. Although, you could probably ask any of my close friends, self-esteem, or an over inflated ego, is not something they worry much about with me. But with that said, as this new found confidence and freedom is developing, I am concerned what I think I have to offer isn’t quite there. How do I make sure I don’t end up like those leaders my colleagues and I talked about that were so wrapped up in their self-importance they lost sight of the importance of connecting with people first. Can you have humility and a healthy ego? I am going with introspection is key. Since I am concerned about this in myself it will keep my ego in check. Humility is key. Trying and not being afraid to fail is key. Listening and learning from others, key.
“When ego is lost, limit is lost. You become infinite, kind, beautiful.” ~Yogi, Harbhajan Singh