Your Ego Get in the Way
By Mike Jay
We all have an ego, and contrary to popular perception, your
ego is beneficial to your success, both personally and
professionally. Your ego is part of your neuro-physiological system.
It helps protect your self-image and self-worth, and it helps create
your self-concept. Sometimes, though, your ego can get in the way,
and when that happens, the concern you have for yourself overrides
what actually may be happening in reality.
Whenever you feel threatened (“Bob is trying to take my
job”), blame (“Mary said the customer didn’t buy because of me”),
shame (“The boss knows I fudged the report”), or embarrassment (“The
entire company heard that I lost the big sale”), your ego kicks in
and keeps you from clearly understanding reality. In other words,
the ego makes up its own reality in response to the “ego arrows”
people shoot your way. This false “ego reality” closes you off to
the true situation and causes you to go into a defensive mode,
ultimately hindering your success.
Realize that whenever the ego is in charge, it’s only telling
half the story—the story as you currently view it—not the whole
story that takes into account other people’s perceptions and the
facts behind the matter. Because life is complex and people are
constantly shooting ego arrows at you, your job is to realize when
your ego defense is in play. Acknowledge that your ego is simply
trying to protect you, but that at the same time it’s blocking off
reality. And when that happens, you’re figuratively crippled because
you’re unable to understand how you fit into the world.
So the concept of “not letting your ego get in the way” is
not about eliminating the ego; rather, it’s about honoring and
valuing the ego position, because ultimately the ego is there to
help you and guide you. The key, however, is not letting your ego
stand in the way of your success simply because you feel fear,
threat, or embarrassment. Take into consideration that such feelings
are appropriate, but they’re not the whole story.
When you become aware of your ego response you can
immediately change your reaction to the situation and keep your ego
from halting your success. In other words, the moment you can say to
yourself, “Yes, I feel overwhelmed. I feel afraid. I feel
threatened. I feel embarrassed,” is when you become open to the
whole story and can react according to the true reality, not
according to your ego’s reality.
So how can you keep your ego in check at all times? When you
first notice that you feel fear, threat, or embarrassment, ask
yourself the following three questions.
1. Is this the way
it really is, or is this my response to it?
Check in with yourself. Take a time-out to assess
whether what you perceive is true, or if you’re simply reacting to
someone who “pushed one of your buttons.” Failure to check in with
yourself could ultimately interfere with your career, your
relationships, your team members, and your success. Realize that the
ego response can get in the way of that big promotion or that dream
job you’ve been striving for. When those who make the promotion or
hiring decisions see that you don’t have a hold on your ego and that
you let others push your buttons, they assume you’re not mature
enough to hold a position that’s going to create more fear, threat,
and embarrassment. As a result, you could get stymied in your career
because of your ego. Therefore, check in with yourself often.
2. Why does this
affect me so much?
Check outside of
yourself. Be as objective as possible and forget about your own
feelings for a moment so you can uncover why the current situation
is triggering an ego response. If possible, completely remove
yourself from the situation so you can have some quiet time to think
things through. This is critical, because the brain has two roads,
so to speak—the low road and the high road. It takes 15 microseconds
to access the low road and 100 microseconds to access the high road.
That may not seem like a lot of time, but it’s long enough for you
to catch yourself before you respond. The goal is that rather than
your reaction being completely unconscious and going straight to the
low road, which triggers defensiveness, that you can catch yourself
and send your response to the high road, which triggers emotional
intelligence and enables you to have a chance of overcoming the
situation in a productive manner.
3. If I feel this
way, do others feel this way?
Check around to make sure you’re not the only one caught up in the
situation. If others are feeling the same as you, then you need to
talk about the situation so no one overreacts. You could simply say
to someone involved in the situation, “This is very embarrassing (or
threatening or scary) to me. Are you feeling the same way?” While
it’s normal for you to want to feel whole and protected (which is
the ego’s job), don’t let the ego write the entire story. The ego’s
role is to keep you safe and motivated to do certain things, but
when you’re working with others, it’s not okay to pretend that your
current way of feeling is the only emotional state possible. That’s
why you need to check around, and if appropriate, change the
reference from self to others. Confirm what’s going on inside of you
by looking outside.
Take Control Today:
your ego from getting in your way is essentially a process of
becoming more aware of what triggers you. As with any process, it
takes time to master; therefore, you might find it beneficial to
work with a coach who is trained in adult development. Rest assured,
though, that you can make great strides on your own by simply asking
yourself the three key questions discussed whenever you feel fear,
threat, or embarrassment coming on. The more you can control your
ego rather than have it control you, the more successful you’ll be
in all areas of your life.
Read other articles and learn more
about Mike Jay.
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