On That Little Thing Called Ego
If you’re reading this blog, I am betting that you are someone who is highly invested in self-development and learning. You probably read, listen to podcasts, and practice high-performance habits way more than those around you. It’s probably what got you to where you are. But what’s probably also true is that you still make mistakes all the time, likely when your Ego is triggered or in control. This blog post is for those of you who want some practical tips on how to keep the Ego in check in the workplace.
Last week, I had one of those moments when I reacted from a place of ego and didn’t show up as my best. In the days that followed, I was annoyed with myself. “I should know better by now.” Why hadn’t I paused in my reaction so that I could come from a clear mind?
A lot of intellectualization ensued (Google: “How to become a Vulcan” 🖖🏼). But then I realized that no amount of intellectualization and analysis can really make our Ego go away. In fact, the analytical mind is exactly where the Ego likes to live and grow.
🤔 On That Motherf*er Called Ego…
What is the ego? The ego is the part of your brain that likes to be in control and dictate your interpretation of the world and your sense of identity. If you have a human body, you have an ego.
How does the ego work? Your ego gathers data from multiple sources… your cultural conditioning, past experiences, trauma, your parents’ voice, and other influences that ultimately affect your behavior.
How does it work in the workplace? Your ego makes up stories and interpretations based on things that happened to you or others. When it happened during formative years of your career, it sticks with you for a long time Things like “people can’t be trusted” or “when you allow X to happen, you get screwed over. Therefore never let X happen.” Even now, you may experience work trauma that creates new neural connections in your brain about A + B means C.
How does it show up at work? Ever think to yourself: “people’s egos get in the way of doing good work” or “people’s egos get in the way of getting the best out of the team”? I think many of us are actually guilty of that because we all have an ego. We aren’t at our best when we identify with our ego and react from a place of ego… Because the ego is nothing but a bunch of conditioning that we’ve accumulated over time and is full of biases and lies. And unfortunately, it is usually very self-serving and self-centered.
💪🏼 Practical Solutions…
The trick isn’t to try to eliminate the ego because having an ego is part of being human. The trick is to stop identifying with it and de-program our old conditioning that no longer serves us well when it comes up.
“The moment you become aware of the ego in you, it is strictly speaking no longer the ego, but just an old, conditioned mind-pattern. Ego implies unawareness. Awareness and ego cannot coexist.”
– Eckhart Tolle
Here are some practices that can help with dis-identification with the Ego. Please reply if you have other tips on how to do this.
- Develop stronger awareness. You can’t get rid of your ego, but you can become more aware of it. And you can practice dis-identifying with it. Meditation is one of the best ways to develop this practice, in addition to mindfulness techniques. I would highly recommend making meditation a daily habit to get started.
- Be compassionate towards your humanity. We all make mistakes. Shame does not need to be a part of your growth. The ego often plays a protective role to ensure we don’t experience pain and suffering. It’s worth having compassion towards our ego and it’s trying to do, and empathy towards others who struggle with their ego just like we do.
- Take responsibility. It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about taking responsibility for how we choose to respond to situations and for the interpretations we create in situations.
- Un-condition and re-condition: Your mistakes are your teachers. Learn from them and, most importantly, un-condition old beliefs that no longer serve you. This is easier to do with a mental health professional or a certified coach, but there are many tools out there that can also help. I’d consider doing research and seeing what works best for you.
- Normalize talking about your experience. We can all benefit from normalizing having conversations about how to better manage our egos in the workplace. If more people talk about this and practice this, we will collectively benefit from less individual egos in the workplace. How awesome does that sound??
👉🏼 My challenge to you this week: Be more tuned in to when your ego kicks in throughout your week. When are you taking something too personally at work? When are you having a knee-jerk reaction? When are you getting caught up in your self-serving needs versus paying attention to the greater good? When you catch yourself in this mode, practice the tips above to dis-identify and clear what’s going on.
💆🏻♀️ My Self-Care checklist score this week: 78%. Please prioritize your self-care with me this week.
Let me know how it goes,