How Important Is Ego In Your Career?
A certain sense of self-importance is natural for any career-minded person.
Having the courage of your convictions helps you to overcome difficulties and your internal drive ensures that you will fulfil your potential. It is tricky to do this without “loving yourself” a little. You want to make an impact on the world, but you are realistic that it doesn’t revolve around you. This is what I would call a “healthy” ego.
An unhealthy ego feeds on external attention rather than nourishing itself from within. It is only interested in its own ideas, is “never wrong” and dominates any social and workplace interactions. You might say that a supersized ego is blind to the thoughts of feelings of others because it only has the bandwidth to process its own agenda. We will all have moments in our careers, where our sense of self-importance rises (we go on an “ego trip”), but it is importance to bring ourselves down to earth before others feel compelled to do so.
There is a fine line between being egotistical and being confident. For recent graduates, in particular, this line should be understood as early as possible, or they risk alienating their colleagues. Ego says “I can do no wrong”, whereas confidence says “I can get this right.” Confidence says “I’m valuable” while ego says “I’m invaluable.” To me, there is something magnetic about a strong inner confidence. As long as that confidence stays inside, you will follow that individual to the end. The moment that confidence comes out (and inevitably starts to grow with every assertion), other people lose faith and stop believing.
The BS merchants of this world pump themselves up every morning and live on their own reserves of hot air. The quietly confident sorts get validation from their small successes in life – the praise that they receive for it is genuine and makes them stronger because they haven’t asked for it.
So, some level of ego is beneficial, too much ego is definitely harmful, but what about trying to avoid any ego whatsoever? How does selflessness help at work?
Volunteering to work over the weekend, putting your hand up for every possible project, putting the needs of the group above your own needs, surely all this fosters a strong bond with your colleagues? You are, after all, putting their needs above yours. In actual fact, many studies have shown that the 100% selfless individual actually creates animosity within the team – the “do-gooders” are seen to make everyone else look bad. They are potentially setting an unrealistic bar, by which everyone else will be judged. It is a sad indictment of our modern world, but the selfless will be trampled underfoot.
As with everything, there is a time for selflessness and a time to think about your own needs. When those “moments” come for you to step up, you have to harness all of your inner strength and self-belief. That is impossible without a small amount of ego.
Peacocks strutting around the office, preening themselves, impress no one.