Is a Big Ego Always an Ugly Thing?
You don’t have to dig too deep to find an example of the damage that can be done by a run away ego. You need look no further than the current presidential campaign. Ego is frequently vilified and usually justifiably so, but is an ego always ugly? For years that has been my belief. I felt that if we spent too much time feeding and defending our sense of self we risked not reaching our true potential. Ego, in my opinion, has a close cousin which is greed. The two combined have done irreparable harm to both individuals and organizations. I have spent years working on letting go of my own story, and for the most part, that work has been very beneficial. I have learned to take myself far less seriously and I see clearly how my clinging and grasping to my sense of self has lead to suffering. However, I recognize that although this inner work has been helpful, my ego is still alive and kicking.
This realization came to light during a recent conversation with a client. We were discussing the importance of having a developed sense of professional purpose, a true call to action. She asked that I share mine, to which I happily responded that my purpose is “to help businesses and business leaders grow”. On my drive back to the office, I started thinking about that statement. On the surface it sounds very altruistic and there is no doubt that I am highly motivated to make a real difference in the lives of my clients. But, after reflection, I have to admit that there is an element of ego within my purpose. It makes me feel good about myself to help others. It makes me feel smart and of value. It feeds my self story and that helps to keep me motivated, focused and driven. So how is that such a bad thing?
It is an ego left unchecked that is dangerous and potentially counter productive.
I believe the difference comes from awareness. It is an ego left unchecked that is dangerous and potentially counter productive. Without the benefit of awareness, an ego’s appetite can be insatiable. Action and reaction can be driven merely by its need to be protected and fed. With awareness, however, the power of ego is lessened, the energy muted or tempered. I know what I do for my clients makes me feel good about myself. I see that it helps reinforce my self story. Yet, I am aware of the fallacy of it, that there is no real, solid and permanent sense of self. I don’t fully buy-in to my own story. Oddly though, feeding my ego does bring me energy, excitement and fulfillment. As mentioned above, it certainly helps motivation and drive. So maybe seeing it as a story rather than truth allows me to harness the benefit without being carried off by it. Ironically, seeing that I had not set down my ego was a blow to it. I had prided myself on my lack of ego, and that is funny because pride is just another side of ego. This is very complicated.
My thinking has changed. I no longer believe that ego is all bad. In check and well metered, it can be a source of energy and motivation. A balanced ego can also help you forward your agenda rather than be a slave to someone else’s. The key is to be aware that it is not real and only your perception.
All the above said, my ego would be well fed by your comments and feedback. If you really want to give it a good jolt, share this article. In the words of the Venus Flytrap in “The Little Shop of Horrors”, “Feed me Seymour”!
Having a defined sense of purpose is critical to growing personally or growing a business. To learn more about our approach, please reach out.
Thanks for reading.
Elliot Begoun is a Business Therapist and the Principle of The Intertwine Group. His purpose is to help businesses and business leaders grow. He works to solve real issues, establish strategic guardrails, develop integrative leaders and foster employee enlightenment.