Eckhart Tolle tells us, the ego is part of the mind that tries to control our thinking. The ego gives us an interpretation of the world. It’s not a true reflection of the world.
I think the most important thing that he said around ego was that our ego shows up when we feel superior and when we feel inferior. That was one of those moments when you get the slap in the face by something that someone says… what? … your ego turns up when you’re feeling superior, as well as when you’re feeling inferior?
I think we’re all aware of those times where we see the ego in action. We see someone who looks like they think that they know all the answers. They’re not willing to listen to anybody else. The arrogance is on full show. And there’s just no arguing with these people.
When you see that someone, the first question should be, are they feeling superior? Or are they feeling inferior? In my experience, asking this question, when I see the ego in full flight, more than 60 to 70% of the time, the ego is flaring up because they are trying to ‘prove’ themselves worthy. I.e.: it’s because they feel inferior, not superior.
Unfortunately, we’ve created a society where competition amongst people seems to be the status quo. We need to feel superior and compare ourselves to other people. To make ourselves feel better.
When I was a younger person being bullied at school, people on the TV would say that the bullies are just people who are hurt inside and, therefore, they’re bullying others. When I was a young person experiencing bullying, I honestly didn’t give a crap that the other person was feeling inferior. All I cared about was the pain that they were causing me. Now I’m older and a little bit wiser. I can accept that an inferiority complex creates this arrogance and ego that tends to hurt others.
In workplaces, the way I see ego turn up is in people when they’re shutting other people down. Whether they’re shutting down their team, their peers, their boss, the Change Manager, the IT person who’s trying to help them, the Finance Manager that’s working with them on their budget, or whoever happens to be in their vicinity.
Shutting another person down is your ego flaring up as you try to prove you are superior to that other person.
“I’m going to tell you how wrong you all are because that proves to you and to everybody around that I’m the right one. I’m the one that knows everything. I’m the valuable one.”
The ego is a protection shield from the world around us. The ego sees the world in the way that we want to see it. The ego tells you that you are right and need to prove it. The ego is the fuel in every conflict.
We want to be the protagonist of our story; we want to be the hero. The ego is the shield that the hero holds. Unfortunately, the ego is a false shield. The ego puts a barrier between us and the rest of the world and the relationships that we’re trying to have. When you think about it, there’s nothing worse than having a conversation with someone, and then they start to tell you about all the ways that they are amazing. When people are amazing, they don’t need to tell you. You see it in their behaviour. You see it in the way in which they’re interacting with you. You see it in the value that they’re adding within their business, or their relationships, or the world. When people are amazing, they do not need their ego to tell you. They are just amazing in action.
Brené Brown talks about perfectionism being the 200-ton shield. When I look at perfectionism, and I think about it in the context of the ego and the context of the superior versus inferior approach to life. I can see that it’s not just perfectionism that’s a 200-ton shield. Ego is a big portion of the weight in that shield. Perfectionism is an outcome of the comparison, ego and scarcity (i.e., feeling as if there’s just not enough). Feeling that sense of not enough doesn’t just mean that I’m not doing enough. That again is ego. When I think about scarcity as a mindset. I’m not doing enough, there’s not enough time, there are not enough resources. I don’t have enough people. I don’t have enough respect.
Glennon Doyle said, “You can never get enough of something that you don’t need.” She was referring to addiction and how the alcohol/drug/work/food was trying to replace some need that wasn’t being fulfilled. This also describes the feeling of ego and scarcity.
Anytime we say “not enough”, that is our ego comparing ourselves to someone else, or something else, or comparing us to a caricature that we’ve developed in our mind, a story that we’ve created. There’s no need to create stories when you’re adding value and you believe in that value. As soon as you believe in the value you are adding, you start to believe that you are enough.
I am enough comes from within myself. It comes from an internal belief that my integrity is intact. It comes from an internal belief that the value that I add is valuable. It comes from the internal belief that when I say or do something, I’m coming from the purest of intentions. When I’m in an “I’m not enough” mindset, my intentions are not pure, and my ego is in full swing.
My ego is looking at what’s going on around me and comparing it to what I have or haven’t done. This is a no-win game. Your ego is a no-win game. Whether you are feeling superior or feeling inferior. Every time you let your ego speak for you, it acts massive shield. A barrier that you’re putting between yourself, your people, your peers, your customers, and the people that could benefit from the person you truly are.
If you feel like you’re not adding value, scratch that… If you feel like you’re not valued, check in to see what kind of value you’re adding, check-in in with yourself to see how often you tell people how great you are, rather than just doing the work. Check in to see if you are trying to fill your cup with something that you don’t need instead of what you do need.
Your ego will stop you from being an authentic leader. It’s time to think about when you’re allowing your ego to show up instead of your authentic self.