Are you egotistical? Do you have a large ego? Perhaps you consider yourself extremely self-confident, or is your confidence really arrogance? Are you self-aware enough to know whether it’s you or your ego that’s running your show? If you answered ‘yes’ or you’re ‘not sure’ to these important questions then this personal reflection is highly relevant for you. It is especially relevant to you if you’re young and starting to make your way in the world.

I have a large ego. For many years I have known I’ve had a large ego, and yet, I have only recently been comfortable enough with myself to be able to admit this to my friends and family, yet alone publicly. Too late now, the cat is finally out of the bag. Phew! Now that’s out of the way, I want to share with you some of my reflections and insights about how ego has impacted on my life. Without a doubt, ego has played a massive part in most of my life’s struggles both in my relationships and in my career.

I Was A Slave To My Ego

I remember chatting with a colleague about passion and purpose and how we find it. He said one way to find out what you are passionate about is to ask yourself, “what am I willing to sacrifice for?” I very quickly came up with the powerful realisation that I had sacrificed many years of my life and career fulfilment in slavery to my ego. When I was a young researcher, I dreamt of making big scientific discoveries. Nothing wrong with that except, in my case, my dream was not for the discovery per se, rather it was the fame, fortune and the need to feel important that was driving me. Everything I did was in servitude to my ego or my ‘identity’. We all can agree that success requires perseverance. Indeed, perseverance is one of my strengths and I persisted as a scientist for well over 25 years thinking success was just around the corner. In hindsight, I realised it was my ego’s desire for fame and the need to feel important that kept me pushing aside any thoughts of quitting or that science was not for me. In fact, it was my ego that stopped me from quitting years ago. I have come to understand that being good at research is not sufficient; I was not passionate about a career in science and it was only my ego that kept me turning up to the lab every day.

Emotional Growth Requires Setting Aside The Ego

Thankfully, the discerning voice in my head eventually got so loud that I could no longer ignore it. After quarter of a century, I finally listened and set aside my ego. No longer being willing to be a slave to my ego was a turning point for me. It was a time of huge growth. A younger, arrogant version of me allowed my ego to frequently stop me from asking for help and advice and to cause teams of people around me. My arrogance and ego manifested self-limiting thoughts like, “Why do I need your help when I’m better than you? I know more than you about what’s best for me!” and so on. Looking back, I feel ashamed. I was clearly very emotionally immature and constantly reacting to people around me and the situations I found myself in. It took many years to learn how my ego negatively impacted on my life. It has taken many more years to overcome my self-limiting behaviours and learn to set aside my ego to ask for what I need. I now work in coaching and leadership development where I am fulfilled and passionate about empowering people to be the best version of them self.

Confidence Comes From Knowing Yourself

In developing my leadership, I’ve learnt, often at the expense of a relationship, that I must set aside my ego to be there for another person. To be truly available in a relationship or present in a conversation with someone, the ego cannot be present. The practice of setting the ego to one side is crucial for a leader and their leadership. I love mentoring young people, especially young scientists. I found this a most fulfilling and rewarding aspect of being a scientist. In hindsight, I see that I was instinctively setting aside my ego and allowing my true self and leadership to emerge and be present for my mentees. Importantly, I was fulfilled and felt confident because I was being authentic.

Arrogance and confidence are closely related yet distinct. I consider arrogance is in service of me while confidence is in service of others. Arrogance is the certainty of the ego, or the identity, or false self I once preferred to show the world. Whereas, true confidence comes from knowing and being my authentic or true self, and this requires me to know who I am, my values and my strengths and keep the ego at bay.

Whether you think you have a large ego or not, it is invaluable to stop and examine where your ego gets in your way. An honest, self-examination will no doubt be uncomfortable, however, the benefit to you far exceeds any discomfort you may feel. The earlier you start dismantling the grip your ego has over you, the sooner you will step into being the authentic and powerful leader for others you are destined to become.

Are you interested in unpacking how your ego is impacting your life? Contact me today to explore the value of leadership coaching to make peace with your ego and elevate your performance and empower the people around you.