Ego – the enemy of confidence
We often hear our parents, seniors, or peers advising us to practice ego in moderation. For them, ego is the enemy. But sometimes, it is difficult to understand ego — is it the confidence that our work has been done well or is it understanding that you are superior (at least to your juniors) at a workplace and learning from them might undermine your value? Ego is often mistaken for confidence. I remember a friend who had written a book and was confident it would do well. Many well-wishers told him not to spend so much on publishing and marketing the book; the topic and writing were too unconventional to work.
However, my friend was determined — he stood tall while people tried to discourage him and went ahead with the publication process. The book was a massive hit! He not only recovered all the money he had spent but also earned 10x in profit. His confidence in his work helped him forge ahead and taste success. The same friend, a few years later, wrote another book. This time he did not ask for anyone’s opinion; he did not send his work out for reviews but decided to publish it directly. He spent 2x on marketing and worked with an even bigger publisher. He was so confident his book would work that he told his friends well in advance of the success party he intended to throw. However, the book didn’t do well.
Despite all the hype, it sold a mere 150 copies. But my friend couldn’t admit it; he blamed everyone but himself or his work. This, my friend, is a classic example of ego. It is so much easier to make a slip and fall on the other side of confidence because ego works that way. Confidence is having faith in yourself and what you can do. Ego, however, is thinking of yourself above criticism or better than anyone else and resisting feedback or ways to improve. Confidence enables us to strive ahead and scale new heights, while ego limits us, wrapping us in a shell, safe from criticism. Ego, of all other things, also prompts an emotional reaction like anger, fear, or recklessness when challenged.
You might have been in a workspace where your manager refuses to take feedback or reacts negatively when you say something against them. Your intentions might be good as you give this egoist senior constructive feedback, but it doesn’t mean they take it as such. Invariably, you might also be a victim of ego. Here are a few signs to watch out for to understand what you are practising is confidence and not ego hidden in its garb:
You always want to be in control
Being in control of a situation or work is not necessarily bad. Startups around the world look for self-starters and driven individuals. But when you trust only yourself and can’t let go of that control enough to delegate work to others, you might have an ego problem. Many people think they are just perfectionists when they need to micromanage people and have the last say in every work, but it might very well be their ego taking control of how they function. Practice delegating work and trusting others to do a good job — once they have proven themself capable of being trusted, of course. Don’t seek perfection in the smallest of things; instead, learn to be okay with letting go of control every now and then. You might even be surprised how much this affects your mental health positively when you aren’t driven by the need to be in control.
You are offended by feedback
No one, and I repeat, no one, is above criticism and feedback. If you cannot accept feedback, if people are scared of giving you any feedback, or if you take feedback negatively, you might be on the wrong path. It is understandable to assume that you are the best at what you do, especially if you have a proven track record to back it up, but the world is full of possibilities and new learnings. Just because you are good at what you do, doesn’t mean you know everything. So, humble yourself a bit. Be encouraging of constructive feedback and actively listen and implement them in your life and work wherever applicable. Don’t take criticism personally and don’t listen to them only to completely disregard them without even considering their value or because it came from someone who is, supposedly, less experienced or isn’t as good at the job as you.
You need to always win
Many of us have heard that no one remembers the person who came second or didn’t rank at all. So much so, that a lot of us use it as a talisman and motto that must be followed at all costs. Everyone loves to win; it is one of those things that drive us most strongly. Winning and being confident about winning is great, but it is difficult to digest a loss when your ego drives the show. People with high egos tend to twist and bend things their way to win at all costs. For them, winning is a lot more important than the means through which they get there. A great way to tackle this would be to be accepting of failures. Failures are a part of life and hold a lot of important lessons — as long as you know how to look for them. Also, using underhand tricks or being so driven that you lose sight of your friends and family can be a loss bigger than any potential win. So, keep the bigger picture in mind and win respect.
You seem unable to ask for help
Asking for help is a great virtue but one that many people seem bereft of. If you are one of those who find themselves tongue-tied when they need to ask for help, then you should reconsider your attitude and know that it is not confidence but ego that is guiding you. Asking for help if you are stuck somewhere or because someone else knows something better than you won’t lessen your worth and won’t hurt your reputation. Understand that learning is a continuous process and asking for help when needed is part of your growth. In fact, asking for help will boost the confidence of the person you ask and make them like you more. Further, it will open an endless avenue for you to learn and grow while also earning new friends — it has been proven that people like those more who ask them for help, however small. Of course, be careful to not overdo it in your enthusiasm, and you should be good.
You are always in competition
Whether it be in school or in life, we are always taught to compete and come out on top. As such, it can be challenging to view competitiveness as a subset of ego and see the negativities attached to it. If you get jealous when you see others succeeding, then it is your ego at work. The feeling of superiority, that tells you deserve better than others, is not confidence but ego that makes you detest others’ successes. To tackle this issue, try to understand that not everyone is in competition with you, and not everything needs to work that way. Everyone has their own pace; some receive success faster than others, but it doesn’t undermine their value. Instead, focus on working on yourself and improving your skills. And if you find yourself struggling, try to focus on your achievements and blessings instead of comparing.
Ego and confidence are two very different sides of the coin. Confidence helps you achieve things and pushes you to do better, while ego uses that confidence as a weapon and wields it to destroy relations and growth. Practice gratitude, take criticism and compliments with a smile, keep an open attitude, and strive to learn every day: this way, you’ll not only overcome your ego but also pave the way for future successes.