When egos come out to play

Our egos are curious things. They can give us a sense of self-worth, trigger intense emotions, and are part of who we are, and can also get in the way of business.

Running a business is a constant exercise in making evaluations and decisions. We don’t always base these on facts alone – our past experiences, biases, preferences, fears, and emotions come into play. As does our ego’s interpretation of all these things.

When we’re angry, the ego encourages us to react immediately. It’s not a pretty picture when you’re in a meeting, and someone blows their top. Others might seethe inwardly, and while it appears they are in control, they’re not – the ego is master here too. Think of the ego as a little imp perched on your shoulder, whispering, “Say it! Say it! Do it! Do it!” It constantly encourages us to defend ourselves, to make our importance known, and to secure our place in the world, often at the expense of others.

The term “right-fighters” describes the lengths people go to be seen as having the correct view, opinion, way of doing things, or approach – above all others. They don’t give in, even when discussing inconsequential matters or resolving issues. Why? Because their ego won’t let them.

Picture a customer complaining about perceived poor service. Even when the owner does their best to remedy the situation (whether the complaint is valid), the customer is relentless at repeating the details, their opinion of what happened, and how they were slighted. “It shouldn’t have happened in the first place; I want him fired; I’m still not happy; I’m posting about this; it never would have happened if I’d gone to XYZ.” The complaint becomes a story their mind has made up that they believe to be 100% true a story they will repeat and embellish as time passes. “The injustice!” cries their ego.

Egos love to encourage us to be offended about what others say and do in relation to our expectations. The feelings we get and the thoughts that race through us when we feel slighted are defenses to protect our egos. One school of thought suggests the ego cannot distinguish between a situation and how it interprets the situation. The ego’s reaction – anger, resentment, unhappiness, frustration, etc. – feeds it, and triggers us.

One strategy to increase awareness of the ego’s part in our reactions is to separate ourselves from instant feelings and reactions. Rather than saying, “I am frustrated,” switch to “There is frustration in me.” This differentiation creates a distance between the egoic reaction and your true self. It helps anchor us to the present moment versus scrolling through memories of all past injustices and jumping to conclusions. Self-awareness can be a doorway to freedom from the ego’s constant chatter, but it takes time to develop.

Practice smiling to yourself when you notice your ego at work and pause before reacting. Choose your words and actions based on a positive outcome for all, not what your ego dictates.

“The moment you become aware of the ego in you, it is, strictly speaking, no longer the ego but just an old, conditioned mind-pattern. Ego implies unawareness. Awareness and ego cannot coexist.”

  • Eckhart Tolle