Ego Is The Enemy
December 17, 2020
All of us have heard of terms like “He has a bloated ego” or “It’s his ego speaking.”
It means that someone is arrogant, full of himself, stubborn, not open-minded, etc.
But what really is Ego, and why is it such a bad thing?
Ryan Holiday, in his book Ego Is The Enemy describes Ego as the unhealthy belief in our own importance.
“It’s that petulant child inside every person, the one that chooses to get his or her way over anything or anyone else. The need to be better than, more than, recognized for, far past any reasonable utility—that’s Ego. It’s the sense of superiority and certainty that exceeds the bounds of confidence and talent.”Ryan Holiday
In the book, Ryan Holiday describes how Ego holds us back from our best in three situations in our life.
When We Are Aspiring
Ego shows up when we look to work on our potential and do some good work. Instead of letting us focus on what we have to do to excel at a task, our Ego distracts us to seek constant approval of people around us. It is always asking, “What do people think about me?”. It makes you talk about what you would do rather than doing it.
When we aspire for some meaningful goal or objective in our lives, our Ego is afraid that we might fail and is trying in vain to prevent us from embarking on anything significant.
For the longest time, I wanted to blog and never got around to doing it because deep down, I was afraid of rejection and failure- “what if my writing is crap and people don’t appreciate it.”
When We Experience Success
The second situation where our Ego raises its ugly head and tries to sabotage us is when we experience noteworthy success of any sort.
When we achieve any significant and meaningful success, our Ego gets us into a false sense of entitlement.
“I succeeded because I am good, and I know what it takes to be successful.”
Instead of staying focussed and building on our success, we fall into the trap of becoming overconfident in our abilities. We become complacent and undermine the very actions we took to succeed in the first place.
When We Experience Failure
The third situation when our Ego shows up to hold us back is when we experience failure or setbacks. Our Ego operates from a position of self-preservation. When we fail, our Ego looks to save face and dodge responsibility. To protect our self-image, we lose sight of the big picture and what is important for us to learn and grow out of our setbacks. We become emotionally entangled with the problems and blame circumstances and people instead of taking corrective action.
So If Ego is indeed our enemy, how do we keep it in check?
Plus, Minus and Equal Approach
Ryan alludes to the + – = approach coined by the American UFC Fighter Frank Shamrock. Frank says for a fighter to be great at the craft, he needs three things.
- PLUS-Someone better they can learn from
- MINUS-Someone lesser they can teach
- EQUAL-Someone equal they can challenge themselves against.
Ryan recommends we use Frank Shamrock’s approach in dealing with and keeping our Ego in check when it insidiously makes an entry in any of the three situations.
- When we aspire to achieve success of any sort, we need to have good competitors, ambitious peers around us who can challenge us to operate at our best. Their presence will ensure that we stay focused on the task at hand instead of getting distracted. These equals will challenge our abilities and force us to grow to stay in the game. Our Ego will not have the space to wallow in its self-importance.
- When we achieve any success in our lives, we need to have a Plus to dumb down our Ego. We need to stay grounded and humble. We need to have mentors and guides who have achieved much more success than we have to remind us that our success is nothing remarkable. Reflecting on someone or something more significant than ourselves will help us quieten our Ego and avoid getting caught in our personal narrative of our own greatness.
- To combat the third form of Ego that shows up when we fail or encounter any setback, we need a Minus in our lives—someone we can teach and guide based on what we have learned from our failures. Having a Minus in our life forces us to look at our failures objectively to take lessons that we can pass down. When we are responsible for teaching someone, we spend less time complaining and more time looking to improve. You could mentor or write a blog as a way to synthesize your life lessons and share them with others.
Our Ego is our enemy. We need to seek ways to keep it in check.