We all come with a factory setting, complete with a strong self-orientation that places each of us at the center of our own universe. Because of this natural self-orientation, ego is an easy trap to fall into. Best-selling author Ryan Holliday makes this observation: “Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you: your ego.”
The fight against self-centered ego is no trivial battle. When we allow our ego to win, we become a prisoner unaware of our state of self-induced captivity. Holliday rightly defines and observes the impact of an arrogant ego:
“It’s that petulant child inside every person, the one that chooses getting his or her way over anything or anyone else. It’s the sense of superiority and certainty that exceeds the bounds of confidence and talent. It’s when the notion of ourselves and the world grows so inflated that it begins to distort the reality that surrounds us.”
The first step to winning the battle against your ego is to recognize the power of its grip on you. Here are 12 signs that you have an ego problem:
- You are a poor listener. You are slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger.
- You get defensive when someone gives you feedback.
- You want others to do things for you, but you hesitate to do things for others.
- You do not try to understand or empathize with people who disagree with you. When you argue, your goal isn’t to understand and connect with people. Your goal is to prove you are right.
- You have few un-expressed opinions. If you think it, you say it and argue for it.
- You mistakenly think that having an opinion is the same as having credibility.
- You feel jealous when other people do well.
- You talk about yourself for 10 minutes before asking others how they are.
- You would rather hear things you agree with, rather than hear things that challenge you.
- You blame others when things don’t go your way.
- Your first instinct is to criticize; your last instinct is to encourage.
- You see life through a narrow lens, and everything fits in it. You are blind to things outside your lens. Worse, you are blind to your blind spots.
Controlling your ego doesn’t mean weakness or meekness. It means being humble about your strengths and honest about your weaknesses. It means recognizing you are not always right. It means respectfully considering the perspectives and interests of others. It means seeking feedback and using it to get better. It means serving and supporting the team, not just yourself.
Beware the seductive power of ego.