I just met with a very self aware, confident, competent senior leader in a global organization. As a result of some internal changes, his role has changed. He’s doing great work finding his way through this change, and understanding what this new role means for him, and to him.
As we talked, I noticed there was something he was not talking about. And while it’s not always easy to see what is not there, I see this often enough with my clients to notice it pretty quickly.
What was missing was an acknowledgement of what he has lost. So I asked him. Acknowledging that, he says, feels like having a big ego. And he has judged that as bad. Very bad.
Many of us are taught that ego is bad. And it can be. It can lead us down a path that has us feeling and behaving in ways that demonstrate superiority. For me to be more than, you have to be less than. In one of her blog posts, Zoe B, simplelifestrategies.com said, “My personal take on the ego is that it’s the part of us that feels the need to be special.” I love that simple definition. Do you know anyone who doesn’t want to feel special? What’s wrong with wanting to feel special?
We all know what can go wrong. For me to be special, you can’t be. We can’t all be special. Or can we?
What if there is enough space for all of us to be special. (If you find yourself getting snarky here, thinking about snowflakes and millennial, park it for a few minutes.) Consider what is possible if your ego wants special, and you acknowledge it.
I am not a psychologist. I am someone who believes in possibility. Yours and mine. What is possible if I don’t get to make myself wrong when I think about having an ego? Here’s the secret sauce. We must notice our impact on others. And since we are not always able to see what is right in front of us, try this. Surround yourself with people who will support you as you experiment with this idea. People who will let you know when your impact is not aligned with your intention. Create the space for you and everyone around you to be special, and see what happens.