I was recently at a conference where the topic of ego came up. When an interesting topic or idea is introduced I often wander off into my own world for a while. Do you ever find this happens with you? For me, it’s where many of my more interesting thoughts come from.
Ego is not a bad word.
For many the word ego equates with an inflated sense of self-worth. For me the word ego means having a strong sense of who you are and being comfortable in your skin. It’s the same word, two different meanings.
Having a strong ego can be a problem if you start to take yourself too seriously and really believe you do have all of the answers. If instead you like to ask good questions and are curious about the world, having a strong ego is essential. Otherwise, you might get lost in what others think.
Sometimes ego and arrogant get confused.
Someone who’s really arrogant might have a weak ego. They might not feel that they have a lot of self-worth. Instead this person might project an arrogance that you could misplace by thinking they have an out of control ego.
No one likes an arrogant person. I’m sure there are times that I come across that way. I’ll be very self-assured and give a look that says you are just too dumb to be on the planet. I don’t mean to come across this way and as I’ve gotten older I’ve been better at keeping this under control. I find that when someone says something I really disagree with it’s better to be curious about their world view than to get them to adopt mine.
For me, ego is about having a beginner’s mind.
You may have read about the concept of a beginner’s mind. I think those that have a beginner’s mind like to ask why a lot. Do you remember what three year olds do all of the time? They like to ask why. Then, they like to ask why again and again until they understand.
That’s the purpose of a beginner’s mind. If you have a beginner’s mind you really want to understand what others think. You want to understand at more than a superficial level.
An interesting and short conversation.
Several months ago I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about leading from the back. I said to him, “I bet you don’t feel like you have a strong ego.” He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “I have a really strong ego and so do you.”
This set me back a little. Here I was pretending that leading from the back was about controlling your ego. I wasn’t even close. Leading from the back was about having a really strong ego. If I didn’t have one, I would have wanted to be at the front. Sometimes you just have to be brave enough to hear a different opinion.
Willing to be curious about the world.
Are you curious about the world? Do you know you don’t have all of the answers? If you can answer yes to both and are willing to really listen you probably have a strong ego, and you probably aren’t especially arrogant when you’re listening. This is the key. Learn how to keep a strong ego and let the arrogance that sometimes goes with your ego fall by the wayside.
This is something I continue to practice. What about you?
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