Knowing When to Check Your Ego

Have you ever conversed with someone that began their sentence with: “I don’t mean to brag, but…”

I never thought much about it, but now I recognize it is an invert representation of egotistical thinking. Inherently, when an individual begins a sentence with this statement, they know what they’re about to say is bragging. Like the rest of us, they tack on that precursory remark of ‘humility’ to make them seem less braggadocios.

I recently had a conversation with someone who used this phrase multiple times in one scenario. While this common phrase in itself is relatively harmless, it triggered a sense of self-reflection — what is the line between confidence and arrogance? How is my ego helping or hurting my relationships, decision-making skills, and overall first impressions?

While I have become more self-aware of my actions and the vocabulary which could impact egotistical impressions, I have picked up some skills to keep my ego in check.

Cultivate a safe space — listen to others first

A few months ago, I read The Culture Code. While the book focuses on strategies which comprise highly successful teams/organizations, I can’t help but recall one of my huge take-aways. In Coyle’s research, a common trait highly successful teams possessed was their ability to make members feel safe. When assessing group scenarios, he offered three questions to ask yourself: 1) Are we connected? 2) Do we share a future 3) Are we safe?

While it seems like a bit of a stretch connecting safe spaces to the topic of egoism, I truly believe it is next to impossible to achieve trust with egoism in the picture. When we ask others how they’re doing first, we exhibit feelings of care, empathy, and safety, which inherently leads to more fulfilling, meaningful, and genuine relationships.

While I started compiling a list of traits that make me feel safe and valued, I recollected past conversations I’ve had with successful friends and mentors. Below, I have bulleted a list of skills that highly effective leaders showcase when facilitating communication. While I could go into detail on these topics, I am going to breeze through them for simplicity purposes.

  • Aim to seek resolutions, not conflicts — Attack every problem by working backwards, and don’t view conflicts with a negative connotation. How can I leverage the opinions of everyone involved to create the best solution?
  • Give gratitude, not attitude — Recognize the good in others first. Make sure to praise people when they’ve done a good job. So often, we are quick to strike at others for their shortcomings, as if we don’t have any of our own. What would the world look like if we injected more positivity into it?
  • Be mindful of your word choice and tone — Along with the idea of showing gratitude, try turning common phrases into euphemisms. For example:

Instead of: “Sorry I’m late!”

Try: “Thanks for waiting for me!”

Instead of: “I forgot!”

Try: “I’ll make sure to set a reminder.”

While it seems small, positive communication both in your personal life and the workplace goes a long way.

  • Hang your insecurities at the door — It’s so easy to put on a facade to mask our insecurities. It’s all too normal to filter our conversations to tailor the crowd we’re in. Eventually, people will be able to see right through it. So be yourself, be genuine, and let real relationships form.

“Humility is the true key to success. Successful people lose their way at times. They often embrace and overindulge from the fruits of success. Humility halts this arrogance and self-indulging trap. Humble people share the credit and wealth, remaining focused and hungry to continue the journey of success.” — Rick Pitino

It’s no wonder why people gravitate towards modest, self-made leaders — Everyone loves a humble hero! Next time you find yourself wrestling with your ego, take a pause to reframe your mind. Remember the purpose and position you serve in your community or workplace, and how you can best serve others before others serve you. Be mindful of your attitude, stay your course, and most importantly, be the person you would want to have as a manager or a friend.

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Jenna Felsen

Jenna Felsen

Empowering young people through dreaming, doing, and discovering.