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The EGO and the need to look good

You know those times you really wanted to speak up, but ended up not doing so. It was the human need to be liked and the EGO’s need to look good that stopped you.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been looking at different sides of the EGO and how it impacts transitions in both life and career significantly.

As you would have noticed by now, especially if you read some of the previous posts , the ego basically does not like change of any kind. That includes change in how we might be perceived and what others might say or think about our choices. The funny thing is that it does all this deciding for us, without really filtering in how important or irrelevant those external opinions are.

First things first; the need to look good helps us keep fit, healthy and well. This is good right! It’s what makes us wear different clothes outside the house, versus hanging out at home where no-one can see us. It’s also what inspires us sometimes to walk our talk and “look the part”. For example, a gym instructor who is terribly unfit or a fashion sales person who dresses in dirty, torn or ill fitting clothes probably won’t win us over, because we look for people with physical alignment to what we know to be right and true.

The darker side of the need to look good is the need to put others down to look superior. Have you ever sat in a meeting where someone stole your idea, took credit for someone elses’ work or just bragged shamelessly about how amazing they are? This goes strongly against both Australia’s “tall poppy syndrome” and Swedish concept of “lagom“, but it’s how the need to look good tends to play out in work environments.

Other times it’s the people who say nothing, even if they wanted to or had the right to, only to go and gossip at the water cooler afterwards about how horribly someone treated them and how hard it is for them to cope. Of course it’s OK to constructively unpack something with the view to change it. But I think we all know by now what the difference between gossip and problem solving is.

Both of these patterns are driven by getting significance from other people to look good in their eyes.

So how then can we stop ourselves from letting this need take over and hold us back?

  1. Be grateful to the part of the ego that helps you function in the world. It’s doing a great job with that part!
  2. Often when the ego serves us anything, it’s a reaction and a strong urge to defend and react quickly. The best way to disarm the ego is to pause, reflect and respond when you’ve had a chance to think about it. With the examples above; come prepared to meetings and take credit for good work you’ve done and acknowledge others on the team who also helped make it happen (it will give them significance and they’ll love you for it)!
  3. If other people start taking credit for your work and it’s upsetting, you basically have 3 choices. A) Say something calmly in the meeting “Thank you John for highlighting the work on the X project, the entire team, including me, worked very hard on meeting that deadline. It’s great to see the result!” B) Say nothing in the meeting, but raise it constructively with John and/or management constructively in a timely manner (i.e. shortly after the meeting, not a week later) or C) accept the behaviour, but choose not to gossip about it.

It’s pretty clear that being aware of and managing this side of your ego will directly influence your career opportunities and how you show up. Some organisation have a very unhealthy work culture – promoting ‘significance taking’ and ‘climbing the ladder’ by pushing others off it. The good thing is by being aware of the needs of the ego, you’ll be able to spot a company like that up front in the job ad itself or even in the first interview.

Next week we’ll unpack the final need of the EGO, which is the need to get even.

PS: If you’re ready for a simple step by step program to help you map out YOUR career plan, check out my online courses here or download your FREE career checklist here