I would like begin this column by recounting an incident that I was confronted with sometime back. A gentleman came to my office to meet me.
As I did not wish to meet him immediately he waited for almost an hour. Subsequently, when he introduced himself as the husband of so and so, the identity became instant.
His wife was a distant relative. If he had mentioned his wife’s name, I am sure I would have ushered him in straightaway.
Apparently being a male chauvinist, he did not wish to get identified himself through his wife. I immediately called him inside. Well, by then he had to suffer the delay.
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That reminded me about the wise men who remind us every now and then that your ego will destroy you.
The American author and editor, Ryan Holiday's in his new book ‘Ego is the Enemy’ (2016), cautions that an outsized view of one's own importance could be destructive, both professionally and personally.
Recently, we were interviewing an aspirant for the top job in the web edition of our newspaper.
One of the panelists wanted to know from whom the individual took his day-to-day assignments. His reply was quite baffling.
The egoistic applicant replied ‘My owner gives the work. I am only accountable to him’.
By ignoring his editor, he wished to prove that he was more talented than his editor. The board members felt that the person was too ‘smart’ and ‘too big for his shoes’ and hence was unwanted. His ego destroyed his chances.
One of my colleagues at a lower rung in the hierarchy once complained to me that many in the office disapproved him.
On being asked about the possible reason, he left me flabbergast with his reply-“Someone who is more capable or at least as competent as I am can only judge me.”
Little did he realise that had he been as talented as he claimed, he would not be at a lower rank in the organisation. The root of the problem was not about his talent, but his oversized perception of himself.
There is a very fine distinction between self-confidence and ego. Both may appear similar on the face of it. But as personality traits, they are far apart from each other.
While ego destroys you, self-confidence provides the impetus to strike it big. Remember that even if you are over-confident, you may take decisions that you will rue for a long time. Even research explains the reasons for this.
Joyce Ehrlinger, a psychologist from Washington State University, says that overconfident people tend to concentrate on the easy parts of tasks while spending as little time as possible on the tougher challenges that the task provides. Quite often, intelligent people fall prey to this very psychological syndrome.
People with extreme ego find it difficult to work in a team as their behaviour is repulsive. Your perceived superiority fails you in relating to others and appreciating the best in others.
The people repelled by you hit back with vengeance and that too in an area that you are weak in. Even if it is belated, you must realise that people who praised you did so out of job compulsions.
Failing to realise this sycophant mindset initially could prove dear because a distorted perception of yourself will put you on an unwarranted high.
The ‘Tale of Two Fishes and a Frog’ from Panchatantra testifies how oversized perception could spell disaster.
Two large fish and a frog were friends living in a pond. One evening, they saw fishermen approaching the pond.
The fish and the frog overhear one of the fishermen saying that they would come back the next day. The frog warned the fish to move to a safer zone elsewhere.
However, the overconfident fish gives a damn to their friend’s wise advice. They brag about the tricky maneuvers they had mastered, and how they could easily escape from the clutches of the fishermen.
The frog was not convinced and felt sorry for his ego-ridden friends, who considered themselves as invincible. The frog left the pond much before the fishermen arrived while the fish were caught.
The wise indeed say confidence is good but overconfidence emanating from ego is destructive.There are several reasons why over-inflated ego hurts you.
It drives you towards risky decisions. It makes you less competitive as you fail to recognise your inherent deficiencies. The ‘I know all’ ego will kill your learning abilities.
It also destroys your relationships and sounds the death-knell of your career. It disenfranchises you from a team that complements your effort.
Finally, your ego destroys you howsoever talented you may be. You will end up being a loner.