4 Signs Your Ego Is Too Big

It’s inevitable: when you get good at something, you do more of it. When you’re recognized for your strengths, you try to emphasize them. The problems arise when a strength evolves into a liability.

Consider this example: Optimism is a preferred trait in leaders.

The optimistic leader:

  • Isn’t frozen by reality, even when it’s negative
  • Helps people get through difficult times
  • Reminds people of better times ahead
  • Doesn’t get discouraged
  • Sees the positive side of things

However, optimistic leaders also:

  • Won’t listen to bad news
  • Believe a positive outlook can overcome anything
  • Reject bad news as the pessimism of the naysayers

The very traits that get executives through difficult times can end up costing dearly.

Titrated properly, ego is inherently positive, providing a necessary level of confidence and ambition. Left unchecked, however, ego goes on a hunt, seeking more of what bolsters it.

Four Signs of Big Ego

Your coworkers and personal relationships are usually aware — much earlier than you’ll ever figure out — that your ego has become overinflated.

Here are four telltale signs:

  1. You find yourself being defensive. Defending ideas ultimately turns into becoming defensive.
  2. You continually compare yourself to others. In truth, being too competitive actually makes you less competitive.
  3. You seek acceptance to justify your ego needs. You crave respect and recognition from others, which eventually interferes with your success.
  4. You make a point of showcasing your brilliance.

Your ego may be in control if you experience the following:

  • Viewing a colleague or a friend as a rival and planning how to “beat” him/her
  • Taking it personally when someone disagrees with your ideas
  • Disagreeing with someone simply because you didn’t come up with the idea first
  • Prematurely criticizing someone else’s ideas without considering their value
  • Compulsively following someone’s lead, just to “keep up with the Joneses”
  • Comparing others’ external environments to your own (signs of status or wealth, without regard for inner values) (Source: egonomics, Marcum and Smith)

This list may seem exaggerated…except when you see it in other people. You and I both know people who act like this. But the fact is, we rarely see ourselves engaging in behaviors like this. It takes a strong person to be able to admit to engaging in big ego behaviors even a little bit of the time.

The truth is that when we can see ourselves honestly, we can then self-correct. Ego is like Goldilock’s soup, not too hot, not too cold, but just right. In the work I do with executives, we look at egos, executive presence and the way others perceive us.

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