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How your ego is holding you back

Schermafbeelding 2016-09-04 om 15.57.42

Ego is a big element in our everyday life. You and I are constantly in a race to show the outside world who we are and why we do what we do. This is not by choice, it is asked from us through social media, in job interviews and when meeting a new person that asks you: what do you do? Our ego plays a big role in the picture that we present to the outside world. But, what if I told you that your ego is actually preventing you from starting and setting yourself up to win?

The more we grow, the more we think we know.

Talking about ego
When talking about your ‘ego’ there are many different areas in our life that are affected in both the good and the bad sense. A belief in yourself when all seems to go wrong is a positive application of ego and grit, whereas exaggerating our achievements talking to a random person you have just met in a bar or at a work meeting – to make ourselves look bigger than we actually are -, is the more ugly version of our ego at work. The more we grow, the more we think we know. It is at that point that our ego starts preventing us from seeing all opportunities and when to, for example, double down or walk away from a project or idea.

By listening more to yourself than your surroundings and being less open to new ideas and points of view, you deprive yourself from that what brought you to the top in first place.

Humble beginnings
At the beginning of a new project, a job or learning something new, we are in a phase of ‘humble beginnings’. We listen, act like a student and absorb all the information. We learn, get excited and come home with an unbridled enthusiasm for things to come. When we encounter our ‘first success’ we start believing in ourselves. Confidence grows and we start to find our spot. With that first success also comes a hunger for more. To not grow is standing still, so you strive for more success and progress. We then enter the phase of prolonged success. We get recognized for our talent, receive a bonus, a promotion and start making a name for ourselves. You are moving up in the world! Starting to become more critical of your surroundings convinced of your own right and feeling entitled based on previous results and growth of experience. You stop listening and stop learning, only trusting your own judgement. By listening more to yourself than your surroundings and being less open to new ideas and points of view, you deprive yourself from that what brought you to the top in first place. No longer open to new input you loose that fresh pair of eyes effectively blocking our own growth. That is your ego at work.


  • What do you excel at?
  • Are you still listening and learning in that area?
  • When was the last time you let your ego prevail over reality?

Your ego prevents you from starting
The thing is, not only does our ego rear its ugly head when we become or are successful, more importantly; it also prevents us from starting. You aspire to do great things, to set yourself up to win and you are anxious to matter. As humans beings we aspire growth, this makes us feel accomplished and gives us meaning. But to succeed means to start, more often than not, we let our ego get in the way. Ryan Holiday mentioned this in his latest book Ego is the enemy:

‘We fall in love with the image of what success looks like (…) our ego wants the ideas and the fact that we aspire to do something about them to be enough. It wants the hours spend planning and attending conferences or chatting with impressed friends to count towards the tally that success seems to require.’

The ego-trap
When you look at the picture of success, all you see is the outcome. You do not see the hard work, late hours, lack of sleep and stress. Striving to be that picture of success we fall into the ego-trap. Painting the picture of success in our head, we talk-talk-talk. Talking about our idea makes us feel like we are working on it, but the truth is that we are working on everything but the idea that we need to work on. By talking about it, instead of working on it, you prevent yourself from starting and setting yourself up to win.

To be or to do? To earn or to pretend?
So, who are you going to be? Are you going to be the person that prefers to talk about their ideas and plans and is going to change everything? Or are you going to put in the work? Are you going to earn your way or are you going to pretend? Telling everybody what you have done, instead on working on what you are doing?

Your ego can be one of the biggest things that is preventing you from starting. So ask yourself this question:

To be or to do? To earn or pretend?

  • How is your ego doing?
  • What do you prefer? To do or to be? Why?
  • When was the last time you pretended?
  • How are you earning your way?
  • What will you do differently moving forward?
  • How will this help you set yourself up to win?