A friend was telling me about her work woes, how she didn’t feel challenged at a job she knew she performed well and how upset she was management had decided a restructuring and were now recruiting someone who would be over her.
“They didn’t even talk to us, the three people who were here from the beginning, to ask for our input. They didn’t even approach me for the position.”
I suggested she put together a proposal on how she saw the company moving forward and why she was a good asset to spearhead changes. They could only say no and/or give her a measure of how they felt about her performance.
After much more chatting and prodding, it turns out she doesn’t want the promotion in the first place. She feels slighted at not being asked. Primly, I pointed out her ego was clouding her judgment and the problem lay elsewhere: she was ambitious, she liked to make a difference, to be challenged and this job didn’t provide any of this, just a cushy paycheck. If she wanted the challenge and the perks, she needed to look elsewhere, or devote her free time to something that mattered.
Such a shame we are not very good at taking our own advice when it’s our turn. Not even twenty-four hours later, I fell into the same ego trap, like a rabbit down a hole.
I said something, rather unexpected, to someone I deeply care about without really pondering the consequences. Or, rather, I could rattle off the list of consequences, but I chose to set them aside to see if I would get the reaction I wanted. Which I didn’t. Partly because this person knows me very well and partly because I should have known better.
I was stunned at my stupidity. I let my ego take me to a place where I was seeking affirmation and need.
Without calling psychology to our aid, any cheap self-help book can recognize the root of ego-based impulses into a need for validation, stemming from a million reasons having to do with childhood, parents and whatever else we want to bring to the party. When you think you have learnt to recognize good old ego creeping up, it blindsides you once again – that is how strong it can be.
At least, with age, I have come to recognize it for what it is, if not always to stop it. And I am moving on. No harm done. Just some minor bruising.