The Struggle with Self-Importance

We all have occasional attacks of self-importance.

And sometimes those attacks show up when we are defining or asserting our personal leadership brand (See previous blog posting). That brand, the ‘special’ me that distinguishes me from others, sets me apart from the competition, and highlights my uniqueness can be a trap when I

  • Stop looking at myself critically
  • Do not listen to positive and negative feedback
  • View myself as more deserving than others
  • Assess my importance based on what I do rather than what I am
  • Remain attached to the illusion of the permanence of my importance.

What are the results of living from this ego-self?

  1. We live with an incredible tension between what we want to be (the image) and what we actually are (fragile and vulnerable). One writer puts it this way “We like to see ourselves as strong and in control but we are more like a fragile eggshell that is easily broken – This makes use feel deeply vulnerable and not in a good way.” Dzigar Kongtrul
  2. We miss the experience of our own inner truth and as a result live disconnected from authenticity, from ourselves, and others. That experience can be very painful.
  3. We become slaves to the illusion of the ego-self.
  4. We really irritate others.
  5. It works against effective team functioning.

So how does one curb the inflated sense of self-importance? It involves

  1. A practice of healthy self-reflection. Learn to take feedback constructively without taking it personally.
  2. A questioning mind (Don’t always believe your own thoughts and always be willing to challenge your assumptions about yourself)
  3. A detachment from the illusion of permanence
  4. An uncompromising desire not to live from the ego
  5. Not taking our importance too seriously
  6. Learn to distinguish between one’s ‘being’ and ‘doing’.

So what else does one do when the ghost of the ego-mind shows up?

  1. Don’t judge it or try to suppress this pesky part of the self
  2. Demand that the ego-mind show itself for what it is (an illusion that never has weight or content. It is like a cloud that evaporates in the sunlight of truth)
  3. Treat it with compassion and understanding
  4. Learn to differentiate between a ‘healthy’ identity, that includes one’s strengths and competencies, and the ego-self (See previous blog postings on the ego and the soul)
  5. Treat the ego with the same detachment you would use in watching a scary movie. Be an observer not a participant
  6. Head back to the path of humility and view your interdependence and reliance on others. (See my previous posts on Leadership and Humility).

Finally, reflect on the following words in the quest to curb self-centeredness

“If you consider the careers of the people on Wall Street, the ones who were humble lasted and prospered; the ones who were self-centered and thought they had the whole answer often made mistakes. More than half of the mistakes made on Wall Street are because someone thought they knew it all. They didn’t have humility.” Sir John Templeton


About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
This entry was posted in The dangers of self-importance, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Struggle with Self-Importance

  1. Excellent post but I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject?
    I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit more.
    Many thanks!

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