Slicing the Ego

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Mr. Ego cannot be your Amigo…

Getting my ego down on its knees has by and far been the largest challenge I have faced so far in the pursuit of a better ‘me’.  I might just say that I have achieved very little success so far, as time and again, it pops out with the same power of a shaken soda bottle!  Over time, I have also realised why it has been so difficult to crack this nut.  One main reason why I find it difficult in conquering this demon is that it is something created by me.  Hence, I keep trying to not let it go, because it has become so absorbed in me.  A creator always finds it difficult to let go of his own creation, isn’t it?

After a tired day, when sleep takes over, I naturally give in to it and get into a deep slumber.  I really do not try to fight against it and the progression is natural and smooth.  A moment of retrospection will reveal that since there was absolutely no resistance from my end, I slipped into a deep slumber.  I tried to use this analogy and inferred that whenever and wherever there is resistance, my close friend ‘Mr. Ego’ spontaneously gives me the best company!  Where there is ‘giving in’, he finds my company not worthwhile.

Having understood that this was my own creation, the next steps that I took was to see what were those key ingredients that helped me in creating this fellow.  For, if I tried to eliminate those one by one, I firmly believed that I can be a better person, if not a person with ego fully eliminated.  I made up my mind to pluck the first low hanging fruit and crack it.  I engaged systematically in a ‘Five-Why’ type of analysis, the brain child of the Japanese, who used this method in their pursuit for high-quality standards and perfection.  Break down larger problems into smaller ones, question and find the root cause.

Voila!  It worked.  I got to grip with a small component that, if conquered, could probably put my dear friend Mr. Ego’s head down a little bit, if not bring him down on his knees.  A self-promotion tactic, nowadays referred to as ‘humble bragging’, is what my analytics lead me to.  This is a critical ego booster.  I always want to hear how good I am in the eyes of others and seek appreciation by making self-depreciating statements with the only intention of seeking attention and pride.

This is a very common phenomenon that we see day in and day out, both from within ourselves and from others, and yet we fail to realise that this is a major contributor to fostering ego.  I have been in my field of work for more than 20 years now.  Though it might sound as self-bragging, I believe that I do know a little bit on the nuances of this field, while I may not be the best.  Recently, a reputed media house wanted to take some inputs for their research work and hence interviewed me.  The first sentence I uttered was “What do I know about this?  I am not such a big person to be interviewed.”  Honestly, deep down in my heart, I was expecting the interviewer to say “Madam…  How can you say this?  You are heading such a large organisation; you, of course, know everything about this field!”  Lo and behold, it happened the very next moment.  The interviewer echoed the question, and in turn, my humble-bragging feathers started to flutter.

My friend took over from then on.  My friend, Mr. Ego, had a sumptuous meal to consume, and out he popped out with pride!  Many of us will relate to such incidents in our own lives.  A very famous personality tweeted, “I am number 15 on the runway to take off.  How I miss my personal flight!”  This humble bragging is about a famous personality flying a common man’s carrier!  One of my close friends, an extremely talented IT professional, was just not making it beyond the final round of interviews at many places, in spite of the fact that the earlier rounds were always extremely positive and impactful.  A close confidant tried to help him overcome this professional barrier.  The confidant came to the conclusion that my friend’s humble-bragging attitude was what had let him down in the final rounds.  For example, when asked what his biggest weakness was, he used to answer that as he was a perfectionist and that he could not work with teams.  A classic example of humble bragging, isn’t it?

Research shows that 77% of participants in a survey conducted by a reputed organisation had chosen to humble brag rather than disclose an obvious weakness – the most common answers focused on perfectionism (32.8%), working too hard (24.6%) and niceness to a fault (14.8%).  Most organisations while hiring relatively senior people evaluate organisational fitment as a key parameter and humble bragging is a major deterrent.  Science tells us that ego is something very unique to human beings.  So we are actually gifted with ‘ego’ by design in that sense!  Having said that, should we not strive to overcome this mechanical nature if we wish to grow!

I always want to hear how good I am in the eyes of others and seek appreciation by making self-depreciating statements with the only intention of seeking attention and pride.

Humble bragging not only adds fuel to our ego, but also puts us in a poor light in situations like those described earlier.  It has been scientifically proved that pure bragging and pure complaining is far better off.  Of course, it creates negative impression but at least brings us down to reality much more quickly than the falsehood of humble bragging.  While normally we have a tendency not to say something negative about ourselves as it makes us vulnerable, I would consider it a better ingredient in our system than duplicity, as it takes us a bit closer in cleansing us of our ego.

The Almighty has also shown us the means and methods to overcome it.  Whenever a discussion about an ideal person crops up, the first name that we utter is ‘Rama’.  A name that is associated with high-minded actions, ideal qualities and sacred thoughts.  A name that is associated with ethical code.  Rama demonstrated by his words, thoughts and actions how such a life can be lived.  The name ‘Rama’ is repeated by millions every day because of the attributes and actions associated with the name which has been etched forever.

Humble bragging brings the ‘me’ component always to the focus, and not my actions or deeds.  People are most often remembered by their deeds and not by the figurative form of the individual per se.   Certain characteristics are associated with the name and hence the name is remembered and never the other way around.  I have realised it is important to focus on the deeds and eliminate the ‘I, me’ component to the extent possible.

I would have achieved much if I stopped humble bragging in all forms entirely.  It’s indeed a difficult journey, but if I am able to break down the ego components one by one, starting with this one, why not give it a try?  I am sure that working on these small slicing exercises like this, I might find my ego coming more under control without too much of overt work.

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