“If you start believing in your greatness, it’s the death of your creativity” Marina Abramovic.
In today’s society, you are encouraged to think of yourself as special, a unique snow flake that will change the world someday. Parents will tell you, you’re meant for greatness, motivational speakers will tell you, the sky is the limit, you grow up with the idea that you are going to make waves. This boosts your confidence and sense of self, knowing that you will do great things will certainly boost your self-esteem. But much as it feels great being assured of how awesome you are or will be, there is a downside, the whole idea inflates your ego which may exaggerate your sense of self-importance. It has fostered a culture of entitlement among the young people. They think they deserve greatness even without working for it, because they were told they were special right from birth.
In ‘Ego is the enemy’, Ryan Holiday writes about how with popularity of social media, our culture boosts this elevated sense of self-importance, how we can filter our photos and write wonderful stories about ourselves and brag to millions of followers at a time. We can call ourselves entrepreneurs, artists or straight up CEOs of on paper only companies. It’s worse in this era that over emphasizes personal branding, people write for themselves over the top profiles but don’t actually get any real work done. Yes, it’s good to put yourself out there, yes it’s nice to have a glittering profile you can be proud of, and it’s good to occasionally think of yourself as unique and special, however, the downside occurs when more work is put into personal branding, rather than personal growth. “No amount of packaging or marketing can compensate for a bad product.” Perennial seller by Ryan Holiday.
Much as most people expect that an inflated ego boosts self-confidence hence increases the chances of young people pursing their goals and venturing into various areas, on the contrary, it might in some cases be the reason why many young people fail to actually start working on their goals, or the ones that start, get sabotaged. Too much personal branding and an inflated sense of self-importance (ego) hinders personal growth, goals and aspirations and this is how.
It gives you the illusion that you have accomplished something. That is why updating your Facebook profile to CEO feels so nice, it shoots dopamine straight through your system giving you that sense of gratification almost equal to the one you get from actually starting up that company. It’s no secret that today, people focus more on making other people think they are successful rather than actually being successful. That personal declaration to thousands of followers saps the energy and will to actually get up and work. Ryan Holiday says, the same energy you use for talking is the same energy you need for walking the talk. That is why most people bask in their own self-proclaimed statuses, the mind can’t tell the difference hence begins to confuse delusion with actual accomplishment.
Ego makes you afraid of failure. Because you feel a high sense of self, you occasionally feel the need to save face, you have the illusion that people hold you in very high regard and for that reason you fear failure, failure which is a much needed aspect during the growth process. The fear of being seen fail is actually one of the biggest reasons most people don’t get to act out the goals. You think, “what will people think when they see you fail.” Not trying then seems the easier option, at least then you’re still a person of infinite potential but who just hasn’t acted on them. That is in itself a form of narcissism that many don’t recognize.
It makes you a poor team player. For the young people who grow up being told they are meant for greatness, their sense of self is based on that premise, that they are somehow unique and superior. For this reason, it’s hard for them to work for a team especially one in which they are not superior. That is what media sells us, it only recognizes the CEO, the head honcho. That is why most young people aspire to be the head, rather than be part of a team and make something grow. That’s how sayings like “you better make your dream come true otherwise someone else will use you to make theirs come true” originate, such sayings have nothing but egoistic overtones allover. Not everyone has to be the skipper of the team, that is why it is called a team. But the millennial who was told he was special from birth feels too good to be part of a team, especially one in which he’s not the one running the show.
Ego hinders you from learning something new. It makes you dread criticism, even constructive one. Since your sense of self-worth is based on you being special and important, being criticized pokes your ego, it feels like you’re being undermined or attacked, yet in actual sense, you’re just being corrected. An ego maniac only takes feedback that paints them as right, special, superior and dismisses any feedback that says otherwise. Learning is also hindered since one lacks the humility to ask for help when they are in dire need, after all, to ask for help, would mean they are weak, can’t do it alone and not as special as they thought.
It stops you from doing things that don’t benefit you directly. The ego maniac is often narcissistic and only looks at how situations benefit them directly. Owing to this, they don’t usually waste their time on activities that don’t benefit particularly them like making an effort to help grow someone else’s business, charity, making a non-profit contribution to society yet It’s such selfless acts that in the end help build your brand and also build you a network.
Unhealthy competitiveness. The self-centered nature of the egoistic mindset makes such people competitive in an unhealthy way. They are always measuring themselves to others, trying to size them down, because part of being unique and special is being outstanding under all situations, if you’re not outstanding at any point in a room, then you don’t have an identity. Part of being outstanding is also not allowing anyone else to shine brighter than you, hence, they often become envious at other people’s success, because someone else shining bright somehow feels like it’s deeming their light.
In conclusion, the culture of feeling special and outstanding may be what’s clipping the wings off young people rather than propelling them into their goals and dreams, it’s a culture that is inflating people’s egos in a destructive way. The antidote to ego is humility, it’s what allows you always question your own knowledge and keeps you curious as a continuous learner, it’s what gives you the courage to take criticism however ill-intentioned and use it to learn and better yourself, it’s what makes you ask for help when you need it, it’s what makes you clap for others even when they are winning and you’re not, and finally it what makes you resilient in times of failure because you know the road to success is paved with occasional failures.
“Humble in aspirations, Gracious in success, resilient in failure” Ego is the enemy by Ryan Holiday.