3 Ways Your Ego Is Holding You Back

As entrepreneurs, we all have a bit of an ego. While we do need some ego to be an owner-operator, we also need to keep a tight rein on it. Sometimes our egos negatively impact our lives and we don’t even realize it. Worse yet, we blame every other thing that could possibly be blamed because it obviously wasn’t our issue or fault.

But what if it is? Your ego is holding you back more than you think.

You won’t admit when you need help

Pride goeth before the fall. We’ve all heard it, we all know what it means, and we all ignore it. It’s not that we’re bad people, but we grow to think we know best. This isn’t snarky and uppity pride; this is pride in ability, possession and position.

We like what we like and we deserve to revel in our successes. Absolutely. The thing to keep in mind is that every situation is a learning opportunity. Whether you’re drawing from the knowledge base of your accountant or being yelled at by your partner, you can learn something — if you want to. The value is in how you use that knowledge.

Another saying holds true here: You don’t know what you don’t know. If you can admit to yourself that you don’t know everything about everything, you can really start building value. Once you’ve identified areas you need improvement, your next step is to find the best qualified advisors to help you make and implement a game plan. These positions can be temporary or full-time, depending on your needs and budget. But don’t let them depend on your ego if one of the positions you fill covers duties you perform. You really shouldn’t be trying to work more in your business, anyway! Your time is best spent in the areas you excel in or doing duties no one but the owner-operator can perform.

And as you sit here reading this thinking “I have no problem asking for help,” think about the last time you did.

You fall prey to false logic

Your ego can make you believe some pretty interesting things. Sometimes it’s that you deserve more because of who or what you are. Sometimes it’s that you can make anything work, even if it’s not your specialty (cough like selling your company cough). This isn’t usually an issue… but when important business decisions are involved, your ego can cost you.

If you’re looking at a big decision, you need to see all sides of it and see it calmly. We’re good at justifying our actions and choices after the fact, so it’s vital we’re sure before we decide on a direction. Often, this means asking your advisory board or other trusted advisor for input. But sometimes you just need to take a minute — or a day — to really let the situation sink in.

Making rushed or emotional decisions can rebound 10-fold on you, especially if your wounded pride is in there. Your ego might be telling you not to back down in a situation, but the pertinent course of action would be to resolve things rather than escalate them. Think about the consequences before you commit finances or resources to appease your ego. You need to think about the impact beyond today.

We’re not saying you need to wait three days to respond to a client inquiry or that all decisions made spur-of-the-moment end badly. You need to find out what your triggers are that put you in the red zone, that place where you can’t think straight and lash out for no reason. These things might need a little buffer time between when you get the information and when you respond so you can do so with a clear mind.

If you’ve never justified a decision made in the moment before, I salute you. However, for those of us who sometimes find it hard to admit mistakes, it’s good to reflect on why we’re feeling defensive about those choices so we don’t repeat them in the future.

You don’t know when to back down

You’ve never lost a fight. You don’t back down. You don’t take no for an answer. Do these sound familiar? We do have a bit of an ego there — isn’t it a good thing that we stand up for ourselves and go after what we want? Sure. But if we’re honest with ourselves, sometimes we just don’t know when to quit.

From office-related confrontations where you always come out on top to that fight with your partner last night over the right way to load the dishwasher (yours, obviously), you always push for the strong finish. There’s nothing wrong with knowing your stuff, but if you find you’re always ‘right’ you might want to consider if that’s also right. Should you be right all the time? Why are you right all the time? Why is no one providing counter examples or suggestions?

Let’s not forget that there are people who will push back — and hard. They’ve got their own egos. So what typically happens is a clash of the wills that eventually goes beyond what either had intended. Think about things like divorces and hostile takeovers. You can imagine emotions running high in those situations and how each side would fight tooth-and-nail to get what they wanted out of it.

Sometimes getting what you want isn’t what you want in the end. It can cost you more, in multiple ways. It can obviously cost you literally — in things like legal fees, extra business due diligence or taxes — and it can also cost you in terms of reputation, health and time. These costs can come right away, over time or a combination of the two.

So before you take the next step, think carefully if it’s worth it for you. Try to analyze the situations dispassionately (or get an advisor’s assistance) and make sure your ego’s not driving your win.

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