One of the most destructive creative sins is an over-inflated ego. When many people hear the word “ego,” they immediately think of the know-it-all manager charging into the room and insisting that everyone bend their lives and work around his every whim. This is certainly one exhibition of ego, but there are less obvious types that we must be careful to avoid if we want to do our best creative work consistently.
Whenever there is conflict or tension between individuals, be it in a professional environment or a social one, “inflated egos” are usually to blame for the conflict. Some individuals wanted too much attention for themselves, and they were willing to compromise social cohesion in order to make themselves stand out. Many meetings are a complete waste of time (and energy) because attendees aren’t concerned with the well-being of the company they work in, but simply wish to defend the ideas they came with and to undermine the contributions of others, so they can look better.
This – according to popular myth – is caused by “inflated egos.” In reality, the opposite is true. It’s not inflated egos that are to blame, but deflated ones.
Inflated egos are required for healthy living and fruitful social interaction. Problems only arise when egos are deflated, and the poor ego tries desperately to inflate itself by any means possible. To make sense of what I’m saying, it’s important to re-visit what “ego” means. Ego means self. It is how you define yourself as an individual, it is an answer to the question “who am I?”
An Inflated ego on the other hand, doesn’t need the praise of others to inflate it or keep it inflated. A healthy ego is driven by its own impression of itself. But since it does not seek to deceive itself, it is open to the criticism of others. Criticism isn’t seen as a threat, but as an opportunity to re-evaluate itself, based on the observations others have made, which the individual may have overlooked about himself. If the criticism is valid, it does not deflate the ego. It merely points out an area that requires more attention.
Inflated egos aren’t threatened by the accomplishments of others. They realize that others possess strengths that they may not possess, but it does not undermine their own strengths and worth. An inflated ego is willing to learn from others, so it can grow its strengths through their strengths.
Written by Jolene Tshakane.