Much has been written about the negative impacts that the Internet-- and social media in particular-- has had on us as individuals. Many people feel isolated and questions are regularly being raised about our ability to develop deep, personal relationships as a result.
Additionally, the emergence of Internet superstars and influencers has made many question their self-worth and personal definition of success. It's no wonder that some people feel compelled to overcompensate.
Consequently, there's a lot of self-aggrandizement being promulgated in the name of self-branding, and the like. When that personal promotion gets out of hand, narcissism can result. Leaders who possess such tendencies often ruin their teams and, in the worst cases, ruin their companies. Think Elizabeth Holmes at Theranos and you can better understand the dark side of the problem.
If you're not sure that your ego is hurting you as a leader (or a person), give yourself a quiz and answer these 10 simple questions:
- Overstate your experience and accomplishments?
- Fantasize about power and fame?
- Believe you are superior and deserving of special privileges?
- Think that others rightly admire you?
- Rarely consider other's perspectives to round-out your thinking?
- Take advantage of people through exaggeration and self-aggrandizement?
- Are indifferent to what other's need or want?
- Focus on maintaining power and control?
- Think you're able to manipulate others because of your superior intelligence?
- Generally, feel superior to others?
If you answered yes to even just a couple, you may want to work on those items by developing other skills that don't require you to compromise being forthright and genuine.
If you answered yes to four or five, you have to seriously consider making effort to keep your ego in check. It is negatively influencing your interactions with those people who know better and is putting you dangerously close to being clinically irrational.
If you answered yes to six or more, you're most likely a narcissist. Undoubtedly, your ego is causing problems in your work and personal life.
While it's possible that you've been getting away with the deceitfulness that stems from your narcissism, it won't be long before the truth is exposed and you will need to confront the fraud that you've been perpetrating. Be warned, when you confront this reality, you will be in a great deal of pain, and, quite possibly, it will cause great pain for the people closest to you.
If you think that your ego, and, possibly narcissism, is hurting your ability to lead others and live your life authentically, you should do something about it. Here are some ways to begin.
If you don't recognize that your ego is becoming a problem, you won't be up for the challenge that it takes to put it in check. Admit that your ego is hurting you and you can begin the process of fixing it.
Examine why you have this insatiable need to be seen as better than everyone else. Identify the things that drive your need to feed your ego as much as you do.
Interestingly, many narcissists are driven to the behavior out of a need to overcome a deep-rooted inferiority complex. Ask yourself why do you feel so inferior. By exploring the why, you may be able to determine the root cause of the behavior and take steps to control it.
Stop it before you utter a word.
You can train yourself to know when you're about to exaggerate and unabashedly self-promote. Then, stop that little narcissistic voice in your head from uttering a single word. This won't end the problem on its own, but it will improve the ways that you communicate, which will improve the ways in which the rest of the world perceives you.
Keep it real.
Begin to do a better job of self-reflection. At downtimes during the day, take a moment to reflect back on your interactions with others, be them online or in person. Note when you're exaggerated or took steps to self-aggrandize. The more that you raise your own awareness, the more realistic you can be about the extent of your narcissism and its effect on your everyday contacts.
Get help, if you need it.
If you determine the challenge to keep your ego in check is too great to go it alone, there are professionals who can help. Seek them out. They can give you additional tools to deal with any challenging narcissistic tendencies that you possess.
To close, there's no reason that your ego should hold you back from becoming the leader (and, general good person) that you can be. You simply need to recognize the inclinations and be ready to do the work needed to make the change in yourself.