I consider myself to be pretty insecure, however I often got the reproach of being too arrogant. Both obviously can’t go hand to hand, so I always had an excuse to ignore the latter.
If it was from a man: he’s insecure with women and projects that on me. If it was from a woman, she was jealous. In general: I’m trying so hard to hide my insecurity that I’m probably overdoing it.
Everything was under control.
Up to a couple of days ago, when I stumbled upon Ryan Holiday’s book “Ego is the Enemy” in a bookstore. It was obviously not for me, but still I started flipping through it, I don’t know why.
However, it has been a good thing, because against all expectations, I related to it right away. Even more, I felt that the entire book was about me. How could it be that I, so insecure, apparently had all of the symptoms of arrogance and excessive pride?
Still, here it is:
- can’t delegate because I don’t trust coworkers to do as good a job that I would: check.
- takes all criticisms too personally: check.
- often defensive, sometimes aggressive when she doesn’t feel recognized: check.
- expects everyone to acknowledge how special she is without having to work for it: check.
What a despicable person I am, right? Right. And I had no clue. As Holiday explains it, this is because pride actually goes along with ego, and is always there to help justify the assumptions of the ego. This is pride as well that keeps us in denial, encouraging us to fight everything that would come in the way of our high self-esteem.
That’s probably the same mechanism that kept me in denial with regards to the fact that I wasn’t very thin anymore (if you don’t know what I mean, see here). But having this book in front of my eyes, I couldn’t hide in my denial anymore.
I’ve sincerely experienced all of the feelings he mentions, now that I think about it. But, in my own defense, it appears that it was mainly centered on my work. Why is that? Well, probably because in my mind I make a pretty clear distinction between things I find myself pretty good at, and the areas on which I have accepted that I am not so good.
I am socially awkward, clumsy, I never do what’s on my to-do lists and I’m not able to save any money and I suck at any game involving aiming at something. I accepted that, so anyone can comment about it and I will joke about it with them.
On the other hand, I think I’m very good at my job, so that was apparently a totally blind spot for me. Not that I finally accepted to take a step back from it, I realize that what I always thought was being overly cautious and a bit too passionate was actually being way too proud.
Taking every feedback that is not 100% positive as a criticism. Dismissing right away the person who was the author of this feedback. Not listening to warnings. Being blind to advices. Doing everything by myself. Not being open to discussions when I already had a solution.
The thing is, I felt that I was very good at my job but with this attitude I probably wasn’t that good. If you throw away every opportunity to learn, well, you never grow.
What Holiday says is that the best way to prevent this kind of behaviour is to remember that we can always keep on learning, and that we should approach everything like a student, as a way of humbling ourselves. Even if we feel we are the best at something, we are probably not the best in the whole world. And even if we were, we still shouldn’t rest on our laurels, because if we do we’ll never move forward.
I can see the perks of this method already, as I’m new to this blogging thing and I know that I have a lot to learn. So since I started, I have only been the humble me, taking feedback happily as a way to get better and not as a criticism to myself. The secret for me is apparently doing things that I know I’m not good at.
Still, that’s a shame that I’m able to accept to grow only on the areas I consider that I’m not already good. If my maths are correct (and yeah, I’m very good at maths) (irony here), that means I will always reach a plateau at everything I do. There will always be a point where I learned a lot, grew so much that my behavior will switch. Somehow pride is going to take over and I will rest on my laurels.
So in the future I will have to be very careful about that and always ask myself WWAHPD (what would a humble person do)?
In the meantime, please tell me if you relate, if you already experienced this kind of behavior, and if you eventually found a way to correct it… I’d like to know that I’m not the only one here!