The confidence cusp

Gauri Chhabra

If there is one term that is most commonly misunderstood, that is ‘confidence’. Coming in myriad forms- from covertly fragile to outspokenly brazen- confidence dwells into every heart – though in relative proportions. At times, it piggy rides on its twisted cousin- the ego and becomes so intertwined with it that it is hard to separate one from the other. Both come with a brazen attitude that’s seemingly unflappable under pressure.
The two cousins
When we are just starting out, ego manifests itself in a handful of ways:Overconfidence. Entitlement. Selfish motivations. Bad priorities. It tells us we’re better than we are and it prevents us from learning. In some cases, people are so talented or their idea is so good that their egos aren’t immediately a liability and so they find themselves at the next phase: success. Here ego manifests itself in a couple new forms. Complacency. Superiority. Mismanagement. Paranoia. That leads us to the next phase: Failure which our ego often causes. This is where ego is particularly toxic. Because instead of learning from our mistakes, it blames other people. Or it descends into hatred or resentment.
Now, contrast all this with confidence. Confidence is great. But in its proper form, confidence is about awareness whereas ego is delusion. Awareness of our abilities. Being confident because you know you put in the work? Perfect. Ego-the idea that you’re better than everyone else, or that everyone else is a moron and out to get you? Not going to work. It’s not going to get you where you want to go.
Ego epidemic @work
At the workplace, it is these very differences that will make or break your career. That’s because when you allow the ego to take over, bad behavior ensues. Suddenly no one can get the job done quite like you can and all sense of teamwork goes out to the winds. It’s one thing to work hard out of passion and a sincere dedication to results. It’s an entirely different thing to take on a self-righteous attitude and judge others along the way. Taking on such an egocentric outlook will close your mind to new solutions and inhibit you from the learning the lessons at hand. Growth will soon come to a halt, as will your contributions to the organization. From there, it’s just a matter of time before management grows tired of the drama and is left wondering what you bring to the table in terms of value and results.
While riding on the wings of confidence, keep your ego in check. This would not only endear you to others but also establish your job security in any organization.
Here’s how this can be achieved
It is not always about you…
When it comes down to it, you are a tiny speck on a tiny speck, floating in a vast sea of nothing more giant and unfathomable then you could ever get your head around. The very notion that what you do on a daily basis affects things at the scales that really seem to matter in the universe is wishful thinking gone crazy. You. Don’t. Know. Anything. About. Anything.The liberation and true freedom of insignificance is yours to grasp at any time. When the ego gets up and starts jumping up and down about its importance, just keep this fact in mind to bring it all back to perspective.
So, curb your desire to be seen as right all while proving others wrong. Your need for appreciation and credit is what’s keeping you from adding value and contributing to organizational goals. Staying focused on what’s next will make you emotionally inexpensive and lead to better results.
…Others are as important
A lot of the ego’s jumping up and down, complaining and self-indulgence is because it believes it is more important than ANYONE else in the world. You know why so many people in traffic jams start getting irate and honking their horns? It is because each of those people think their journey is more important than the person in front of them. Next time you feel the anger and indignation that the ego fires up when it feels like it is being threatened, just remind yourself that everyone, and everything is just as important as you in the universe. No more, and no less.
Ditch being on the defensive
Going on the defense at work will never play out in your favor. Instead of rattling off the first thought that pops into your head, take a deep breath and go to a more neutral place with a response such as “wow” or “good to know”. It is from a more balanced, neutral mindset that the best decisions are made – especially among leadership. Greeting change or the unexpected with an open mind rather than resistance will put you in a better position to handle next steps.
Do not knit pick
It’s quite easy to sit back and pick apart someone else’s strategy or plan and determine ways in which it could potentially fail. Instead of judging the actions or decisions of others, offer your expertise and do what you can to help improve it and mitigate risk rather than making it worse. You may not have been consulted or had the opportunity to weigh in initially, but that’s no reason to withhold information or insight that could make the plan better. Giving your time and talent freely and without reserve or judgment will make you highly marketable and valuable to your organization.
Do not finger point
If all else fails and things do not go as planned, it doesn’t matter who is at fault. Pointing the finger and digging your heels in at a certain point is counterproductive. Instead, focus on learning from the experience. Honestly consider what was done well and what efforts still have room for improvement. By taking on that outlook, the experience will serve as a teachable moment that will enable you to formulate a stronger approach and get better results in the future.
See the funny side to everything
Just about anything in life has a funny side to it, when looked at from a certain perspective. The greatest way to disarm the Ego is to see the inherent humor in everything. When we laugh, we see the connectedness of things, the joy in everyday life and realize that the world is not such a serious place after all.
Humor is all about connectedness, it shows us how previously unthought-of concepts are connected in unexpected ways. It connects us to others in the shared experience of having a laugh and goofing off for a while. Next time you find yourself acting from ego, have a laugh.
At the end of the day, confidence will get you ahead, but ego will only hold you back. Detangling the cusp, recognizing the difference and acting accordingly is what separates the best and the brightest from the rest of the rust.