The unspoken truth about leadership is that we all have our faults. Every one of us is in an active state of growth. We are always learning something. An area of growth that gets a lot of attention is our relationship with our ego. Most of the attention focuses on the negative aspects of the ego and rarely gives credit to the parts of our ego that actually serve our greater good. I’d like to shed some light on our egos and how we can unravel the layers to find the good, bad and the ugly. Creating a heightened awareness around the role our ego plays in our lives can help us create a more positive relationship with ourselves and our perceived shortcomings. This allows us to bring a more balanced self forward in our every day.

Reframe your conversation with your ego

Let’s face it. The ego has been getting a bad wrap. Personal development coaches all around the world tell us to suppress the desires of our ego or all-out eliminate it. Here’s the truth. That isn’t possible. You can’t eliminate something that subconsciously appears inside of you. And you can’t suppress something that is part of your innate structure. In fact, if you try you will likely only exacerbate its presence in your life; healthy or unhealthy. Instead of looking at your ego like an enemy, look at it as your ally. Your ego is a mirror that will give you an honest reflection of where you stand in your relationship between service to self and service to others. There will be times when it shows you that you have steered too far in the direction of service to self. And if you’re paying attention it will also highlight when you’ve over-corrected in service to others sacrificing your own needs.

Unravel the ego one layer at a time

Our egos are a deeply complex character in our lives. This is not a time to boil the ocean. If you try and take your entire ego on at once, you’ll fail. Taking a bite into a whole onion is unpleasant. As is the failure that comes with trying to take on more than we can chew. When you see your ego show up, simply say thank you and take the opportunity to recognize that it is an onion and what’s presenting itself is one layer for you to unravel. That’s it. This will give you something achievable to work with. As an example, you can focus on why your ego gets triggered when your Mother tells you what to do, fairly easily. You get annoyed because you don’t like to be told what to do. But if you try to take on the complexity of the role your Mother plays in your life as a whole, you might find yourself feeling a little overwhelmed and lost. Instead, take it one layer at a time. Focus on something small enough to look at and unravel. And then when you feel like you’ve gotten to the core of it, zoom back out and see if there’s another layer there for you. Then just keep going, one layer at a time until you reach the end of it.

Make the choice to take it, evolve it or leave it

You will likely find your ego at the center of most of the conflict in your life. The key is to understand why it shows up, how it shows up, when it shows up and who it shows up with. Then you have a choice. You can choose to take it, as is, since it might be something that is serving you. As an example, the part of your ego that enjoys praise and accolades might be a positive motivator to overcome the social anxiety of doing a public presentation. I would choose to keep this part of my ego as is. The other option is to evolve it. If in the same situation, the part of my ego that enjoyed praise sometimes led to me seeking praise I might choose to evolve it. I can appreciate the piece of me that enjoys praise. And I can choose to evolve the piece of me that seeks it and instead learn to appreciate it when it comes naturally even more. Finally, you have the choice of leaving it behind. As you bump up against your ego you will most certainly find pieces that are simply old stories and pieces of yourself that no longer serve you. If I go back to the Mother story we might find that we are holding onto a piece of ourselves that is connected to our teenage rebel and simply doesn’t like to be told what to do. That story isn’t serving anyone and simply creates triggering situations instead of resolving them. I would choose to leave this story behind. And then when it showed up again, remind myself I’ve already let that go and take several deep breaths to cleanse it out of my system.

In the end, thank it

Your ego is one of your greatest mirrors. It doesn’t hide and it doesn’t lie. You will either like its reflection or you won’t. And in either case, you’re in complete control. You can choose to hate it and try to destroy it. But understand you are simply hating and trying to destroy a piece of yourself. A piece that will continue to exist long after your futile attempts have fizzled out. You can also choose to respect it and even to love it. I often find myself thankful for the reflection of my ego. Every time it shows up it gives me an opportunity to grow and step into an even more aligned version of myself. I celebrate its presence and unravel it with integrity. And then I thank it for showing me up and providing me with the opportunity to better myself. And you know what. I find that it shows up a lot less now that we have a respectful relationship. My ego doesn’t have to fight to get to center stage. The stage is already presented and ready for it to step up whenever it feels the need to be seen. My commitment is to see it. To explore it. To unravel it. And ultimately to understand it. After all, it’s a piece of me. And I deserve to be seen and understood, especially by myself.

I’ve seen too many leaders take on their ego in an all-out war only to find themselves overwhelmed and frustrated by their progress. And sometimes this morphs into a judgemental and self-loathing relationship with self that is damaging and serves the opposite purpose of personal development. The answer is never going to be to hate some piece of yourself. We have to see through that old storyline of destroy, destroy, destroy. And instead look for our opportunities to create, create, create. When we recognize that we are the creator of our ego and therefore have the ability to evolve it into its highest potential we shift into an empowering relationship that allows us to be in alignment with our service to self and others. And that’s when we bring our best selves to the world.