Whether or not we like to admit it, we all have egos. Some larger than others, but we all have them. Our egoistic self thrives on its own significance. And because it thrives on indulgence of self, it pushes us and prompts us and persuades us to seek out praise and attention and validation. Constantly.
And we believe we need those compliments because they are what fuel our forward movement.
Or are they?
Oftentimes we get caught up in our own thinking and believe our approval-seeking is something other than what it is:
We become rather adept at covering up our ego as a ruse in the name of serving others, such as the manager “running an idea” past upper management even though she’s been given full support and prior permission from said executive team.
In our selfie-obsessed culture you might argue there are many not even trying to hide the fact their ego drives their behavior, in spite of their claim to self expression.
What drives your behavior? What is your inside-out position?
When you learned to ride a bicycle someone likely assisted you. They held the bike steady while you got comfortable in the seat and felt the bike move and tilt underneath you as you shifted your body weight. They walked alongside you, keeping the bike steady while you learned to pedal and to steer simultaneously. And they ran behind you as you increased your speed. Then they let go because you found your inner balance to keep yourself on the bike without any outside assistance.
That moment you heard them cheering from somewhere behind you was when you realized you were on your own. You were riding a bike!
Granted, you may have faltered. You may even have fallen because you immediately got caught up in your thinking, believing you needed someone right next to you, giving you support, without which you would fall.
But you got back up, put on a couple of band-aids and found your inner balance; it was still there and easier to find the second and third and each consecutive time until you no longer needed any assistance. The cheering was nice, but not really necessary. In fact, by the time you really connected to your core the idea of someone cheering your every bike ride seemed a bit silly.
For you, the internal thrill and the exhilaration of balancing yourself on the bike while moving forward was sufficient praise; it’s that sense of self — generated from the inside of you — that drove your repeated bike riding behavior, not the accolades of onlookers, your peers, or more experienced bike riders.
Contrast that to ego.
Ego would have had you believe you were only capable of riding a bike if someone constantly praised your efforts, told you how impressive you looked perched on your bike, suggested other bikes would probably be a more suitable ride for someone like you, pressured you to choose bike routes with people from whom you could seek validation as a rider, and so on.
You don’t need ego now any more than you needed it after learning to ride a bike.
Honestly look at yourself and your behavior and identify what’s driving you? If you seek to please others, are anxious for their approval, worry what they might think, and craft conversations to corner someone into validating your behavior then ego is driving and your internal position is non-existent. You are relying on external sources and circumstances to determine your outcomes. You are a victim.
In his book Straight-Line Leadership, Dusan Djukich states that
Approval seeking is a toxic addiction. It is the one thing of which a person must be cured if they are going to do anything worthwhile in life.
The alternative is to remember what it feels like to ride a bicycle and to create your own path because your internal position is one of ownership. You recognize you are responsible for the creation of your world and which bike path you ride. And any bumps along the way are just part of the ride. You are the driver.
And that exhilaration you feel? It’s coming from inside of you and is never dependent on someone else. Forward movement is always dependent on you. Own that.
Peter Lindsay says
Maybe the medicine for overcoming the craving for praise from others is to turn the impulse to seek praise into the act of giving praise. So that you don’t accidentally fuel somebody else’s addiction, praise people who aren’t looking for it, who deserve it.
I think that’s an excellent suggestion, Peter.