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Confidence Vs. Ego: The Difference Between Success And Self-Sabotage

Confidence Vs. Ego: The Difference Between Success And Self-Sabotage

August 7, 2019

“The ego relies on the familiar. It is reluctant to experience the unknown, which is the very essence of life.” – Deepak Chopra

There is a fine line between confidence and ego. Sometimes the line can be blurred. It can feel thin and wobbly, requiring one to adopt balancing tricks as if walking along the tight rope without the safety net. Here’s the difference: Ego acts as a repellent, while confidence draws people in like a magnet. Leaders need to build and exude confidence while keeping their ego in check at all costs.

As human beings, we are attracted to confidence. The deeply-felt kind that inspires us to follow great leaders to the end of the earth. Yet, if you cross the line and go one shade darker, you often find it becomes ego instead of confidence.

Many are guilty of buying into the common misconception that ego and confidence are essentially the same thing. They equate both with a brazen attitude that’s seemingly unflappable under pressure. It’s even been said that taking on such an attitude at work will get you ahead in your career.

The reality, however, is that these two concepts are quite different. To have confidence is to have faith in your own abilities and believe in yourself, but the ego is something else, entirely. Unlike confidence, the ego operates out of self-interest. It seeks approval, accolades and validation at all costs in order to be seen as “right”. It is resistant to feedback and assigns motive where there isn’t any.

In 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 the window. 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.

Keeping your ego in check is necessary to excel and establish job security in any organization. Here’s how this can be achieved:

  • Stop Making It All About You – 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.
  • Ditch Your Defensive Mindset – Going on the defence at work will never play out in your favour. 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.
  • Curb Self-Righteous Actions and Judgment – 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.
  • Drive for Results and Learning – 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.

At the end of the day, confidence will get you ahead, but the ego will only hold you back. Recognizing the difference and acting accordingly is what separates the best and the brightest from the rest.

Cy Wakeman is a leadership coach, workplace consultant, New York Times bestselling author, and international keynote speaker. For more on Cy, check out

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