“They can’t handle my self-confidence,” you tell yourself after another blowout argument with a friend. Is that the truth, though? The “confidence” you hold in such high regard might be arrogance in disguise, and if you’ve noticed your personal relationships starting to falter, you owe it to yourself to take a long look in the mirror. There’s a chance you’ve become a prisoner to your own ego.
- Having an ego is great until it gets out of hand. Confidence, believing in yourself, pursuing your interests — these traits are all vital to success. There’s a fine line, however, between healthy confidence and egotism. Once you cross it, you become annoying to the point where others won’t want to associate with you, so learning to gauge where you’re at is vital to maintaining your relationships.
- It’s all about you. A near-permanent focus on “me, me, me” might be as clear a sign as they come of an ego run wild. If you have a propensity to ignore help when you need it, require continuous recognition for your “great deeds,” and consider yourself a gift from the heavens to the mere mortals blessed enough to be in your presence, then your ego is probably the one running the show. Conversely, your ego can make you feel inferior to your peers, jealous of their success and convinced that you aren’t “good enough.” In both cases, taking the lens off of yourself is the way to spark a change.
- You don’t listen. If you’re always thinking about yourself, there’s a good chance you aren’t listening to what others are telling you as well. Have you been ignoring feedback and sensible advice from your friends? Maybe you have a tendency to talk over others, resulting in disastrous, one-sided conversations? Stop that, open your ears, and start learning to speak to others as equals. There’s a whole wide world of opinions that aren’t yours. If you master the art of listening (and evaluate new opinions on merit), you’ll have a better chance of keeping your ego in check. Who knows? You just might learn something useful in the process too.
- You lack empathy. A friend tells you a gut-wrenching tale of personal pain and misery. Worse than not even batting an eyelash, you begin to wonder, “Why are they bothering me with this drivel?” The more steely-hearted among you might even start to scheme up a way to use their misfortune to your advantage. Slow down, because these are signs that you lack empathy to the degree that you’re bordering on narcissism. A healthier approach would be trying to relate to how your friend is feeling, offering a sympathetic ear and showing genuine compassion for their unfortunate situation.
- You constantly crave more. It’s never enough, is it? You need more stuff, more accolades, more accomplishments to fill the blackened void inside you may have once called a heart. You fear scarcity, and you’ve become addicted to the exhilaration that comes with accomplishing your goals. Continue down this path and you’ll never be satisfied. Your inflated ego will always demand more. Until you break free of unending desire, you’ll remain its slave and suffer the consequences.
- You can’t take a joke. Depending on your personal sensibilities, there are some jokes you won’t find funny. That’s fine. If you notice that you’re having trouble taking a joke under even the most relaxed circumstances, however, and your inner thoughts are plagued with worry or embarrassment over the prospect of a few jokes coming your way, then you might be suffering from a fragile concept of self-worth (a product of ego run amok). Let your guard down, laugh at yourself, then let some joy work its way into your life.
- You have to win. You say you like to win? Join the club. A healthy drive to achieve success is vital to accomplishing personal goals, and friendly competition can help you push your limitations. When your competitive spirit clouds your judgment, though, and you place a greater emphasis on winning than preserving your peace of mind and mutual relationships, you’ve done yourself a disservice. As much as it may sting, losing is a part of life — learn to accept it with grace.
- You can’t admit fault. Do you consider yourself infallible? If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t examine their plans for weaknesses, can’t concede a valid counterpoint in a discussion, or can’t admit when they’ve failed, there’s a good chance that you’re also insufferable. In addition, if your thinking is so narrow that everything boils down to concepts of right and wrong (with you always being right), then you’ve lost the ability to find common ground with others (and crippled your ability to maintain healthy relationships). We all have flaws. Learn to take a critical look at your own to avoid stifling your potential for growth and unity with others.
- You alienate your friends. “Where did everyone go?” is the question you might find yourself asking once you’ve pushed your circle of friends away. Through a toxic combination of condescension, inflexibility, and selfishness, you’ve become “persona non grata,” exiled from the group until you’ve exercised a measure of self-reflection. Well, what are you waiting for? Take that look in the mirror, be willing to admit what you need to change, and make a serious effort to mend the shattered bonds your ego has left in its wake.