My closest relationship involves a never-ending battle of wills.
Don’t worry, this ain’t no agony aunt stuff. This month’s wordy shizzle is all about the struggle to achieve, and maintain, a firm sense of self despite a ceaseless egotistical ebb and flow.
You know how it goes. One day you’re a world conqueror, the next you’re deep in a trough of despair or self-doubt – we all get tossed about in the sometimes stormy sea of the self. Strikes me that prolonged periods of flat calm are not actually the norm, and even balmy breezes and gentle bobbing about can quickly whip up into something more choppy. But maybe that’s merely a reflection of my own mad middle aged mood swings.
Issues of ego are certainly not restricted to small business owning, midlife crisis enduring former punk rockers, of course, but when you work for yourself, a strong sense of self is completely and utterly essential. True entrepreneurial spirit, in my small business book, is all about ego. Not the over-weening, over-preening, attention-seeking, ego-tripping style much favoured by American presidents and so many self-important CEOs. Naw, what I’m championing is not about vanity or being above your station, simply about the importance of being able to rely on a healthy, positive and relatively solid sense of self. Face it, folks, you’re going to need that (in spades) to navigate the unpredictable straits of small business, especially if you’re piloting the good ship enterprise all on your own.
If, like me, you’ve got the benefit of age on your side, then at least you’ve grown older, and perhaps a bit wiser. You’ll have had time to grow into your self, and praise be, you’ll almost certainly be a lot less willing to tolerate bad behaviour and bullshit. You’ll be a lot more sure of your self, but if, also like me, you’ve got that hard-wired Scottish self doubt, you’ll probably never be wholly at one with your ego.
And anyway, even if you’ve got a few years under your business belt, your sense of self is still vulnerable, and sometimes surprisingly fragile. Blows to your own precious ego can be delivered both from external egotism, but self-sabotage is pretty deadly too. Trickiest of all conundrums is the effect another ego can have on one’s own. Some egos are bloody big bruisers, and unexpected sideswipes are hard to see coming, let alone hold fast against.
For me, sense of self is closely bound to self-belief, especially when it comes to my work. Work which I believe to be bloody good stuff, built as it is on loads of experience, plus trial and much entrepreneurial error. So when a rampant, Eiger-sized ego trampled all over my self and my methods this week, it left my own ego floundering around in the mud. And believe me, it really hurt to be steamrollered by the sheer weight of a single-minded, bullish and tunnel visioned ego maniac.
But you can’t keep an old fighter down in the dust for long. I’m already back up on two Doc Martened feet and have checked carefully for damage. Apart from some light emotional bruising, nothing is lasting. Except, hopefully, some important lessons.
That learning list provides a couple of choices. One is to just walk away when you’re not wanted. Not rocket science, but frankly folks, life’s too short to be on the end of unnecessary ego-bashing, so be brave and take your work to where it’s actually wanted, and valued.
However, if licking wounds and turning the other cheek is not your preferred choice of compliance, then be warned, ego-tripping bully boys. Some of are us are well up for a self-righteous fight.