Ego is often thought of as a negative, as in “He has a big ego.” But the dictionary defines it as “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.” We value healthy self-esteem.
Sometimes we are afraid to try something new, concerned that we’ll fail and our ego will take a hit, from our self-flagellation or from others’ ridicule — or both. If we are cowed by the prospect of this, it keeps us playing safe and not trying much new.
However, before you attempt the project or feat, have a conversation with yourself to figure out your strategy to rebound if you aren’t successful. What messages do you want to give yourself so you won’t be devastated, but instead will bounce back to try again? You don’t want to wallow in self-talk such as, “I’m such a loser,” “Why did I ever think I could succeed at this?” “I should just quit as I have no skill in this.”
Recently, I did this exercise as I prepared for a stand-up comedy contest. I’d entered the contest as I was beginning to try stand-up. The contest was 6 weeks after I’d done my first open mic. I felt confident, but knew the likelihood of winning was slight. In fact, I might come in last. It didn’t matter to me — I just wanted to have the experience.
I was #4 in a line up of 9 comics. The first three were killer. They got great laughter. Their sets were filthy, which went over well with the audience. My set was clean — I would be surprised if it went over as well. To my surprise, it did go over well, and I got some great laughs. However, I did not win. After all the comics performed, I realized, based on their introductions, they were all professionals. I was the only amateur — and a newbie at that.
The day of the contest, I told myself that I was doing this for the experience and to look for the lessons. If I didn’t win, it didn’t mean I wasn’t any good, or I should give up, or I wasn’t funny. It meant I had more work to do.
This helped salve the slight sting of not winning. And it helped me keep working on my craft. I realized that ego is a renewable resource. You bounce back more quickly if you prepare for it ahead of time and don’t let a setback shake your sense of self.