I use to be ok describing myself as “having a big ego”, it felt it was the right description to share how I felt, and it’s taken a good number of years to realise it’s not ego, it’s self-esteem.

Ego has its stigma, who wants an ego?
We’ve all worked in teams where the room is jam packed of egos, all shouting, all pressing, all wanting their point of view to be THE point of view.

  • Ego doesn’t back down though,
  • ego doesn’t listen,
  • ego can kill other people’s esteem, it can take over a room, it can dictate a room and you become the person everyone doesn’t like.

Is that me?
Is that you?

The difference between ego and self-esteem is tricky to work out, purposely fooling us that both are the same, yet outwardly they are so different.

Ego is - envy, greed, anger, power, control, loud.
Self-esteem is - joy, peace, love, kindness, empathy, less powerful.

Ego says I know everything.
Self-esteem wants to learn from everyone.

Self-esteem wants to grow and not settle, ego drowns in knowing and switching off, why learn when you know it?

You’ve heard the saying “leave your ego at the door”, you certainly can’t make others do this but you can check your own.

I’ve mentored for the past 10 years, and line managed for vast amounts of my career and I’ve seen that ego has cost so many people opportunities, relationships or job promotions. Ego provides short quick gains but it’s a marathon not a 100m sprint.

Combating this mentality is tough, if you can manage to differentiate the two, you can teach it forward.

I break it down to these two (hopefully simple) points:

Ego is a comparison tool - you compare yourself to them and either justifying your growth via someone else’s failure or your ability to get the praise you need.
Simple comments such as “I launched a business and sold out in days” is a statement you should be proud of, but it’s also a comparison statement.

Self-esteem is also a comparison tool, but so different, it compares yourself to yourself. It compares you to a previous milestone “this time last year I wanted to start a business, well I did it” or “I started a business and I can’t believe it compared to where I was last year”.

The difference is huge and quite obvious. Having a competitive edge against yourself is far easier to track, and it’s 100% honest and more importantly - a lot healthier.

If you find yourself unsure which side you are on - try a day of writing up “what you did” in bullets, and see which points stand out and what the feeling was behind them. Was it a positive “thing” that built up everyone else or yourself, or did it affect others in a negative way?

Let me know if this post was useful by getting in touch @mikeycattell.


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