by Sara Luther
with all due respect...

…your ego is in the way

I’ve found myself in a few conversations lately where I’m hearing things like “they have some big egos” or “you know how [BLANK] is…” and “they don’t see themselves as part of the problem…”  I want you to read those lines again to yourself and imagine the tone that was associated with them.  Yup, that tone.

Egos are often one of the elephants in the room.  Big elephants that take up a lot of space, can be hard to maneuver around and no one steps forward eagerly to confront.

The simple definition of an ego is a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.  The complex reality is that egos are everywhere.  Big ones, small ones, bruised ones, inflated ones… and, generally, they are not in service of seeing experiences from other’s perspectives.

As Brene Brown shared in Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution:

“Our ego is the part of us that cares about our status and what people think, about always being better than and always being right. I think of my ego as my inner hustler. It’s always telling me to compare, prove, please, perfect, outperform, and compete. Our inner hustlers have very little tolerance for discomfort or self-reflection. The ego doesn’t own stories or want to write new endings; it denies emotion and hates curiosity. Instead, the ego uses stories as armor and alibis. The ego has a shame-based fear of being ordinary (which is how I define narcissism). The ego says, “Feelings are for losers and weaklings.”

We all have some sort of ego and I’d like to give you permission to meet yours formally and then invite others into the conversation.


In the work we do we are asking people to look inward, consider how they show up, which habits and behaviours are respect-giving and which ones are respect-taking.  Then, be motivated to change.  Being alert to our ego-self AND practicing being open to others experiences of us can be a (hard) and transformative journey.   How to do it?  One way (I’m sure there’s many) is to take note of the voice inside your head.

For example, every time your inside voice thinks/laments/states things like:

  • …that’s below my paygrade…
  • …who do they think they are…
  • …why would I do that…
  • …I won’t apologize for…
  • …they are lucky I’m here…
  • …people like that…
  • …they should know better…

You get the drift.  Those kinds of inside thoughts, that sometimes become outside comments and most likely influence your behaviours…and those you are in relationships with.

Then, you can dip your toe in some vulnerability and sport a few “name my ego” games in your workplace.  Yes, hot of the press is a new activity I’ve been thinking about. (Extension of my popular “Name Your Ignorance” game)

Here’s the idea. You literally have a bunch of cards with words that could describe our ego selves. First, you’d set aside the words that you believe best describe yourself. Then like a Valentine’s Day card exchange, you walk around and put the best descriptive card(s) in the EGO BAG of your colleagues.

The game can go in different directions depending on the setting, the group, the purpose of the gathering, how tender the relationships are, and what we are trying to achieve.  Yes, there’s some serious setup and discussion about how to ensure this will be a good and productive experience.  That’s the hard stuff we love to do.

And here’s the beauty in it – we not only name the ego elephant, but we also give it time in a mirror to see itself through the eyes of others. Then, we give it a warm humility hug and some concrete strategies to step aside so that the true brilliance of the human being behind it can emerge.

Wanna play?

Seriously, if you think this would be a valuable experience for your team, reach out.  As you’ll be the trial run – it will be on us!