Ego has a bad rap. Conceited, over-confident people are often described by the size of their ego, which has made “ego” a word we try to avoid. But it’s actually a useful concept to think about. In psychology, ego is defined as…
“the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment.”
In other words, it’s you. It’s the thinking, feeling, piece of you that deals with your instincts as well as the outside world. It’s the piece of you that makes decisions on how to act and behave. It’s the “bubble” your consciousness lives in.
Often times we hear of people having big egos, which means they have an over-inflated bubble, or sense of self. But people with big egos also have weak egos. Their bubbles are easily popped when criticism comes their way.
What entrepreneurs and designers need are strong egos. You want to cultivate an ego that is sturdy, flexible, and secure. You need an ego that can withstand criticism, incorporate alternative viewpoints, and recognize what is or is not important to pay attention to. People with strong egos can deal with critics, buck stereotypes, and cope with bumps in the road.
Dealing with critics
If there is one thing that both designers and entrepreneurs need to cope with on a regular basis it is criticism. There will always be critics to judge your designs and business. And you need a good, protective, ego bubble of self-confidence to deal with it all. For example, take this article from Entrepreneur that outlines how to deal with criticism. When facing criticism, you should consider it and decide whether it is unfounded or not before taking action. And then consider deliberately ignoring it rather than rushing to defend yourself. Undoubtedly that is all great advice, but it’s advice that will take equal measures of self-discipline and self-confidence to pull off.
To (over) generalize a bit, in today’s society women are taught to prioritize being gentle and accommodating in their demeanor, while men are conditioned to be out-going and aggressive. This means that women are often concerned about treading the line between being bossy and being confident. And at the same time, men are can feel tension when trying to navigate the line between being humble and being weak. It takes a lot of real, protective ego for a woman to act boldly. And it takes a lot of genuine self-confidence for a man to embrace being humble. Yet there is lots of evidence that humble men and confident women experience more success in both relationships and in business.
Bumps in the road
As the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I feel like this is especially the case for anyone trying to start a business, because there are simply so many unknowns. You can do as much technical, market, and business research as possible, but you will still reach a point in your startup life where something unexpected happens. This is simply because you are trying to do something new that no one has done before. It’s a bold thing to do, but one that puts you in an emotionally vulnerable position. You are going to need a strong ego to recognize the bumps for what they are (are they mountains? or molehills?), and take whatever action needs to be taken.
3 Ways to Silence Critics Without Saying a Word (or Sending a Tweet) (Entrepreneur)
Humble Men and Confident Women Are More Successful (Psychology Today)
Our Egos: Do They Need Strengthening–or Shrinking? (Psychology Today)
Understanding The Connection Between A Positive Self-Image And Entrepreneurial Success (Forbes)