While the definition of ego is “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance,” it is often referred to simply as a person’s “self” or the “I” of a person. It is the part of each person that regulates their conscious thoughts and actions. When we use this word, we usually use it to mean that a person has a high sense of self, or perhaps find themselves to be better than others.
While it is possible to have a weak ego and low self-esteem, more often than not people generally seem to have an ego that makes them think they are the center of the universe. It would be nice to say that nurses are immune to this fault, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. Nurses, like everyone else, have a strong sense of self, and that is often connected to the work that we do. We know our work is important and necessary and helpful. But too often, we let that importance get to our heads. Even though we are the ones doing the work, that doesn’t mean we are more important than others. In fact, realizing that nursing and treating patients is not really about us is the first step in decreasing our ego’s power over us. Here are some tips on how to lose the ego and get a more realistic sense of healthcare and our place in it.
- You Are Who You Are
Who you are is determined by a number of factors, primarily your genetic makeup and your environment. Your ego, your sense of self, is created as you go through life and have your experiences. There is no one out there exactly like you, no one who has gone through the experiences that you have or who processes things in the same way. Please understand that you are unique, you are whole, and you are needed precisely because of who you are.
- Everyone Will Perceive You Differently
Patients, doctors, bosses, parents, siblings, significant others – all of the people in our lives will have a very different picture of who you are in their mind. Only you know the full “you,” so don’t be discouraged if people don’t see everything that’s good about you. One thing to try is to ask people close to you about what they see as your strong points. Then, you can focus on strengthening these so that others can see them, too. This will help you gain a better understanding of yourself and how others see you, which will allow you to make any corrections or changes that might make your life easier.
- Don’t Take It Personally
One thing that people who cling to their own ego as a sort of life-anchor do is take things too personally. Because they are so focused on themselves and how things affect them, they perceive everything as an intentional slight or insult to them personally. Assuming everything another person does is about you will only hinder your personal growth. For example, if a coworker didn’t say hello to you in the morning, an egotistical person would assume that person was mad at you or holding a grudge for a small disagreement that was had. In reality, the coworker may have just been running late or had a bad morning and wasn’t ready to interact with anyone yet. In short, it’s not all about you. Give people the benefit of the doubt and don’t assume the worst of them.
When in doubt, communicate. Worried about that coworker that didn’t say hi? Ask her how her morning is going after she’s had some time to settle in. She might tell you she got caught in traffic or had to find a last-minute sitter for her sick child.
The same goes for pretty much any situation that you might be taking too personally. Simply ask the other person if there’s something you did that hurt them. Hopefully, they’ll be honest with you and that will lead to some peace of mind. If you find that you’re asking that question a lot, chances are you’re still taking things too personally and you might need to focus less on yourself.
- Forgive and Forget
Holding a grudge is a very egotistical thing to do, and if you are the type of nurse that does this often, it might be time to take a different approach to conflict. A person that holds a grudge is clinging to their ego for assurance that they are in the right. As long as they can keep convincing themselves that they did nothing wrong and that the other party is at fault, they will be holding too tightly to their ego without giving it a chance to learn and change.
The best option is to forgive and forget. All a grudge does is further weaken your sense of self. If you only feel secure when another person is wrong, you’ll need to work on getting a better understanding of yourself.
Though we urge nurses to get rid of the ego, the only way to do so is by building it up. This is done by treating others with kindness and helping them see us the way we want to be seen. A stronger ego, a stronger sense of self, can actually help you become less egotistically, however counterintuitive that sounds. Only when we fully come to realize who we are, what our place in the world is, and how we are perceived by others can we fully release the grip we have on ego. Once we are self-assured, we won’t need to outwardly prove our worth to others or treat others as less than ourselves. Instead, when we come to understand our purpose and our place as nurses, we can truly come into that role and become the best nurse we can possibly be.