How Your Ego Can Prevent You from Getting Work - Pt. 1
Let's face it. The ego gets a bad rap. But before we get into the specifics of it, I'd like to clarify which ego I'm referring to. Many times when people speak about the ego, they're talking about self image or self esteem. On the other hand, there's also the ego as used in psychological terms. Dictionary.com defines this ego as "the part of the psyche that experiences the outside world and reacts to it."
So just to be clear, I'm not talking about the ego that my girl Bey sings about (she's not actually my girl, but in my heart and mind she is). I'm talking about that part of us that tries to protect us from being open, vulnerable, and from taking risks.
I know that ego all too well. The quote about the ego being our silent partner with controlling interest has been my life in a nutshell. Even though I'm a performer, choreographer, and dance professor, I'm quite guarded in my personal life. It's my job to put myself in front of others at the risk of judgment, but I'm actually more comfortable falling to the background.
I was also really shy when I was growing up. Adulthood and life experiences have caused me to grow beyond the level of shyness I experienced as child, but remnants of it still exist.
As a matter of fact, a friend recently forced me to post a snippet of one of my class combinations to social media. While I've done it before, it's usually done on my own terms with work that I'm really proud of. This combo, on the other hand, was recycled from a previous work I choreographed, and it was just something we were playing around with in class.
As I was trying to pry my phone from my friend's hands in an attempt to keep myself guarded, to keep myself from being judged, I realized that my ego was not letting me be great. Even though her (as in my ego) intentions may have been pure, she was keeping me from living my life to the fullest.
So I did some research on the ego, anxiety, and defense mechanisms to get a better understanding of what I was experiencing and what I could do to help myself and others like me (my BA in Psychology coming in handy here).
From what I've read, there are a whole slew of defense mechanisms we employ for different experiences and different reasons. I'm not giving a diagnosis or claiming to be a psychoanalyst, but the sense that I'm getting for my own life, is that my need to be in control, my laid back personality allowing me to fall to the background, my discomfort with crying in public, my resistance to posting my harmless class video...all examples of my ego at play.
While protecting me from risky behavior is seemingly noble, it's actually keeping me from moving forward. I mean putting myself out there is actually the key to getting more work. And although it only took me taking a few deep breaths, a not so gentle nudge and a "you gotta start somewhere" from my friend, along with a good old fashioned "YOLO" from me to step out on a limb with my video last week, I realized that it may not be as easy for others to do the same.
It got me to thinking about how many of my students have expressed experiencing anxiety when given the task to perform in front of their peers (it was actually 3 students within the past month or so). And I can understand their experience.
I've never had an issue with performing in front of an audience, but I did have problems with auditioning when I first started out. My nerves would absolutely get the best of me, to the point that I would completely choke. It was as if I had never danced a day in my life. I was uncomfortable with being judged by a panel, intimidated by the amount of talent my peers had, and unsure of the value I had to offer.
Spending lots of time in class and just auditioning over and over again helped me to overcome my audition anxiety. I still get a bit nervous now, but I'm able to power through with breaths, prayer, and an understanding of my worth.
What I'd like to offer those who may be experiencing any type of performance anxiety is a few positive audition affirmations. If I had known anything about affirmations when I was younger, I definitely would have used them, and I believe they would have given me the confidence I needed in those auditions early on in my career.
There's plenty of debate about whether or not affirmations really work, and all I can say is that they've worked for me in my personal life. The key is to say your affirmation repeatedly until you actually believe or experience the thought you're affirming. I recommend repeating them a minimum of once per day for 30 days.
You may feel ridiculous initially, but by the end of the 30 days, you'll believe your affirmation and will be able to use that confidence to help you accomplish your goals.
Get your free copy of my audition affirmations here. Use them for at least 30 days, and let me know how they've helped you.
Go one step further, and share the the affirmation link with a friend who may be experiencing the same thing.
In what ways has your ego kept you from being great? Comment below.