By Barry Robertson – September 5, 2018 – Leer artículo en Español

Most of us don’t remember how self-centered and self-important we were as a baby.

As a child, the world revolved around us.

We were the center of attention. We got our needs met just by being our cute baby selves.  When we needed attention or love, we got it.  When we needed food, we were fed.

If comfort was needed, someone was there for us.  We were the “center of the universe”. Those were the days!

Self Importance

As we grew older our “center of the universe” illusion was gradually stripped away.

We bumped into boundaries and experienced thousands of “no” messages. While we were gradually gaining an understanding of our own place in the world, our needs became secondary for our tired parents, who divided their attentions between our siblings and various tasks. 

Through the years, though, we developed self-important behaviors to get what we wanted.  As children we  “acted out,” or became the “good girl” or “good boy.” We did whatever we could to attract attention, even through negative behaviors. In modified ways, these patterns follow us into adulthood and into the workplace.

Self-importance patterns are leadership derailers

Though we are no longer children, we still may have needs for attention. Here is a sampling of how our self-important needs can be demonstrated, especially under stress:

  • Defensive or Argumentative Behavior: This is a common self-important response caused by the need to be right, or the need to get our way, or the fear of losing. It often comes with harsh judgements about teammates who you perceive slighted you, or who favored a solution other than yours.
  • Taking Things Personally: For example, questioning another’s intent when people don’t notice you, or say good morning.  This is personalizing a behavior that may have nothing to do with you. We’ve all been deep in thought and walked by someone without saying anything. Why do we feel slighted?
  • Micromanaging: Needing to be overly involved in all the details, because “if I don’t, it won’t be done right.” The need for power or control can drive an inflated sense of self-importance. The idea that you have all the right ideas and processes comes from the fear of failure.
  • Defensive When Others Ask Questions: This could be interpreting that person is undermining you by asking questions during a discussion or presentation. You may go further and project that the questioner “wants to make me look bad!”  All we really know is that a person is asking questions during our presentation; another presenter might be flattered the person is interested and asking questions to be sure he/she understands.
  • Being the “I know” Person: You weigh in on most subjects as if your idea is the only way it can be. “If my idea is not the best, then I’m wrong, which equals failure.” This leads to the compulsive “need to be right,” which comes off as arrogant.
  • Overreaction or Jealousy: For instance, getting overly upset when someone gets recognition or moves ahead of us.  Maybe it was a promotion you wanted, and someone else got it, or maybe it was a simple daily event, like when someone cuts in line ahead of us at the theater. There are usually good reasons as to why this happens. Self-importance exaggerates the upset and we only see how we’ve been victimized. It’s really NOT all about us.
  • Holding Grudges or Not Letting Go: Holding onto perceived grievances without letting the past go.  Leaders who do this will generally make decisions using bad judgement. Here, again, we are emotionally hijacked. Holding onto anger and pain only hurts us, interfering with our mental filters, and the anger will come out at others.

Self Importance

From Self-Importance to Leadership Agility

When our self-important behaviors hurt others, they will eventually backfire and hurt us or our reputation.

The more needs we have, the needier we are perceived by others. Self-importance reduces flexibility and agility, while stressing our relationships. Interpreting everything through a “how does this reflect on me” lens becomes a burden on others. People may begin to avoid us or keep conversations short with us.

The root of self-mastery is self-awareness, while the root of suffering is self-importance.

The more self-aware we become, the more we can rise above the imprints of self-importance and reactive responses, and the more we can transcend our emotions to create proactive leadership behaviors. Over time, we exhibit far fewer leadership behaviors that derail our effectiveness. We increase our emotional IQ, self-control, and leadership agility.

Self Importance

Steps to Reduce Self-Importance

Here are 5 actions we can take to reduce the negative effects of self-importance in our lives:

  1. Actively notice every time your own self-importance causes issues for you or others. Write down every example, professional and personal, in a Self-Importance Journal. Search for patterns and devise new behavioral strategies to change your behavior next time. Most people are amazed how many times a day they have a self-important incident to write about.
  2. Write down a list of new behaviors that you intend to substitute for self-important behaviors you used in the past. Read your new behaviors aloud to yourself often.  Stay focused exclusively on the new behaviors to reprogram your own subconscious to speed up change. Behaviors are strategies, not who we are. We must focus on what we want, not what we don’t want to get traction.
  3. Use affirmations and visualization techniques to repeat the words and instill positive feelings as you envision yourself handling life’s curve balls and other people’s comments with inner security and a joyful attitude about life. Program your subconscious proactively this way. This will literally create new neural pathways in your brain. Keep your mind and “eyes on the prize.”
  4. Take personal responsibility for your own reactions all the time. It is empowering to take responsibility for our own reactions. No one can upset us unless we give them power over us. It’s all a choice.
  5. Commit to modeling humility and gratitude. Think about all you should be grateful for in your life every morning. Sincere humility and an “attitude of gratitude” lead to a more peaceful demeanor and easier rapport with others.

Self Importance

We have come a long way since we were “centers of the universe,” and we can never run out of more to learn. Use these tools to reduce the impact of self-importance on your life.

Aim high and mindfully choose to enjoy every moment as you become an increasingly humble, effective part of the solution in your world.

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Barry Robertson
Managing Partner
Stop At Nothing, Inc

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