Petra van Tol
I’m writing this blog for all working women. Women who are super at their jobs, but sometimes could tackle things just a little bit better in the masculine organizations they work in. Women who push themselves a bit too hard to do everything well, and could use a little relaxation.
Who am I? Petra van Tol, MT member of a consultancy bureau, responsible for sales and a managing consultant, married and the mother of 2 boys and, in addition, a trainer and coach for women in business.
“Isn’t ego something my male counterparts have got? Showing off, boasting and walking away with all the honors?” The answer is perhaps a little surprising, but no; you too as a woman have an ego. Where is it? It’s somewhere around the place you experience success, dare to take on a fight or ask for what you need. But also where you feel yourself getting into a cramp, where you tense up…are stressed out.
This is exactly where your ego is at work
Many of us have the tendency to want to be perfect in every way. As manager, as partner, as mother, as member of the parent’s association and yes, even at yoga. This is exactly where your ego is at work. Maybe you don’t need to have a Porsche but you perhaps really, really want to personally bake those 30 cup cakes for a school treat when you already have a breakfast meeting at the office, just before a scary deadline needs to be met.
Stop! This ego isn’t something to put on your To Do list, or on the chalkboard in the kitchen as the next thing to fix. No, everyone has an ego; important is to recognize it as a part of yourself that need not dominate everything else.
What use is your ego?
It gives you an identity. It helps to give form and direction to ambition; it makes you assertive and helps you to present your own authentic self in the world. The ego really wants to win and is prepared to up the stakes in all kinds of ways to do so. It will help you at certain times in your life. We can’t function without an ego. It can be a driver for your own personal growth and development. It is something very useful. No ego - no career.
What about men?
“But don’t men have this too?” I hear you think. Men are simpler about this. If they want recognition they boast, if they want admiration they buy a Porsche or some gadget or other and blatantly show it off.
Women complicate things, there has to be recognition, but it has to be spontaneously given by the other. Women expect the outside world to sense their needs so that they don’t have to express them themselves. Just like you expect your partner to spontaneously understand that you need a romantic dinner very soon, your manager has to understand how important you find it that he complements you for all the extra hours you’ve put in. If I have to ask for it, it doesn’t count!
Bristling with tension, I’ll-do-it-myself-then mentality, emotional manipulation, the ego saps all the joy out of life. Here is the road to being undermined, exhaustion and burnout.
When does it get in the way?
The ego wants to win; think in terms of win-lose, it demands from others and does not flinch from overburdening you with demands. It makes no effort to avoid tension and conflict. The ego doesn’t make choices about what to win. A battle is a battle; go for it! Whether it’s about the best business deal with your top account, most flexible yoga position; perfectly ironed clothes for the kids, or the most original cup cakes for the school.
It demands recognition from others in the way you want to be seen. Funnily enough this makes you kind of dependent. Dependent on the approval of others. You measure yourself by the appreciation that comes from the outside world. This causes individuality to distort into individualism and the desire to achieve deteriorates into a demand to achieve and to be recognized for it.
4 ways to relax your ego
The ego is not the same thing
See the ego as a part of you that need not dominate everything. Use the ego and don’t let it use you. Make use of that cup cake drive and give it a dose of realism.
Dare to choose
You have one life and only 24 hours in a day. Reality dictates that you cannot be perfect on all fronts. Dare to make choices about what you do and relax. Fuck multi-tasking! House in a mess before the cleaner comes? Say no for once to a colleague or an extra job/project? Giving a project back because the estimations were totally unrealistic, not able to finish that complicated Lego house? Relax. No is an option, too. Accept that you can’t excel at everything. Determine what really has priority.
Ask for what you need
It may come as a surprise but you don’t have to be able to do everything or do it all on your own. A great many successful and ‘sane’ women have learned 1 thing extremely well; organize help and then let it go…..relax.
Failure is also an option
What if you’ve made a choice and it doesn’t work out? Then another path will surely open up.
The best way to work with your ego is with a wink. Tackle it with a little humor and laugh at yourself; “Look at me, I’m doing it again…” As soon as you notice you’re making demands on yourself (“I must”) instead of what you’d prefer (“I’d like to”), give yourself a little wink and then step back and consider what really is important to you. 😉