Tomes have been written on the notion that “ego is your enemy“.
I don’t think ego is your enemy.
But it certainly does not help you when that ego becomes too big and when you start feeling like you’re a true big shot.
Let’s see how that impairs your social skills and your general life quality.
- How Self-Importance Leads to Social Anxiety
- Importance and As*holes
- Moving Beyond I’m Important
- Why We Don’t Really Matter That Much
- Better Alternatives to Being Important
- Being Unimportant Is Ultimate Power
How Self-Importance Leads to Social Anxiety
I used to be conceited, jealous, always guarded, and relatively socially anxious.
My brother instead was open, more honest, and relaxed. He was more likable and, overall, a much better human being.
Today I understand what was one of the biggest reasons for our different dispositions.
I was self-centered and I thought I was important.
A song from the Beatles springs to mind: I, me, mine. That was me: a little conceited tw*t who thought he was “better”.
Everything around me was filtered through the “me lenses”: what it meant for me and for my reputation.
Since I felt I had a big name and reputation to defend and uphold, I had to be careful.
And “careful” is often synonymous with guarded, calculative, and… Rather scared of doing the wrong thing.
Because when you’re a big deal, everything’s a big deal.
And that’s why your social anxiety goes up when you think you’re important.
My brother wasn’t self-centered instead and thought of himself as “just another guy”.
Can you start to see how that impacted his life and character?
My brother didn’t have a good name to defend, so he didn’t need to look good.
Chill and relaxation were natural consequences of his disposition. He wasn’t afraid of making a fool out of himself, of looking silly, or of being rejected by someone.
Because when you’re not a big deal, nothing is such a big deal.
Let’s dig deeper and let’s see how successful “I’m important” people still fall short of their full potential:
Importance and As*holes
Indeed a high sense of importance is often tied to an “I’m important” identity and it’s the most paralyzing when coupled with a fixed mindset.
But of course, out of pure randomness and out of sheer ambition, some people will succeed without a growth mindset or an antifragile identity -albeit they won’t maximize their potential and be as happy as they could be.
Some high-confidence people will even avoid social anxiety while still clinging to their belief of importance.
Which often goes with a more or less open attitude of “you’re not as important as I am” stance.
Those are usually the people you refer to as “as*holes”.
That attitude will attract some people to you. Possibly quite a few people.
But it will mostly be less confident and less socially savvy people who are drawn to what seems like high confidence and self-esteem.
But overall you’d still be at a social loss as it will harm you this way:
- Develop jealousy and resentment from less successful individuals
- Make other men see you as competition
- Repel high-caliber individuals
The last one is key.
The highest caliber individuals usually have moved beyond the “I, Me, Mine” stage. Indeed the “I’m a big shot” stage is associated with immaturity and childishness.
Highly successful men still trapped in this stage can still get high-caliber women, but those women see them like big babies they can’t fully relate to and that can easily be played by their egos.
Donald and Melania Trump have this kind of shallow relationship in good part because he hasn’t moved beyond his need of being important, special, and superior.
Moving Beyond I’m Important
Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is basically all about moving beyond the “I’m exceptional” phase which, he says, is mostly a western problem.
Manson says that once you drop the need to be special you will be free to pursue whatever you want without the fear of judgment and the pressure of having to reach that “you’re special” status.
And it’s when you move beyond “I’m important” that you’ll reach truth and liberation.
Moving beyond the “I’m important” mindset will make you:
- Higher value man
- More attractive to a larger population
- More vulnerable, drop the masks
- Able to develop deeper and more meaningful relationships
- Don’t take things personally: stronger and more resilient
It’s Not About You: Don’t Take Things Personally
That last point deserves a bit more space.
Don Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements says during childhood we pick up the “me, me, me mentality”.
That mentality leads people to always be on guard, always ready to take offense.
He recommends we move past it and develop a mindset of not taking things personally instead.
Not only do I agree, but that’s a great mindset for getting good socially.
The first step to moving beyond the “me, me, me” phase is to realize, factually, how little we matter in the greater scheme of things:
Why We Don’t Really Matter That Much
Let’s start with the idea of “people changing the world”, a typical goal of today’s driven entrepreneur -and a great corporate manipulation tool to attract naive talent-.
Nobody Changes The World (Single–handedly)
Alexander the Great was the biggest conqueror the world had ever seen.
Unstoppable and undefeated in battle, he built the biggest empire the world had ever seen.
He thought he was the son of a god and wanted to be remembered forever… And you probably needed to look him up, didn’t you?
Alexander was only one of the thousands of “conquerors” whose big empires soon fell to pieces -as they all do-.
A couple more millennia, less than a blink of an eye, and he won’t even be the single-line entry on history books that he is today -not that any student gives a fu*k about him even today, anyway-.
You don’t need to Google Steve Jobs, another remarkable man.
But it’s only because he’s contemporary and your friends lust after the latest iPhone.
But don’t believe the hype of changing the world.
Internet-enabled smartphones were already a widespread tool (ten years before the iPhone) and even Jobs will be a nobody in just a few generations.
Well, Jesus does seem to last a little bit longer though, right?
When a commandment says killing is a sin, but millions died in the name of God, we could easily argue people don’t really follow prophets, but use prophets. To justify their own actions and beliefs.
Or just go to Asia and see how well they really know Jesus.
Time Relativity: nobody remembers you
The Pharaohs took “for ever” to the next level.
Pyramids were built with the idea of lasting forever.
But believing they achieved that goal is a lack of understanding of how time really works on a bigger scale.
Pick anybody you think changed the world.
And see if anybody will remember him in 10.000 years.
After a few more world wars and another bunch of prophets and despots will have millions up in arms and millions dying -and a bunch more huge-building projects will be started and then looted and destroyed-.
Then one billion years, after a bunch of glacial eras will give way to the sun making the world too hot to live in.
Two billion and our current world map will be nothing like it’s today (our continents move). All those battles for a piece of land, this nation against that nation… How ridiculous they are when looking through the prism of time.
In five billion years the sun will be gone. By then we’re either outta the solar system or we’ll be gone.
“We” will make no sense by then though. Because that will be a totally different species:
Species Relativity: You’re An Amoeba
By the time we either leave Earth or die, humanity won’t be anything like it’s today.
By then those creatures will be so different that they will feel as close to “us” as you feel close to an amoeba.
Size Relativity: You’ll Always Be Small
Size matters if being important is important to you.
But however big you get on this earth… It’s still a laughable matter.
Space Relativity: You’ll Always Be Confined
In some corners of the universe, there might be some interplanetary merging of civilizations going on.
If we could watch them, we might realize that if some of them are as petty as we are, someone there might think they matter.
But of course, light travels slowly, so as we watch them… They’re all already long dead -or extinct-. And they really thought they mattered.
We will never know anyway, because our “importance” is physically bound to very, very small regions of the universe.
And eventually, no matter what, the universe will die out and everything inside of it will go out with it:
Survival Relativity: On a Long Enough Timeline, We’re All Dead
Freeman Dyson, who famously wrote a paper on life surviving in spite of all stars dying down, is much bleaker today.
Since the discovery that the universe’s expansion is accelerating, he says that “it’s a rather dismal situation in the long run”.
Worry not though, we’re all going to die much, much sooner than that.
This all means you’re not that important, but let’s what other positive mindsets we can have:
Better Alternatives to Being Important
Once you drop the need to be important, we don’t want to slide into a nihilist world.
In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck Manson says he was slipping into such a mindset.
Then he realized that if there’s no reason to do anything, there’s also no reason not to do anything.
1. What Life Demands Of You
Viktor Frankl knows a thing or two about the meaning of life.
The survivor of five concentration camps and the founder of logos therapy, Frankl says in Man’s Search For Meaning that it’s not what you ask of life, but what life asks of you.
Frankl also says love and giving back to the world are great ways of finding meaning in life. I agree with that. And I personally believe life asks you to be the best man you can be, because:
2. You Do Matter
Don’t let it get to your head but, between us, you do matter.
Not in the sense that people will remember you forever, but in the sense that you matter to the people around you. Today, right now. And tomorrow.
The lives you touch, the relationships you build.
You owe it to the people around you to be the best person you can be.
3. You’re A Machine
Ray Dalio in his seminal book Principles proposes an interesting way of looking at yourself: from the above.
Look at yourself from the top down as if you were a machine.
I think this perspective can be very healthy in going for what you want without allowing emotions to sap your spirit or make you all haughty and mighty.
4. Your Goals Are Bigger Than You
That, he says, is the key to happiness.
Make your goals, and the people around you, bigger and more important than you are. That way you remove fears and social anxiety from the equation.
It’s important, and you matter in many ways… But it’s not about you anymore.
Being Unimportant Is Ultimate Power
By now you should have realized that this post is not about taking you or anyone else I mentioned down.
It’s about removing the need of being special and important.
Removing the need for importance will take the pressure off and make you freer. And, ultimately, more powerful.
Paradoxically, the less you think you’re important, the more important you will actually become to the people around you.
And once you take your own importance out of your way, you can finally start tackling what really matters in your life.
At this point, we can start tackling the hard social skills.