Self is a misunderstood word. Not because it’s particularly challenging to define. It’s not. It’s just a way to designate one person as an individual, apart from anyone else. It’s what goes along with self that can get tricky. The hyphenated attachments and second syllables. Along with the feelings that accompany them.
Good self’s and bad self’s
We react positively to some self’s while we vilify others. For example, self-motivated, self-assured and, of course, selfless are attributes we universally admire. These are self-attracting self-words. We love introductions, performance reviews and eulogies that recognize selflessness. How we always put others first. Selfless people care what others think about them. We want to follow and be around these people.
And then there’s the bad self’s―the ones we don’t admire. The self-absorbed, self-obsessed, self-centered and selfish self’s. These are the people we follow or keep around because we feel obligated, right? The boss or family member we can’t avoid. The people that don’t care what you think about them. Who wants to be one of those? No thanks.
My preference is always to be liked. I want to be on the good side of the “self” ledger. Sure, I’ve towed the “I don’t care if you like me as long as you respect me” line once or twice (or maybe dozens of times) in my career. Saying what I thought I should, rather than what I believed. When I don’t get along with someone, I always want the reason to be about them and not me. Take that!
An energy-draining leadership flaw
It turns out, though, that being a safe and selfless self often drained my energy, creativity and productivity. It also got in the way of me doing my job.