Building confidence, agency, and self-worth among marginalized groups.
Ego is considered a negative quality in a coworker, manager, or person in leadership. In the business world, ego has allowed people with power to manipulate and undermine those with less power. However, the true, unbiased definition of ego is “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance” and that’s how we should approach it. Particularly for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), ego isn’t a bad thing. Rather, it’s an untapped superpower. In this article, see how ego can be used as a tool of empowerment for marginalized groups instead of a weapon for power and control.
The Harm in Weaponizing Ego
For years, we’ve weaponized the definition of ego and allowed it to put underrepresented groups at a disadvantage in the workplace. Ego has been predominantly used as a tool of power and control by those in more privileged positions. It typically sends a clear message that someone has more power than someone else. In practice, it’s been used as a covert tool for those in positions of power to keep certain groups in their place. We often hear the phrase ‘you need to quiet your ego’ to encourage someone to listen, understand and gain more perspective. But maybe we shouldn’t quiet our egos. Instead, we should use ego to boost the self-esteem of certain groups. It’s time we de-weaponize ego and start using it as a strategic tool for historically marginalized groups to gain confidence, agency, and self-worth. There’s value in allowing underrepresented groups to use ego as a superpower to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace.
Ego is the Birthplace of Confidence
For years, plenty of groups have felt underestimated, divested in, and psychologically unsafe at work. BIPOC folks are still battling microaggressions, feeling unacknowledged, and having their contributions be devalued. The weight of adversity in the workplace can break anyone’s self-esteem and motivation. Ego can be a superpower that builds confidence from within for groups that are all too often overlooked. Ego can look like…
■ walking into a room with one’s chest held high
■ wearing one’s natural hair at work
■ speaking with a confident tone
■ feeling comfortable expressing one’s cultural traditions
■ publicly taking credit for an idea
Ego can play a role in building the vibrato in someone’s voice and encouraging them to be brave and move with more certainty. It takes confidence to move forward in one’s career and for some, developing a healthy ego can be the first step toward upward mobility.
Ego Builds Agency and Action
The workplace can feel hostile for BIPOC and can stifle many in their pursuit toward agency and action. It’s not uncommon for marginalized people to have their contributions diminished or have other people take their ideas and run with them. When we weaponize ego, it makes people play small. It causes some to feel that they shouldn’t take up space or time advocating for their ideas and contributions. Ego and self-agency are the keys to upward mobility for BIPOC in the workplace. They can use ego as a tool for self-empowerment to build the fire in their bellies to act on ideas and projects that excite them. Without ego or the encouragement of their fellow colleagues in the workplace, many BIPOC can feel deflated and demotivated when it comes to proposing new ideas and speaking their minds. Sometimes, we must inflate our own egos and build agency from the inside out. Ego is the superpower BIPOC people can tap into.
Ego Pushes BIPOC to Know Their Worth
There’s a big movement now for BIPOC people to know and lean into their worth even if others don’t recognize it. This allows us to know when we should stop tolerating harmful people, behaviors, and spaces that don’t serve our upward trajectory. Developing a healthy inner ego can push BIPOC to know they can accomplish hard things. Self-awareness, reflection, and confidence are all essential in reaching big, lofty goals. And all three are enhanced by ego. Ego and knowing one’s worth involve risk-taking. It’s risky to ask for more money during a job interview or walk away from projects that push our personal boundaries. When BIPOC tap into their egos, we can begin centering our voices and needs, even when it’s uncomfortable. Ego gives us pride in who we are and where we came from. When we think about how many BIPOC communities had their history and contributions diminished, we can understand why some groups still struggle with self-worth today.
Ego Allows BIPOC to See Themselves in a Positive Light
In a world that sees BIPOC as less than or inferior, it’s important for us to see the best in ourselves. Ego is the aspect of the self that wants to be seen in a positive light. When we gravitate toward the stigmatized definition of ego, it doesn’t lend itself to the main intent which is to witness our higher selves. When we reimagine the idea of ego and take away the stigma, we start seeing the best versions of ourselves, our key qualities, and traits without the fear of looking egotistical. We can now understand how ego and its benefits can work to raise the position of BIPOC and minority groups in organizations. It’s important that BIPOC start to see how ego can be used as a catalyst to face and deal with the trauma of being a minority in the workplace.
Ego is already being utilized as a superpower, but we call it self-care or boundaries. It’s time we embrace all three terms, self-care, boundaries, and ego, as tools for BIPOC and marginalized groups to use and build confidence, agency, and self-worth in the workplace.