Ego Incompetence

A few days ago I was telling a friend of mine about how I had been feeling incompetent in my new job. Everything is new, I’m not sure what I’ve got myself into and I’m questioning whether I can even do this job. Her response was interesting:

Being new is the worst. I feel incompetent even now and I have been at my job for a year! I wonder if you ever get good at these things.

This got me thinking. Why exactly do you feel incompetent in new jobs? Is it because you actually are incompetent? Have they made a mistake in hiring you? This line of thinking feels awfully familiar. It’s a protective way of thinking while in a vulnerable position. Your ego has reared its head again!

You’re so distracted by whether you appear to be competent to your new boss, that you forget to be competent at the job.

Ryan Holiday put it perfectly:

Just one thing keeps ego around—since it certainly doesn’t serve any productive purpose. It is comfort. Pursuing great work—whether in sports, art, or business— is often terrifying. Ego soothes that fear. It’s a salve to our insecurity. Replacing the rational and aware parts of our psyche with bluster and self-absorption, ego tells us what we want to hear, when we want to hear it.

But it is a short- term fix with a long- term consequence. Which is why we must fight it.

Look, I’ll admit it. It’s easier said than done to fight this feeling. I only ask that when you notice your own mind calling you names like ‘incompetent’ when you’re trying new things, try telling it that you appreciate its opinion, but you’re trying this new thing anyway thank you very much. You have to let it tell you its opinion (or it’ll never shut up) but you don’t have to act on it.