In 7th grade, I got my first ASB position. I was the treasurer at my middle school and to be completely honest with you, I thought I was pretty dang cool because of it.
My mindset quickly flipped from wanting to help my school, to wanting to help me.
People noticed me and it felt good.
People said hi to me and it felt good.
People liked me and it felt good.
But I allowed that good feeling to overshadow my good for others. I thought I owned the school and I walked like it, talked like it, and acted like it.
One day, I was heading to an ASB budget meeting with my usual cool-guy strut when my friend Dane asked, “Hey, where are you going? Why aren’t you in class?”
To which I responded, “Oh you know, just some ASB stuff you wouldn’t understand.” Very sassy.
And almost before the last word could even leave my mouth, our football linemen coach Mr. Ingersoll, one of the most intimidating men I know to this day, pointed at me. I swear to you that when his pointer finger went my direction, the whole school froze and he said, “Jared, you’re not as cool as you think you are, so stop acting like it.”
I brushed it off at the time. But as I continued to make it “all about me,” my relationships began to crumble. As I continued to make it “all about me,” my influence began to disintegrate.
This happened because my actions of love were forced and faked. I did not meet new people to make them feel like they belong, I met them so that they would know me. I did not hold open the door so people felt like they were seen, I held open the door so that they would see me.
When our actions are fake, so are the results.
I started to feel stressed, lonely, and isolated while always trying to impress people.
When we rely on other people to fill us up, we will never be full. It is as if there is a hole in our cup created by our ego and, no matter how much good goes in, it will never be enough.
And the only thought that kept creeping into my mind was, “Jared, you’re not as cool as you think you are, so stop acting like it.”
When we realize that we are not as cool as we think we are - when we realize that it is not “all about us” - it gives us freedom.
Freedom to love people. Freedom to be ourselves. Freedom to make an impact.
And it fills the hole. I have only been around this world for a short time, but the only time I have ever felt full, the only time I have ever felt my true best, is when I make others feel like the best.
Don’t let your influence be held down by your own ego. If you need a reminder like I did, Mr. Ingersoll will happily refresh your memory: “You’re not as cool as you think you are, so stop acting like it.”
Ways to work on our ego:
Write down 3 things each week that you are proud of yourself for. That way the reward is internal and you are not seeking it from others.
Ask a mentor or friend you trust for 3 things that you can work on. By striving to improve we can focus on the work ahead of us, not our successes.
Ask a mentor or friend you trust to keep you accountable and call you out. We all need someone to tell us when our head gets a little too big.
Houston Kraft is a professional speaker, leadership consultant, and kindness advocate who speaks to middle schools, high schools, colleges, and businesses nationally. He has spoken at over 500 events and counting. Student Body President in High School, Class President at Bowdoin College, Leadership Camp Staff for 12 years in Washington - he is a lifelong learner of character, culture, kindness, and leadership.