How to Keep Your Ego in Check as a Creative

Photo by Bruce Mars
Photo by Bruce Mars

As a creator whose livelihood is built upon creativity, I often find myself exclaiming, "I can't believe this is my life!" with all the joy of my childhood dreams bubbling up inside.

We all have an Inner Child, that little voice that beckons us to hold on to our passions and 8-year-old fantasies, but our Inner Child has a friend who's a bit more confident and assertive. Her name is Ego. Though she means well (I'll talk about her responsibilities in another post), she can run amok in our lives if we're not careful.

This is especially true for creatives who get paid to create. For us, it's not just about writing a compelling article, shooting an emotionally-charged video, or designing an outstanding social media post. Creativity that converts into sales and other client goals plays a huge role in job security. When the pressure is on, either through pushback or simply from not seeing results as soon as we'd like, Ego comes out swinging ⁠— and sometimes she has to. More often than not, however, her appearance is premature and if we give in to her demands, we could set ourselves up for failure.

Here are my three principles for how to keep your Ego in check as a creative.

If it's not unethical, immoral, or illegal get on board.

This is a lesson I learned from my uncle who has worked in human resources for over 30 years. With a plethora of experience in terms of managing people with both a firm hand and graceful heart, this advice that serves as his north star in business also resonates with me as a creative.

Sometimes, we have a tendency to fight for things that don't matter. Doing this is rooted in either Ego or fear, which is actually still Ego. By asking ourselves, "Is this unethical, immoral, or illegal?" we tell the Ego to have a seat so we can create from a place that keeps the whole team and the client's happiness in mind.

Yes, you're the expert but you're also here to serve.

There is a fine line between creating with our expertise at the core and creating with a servant mentality at the core. Now, hear me out: you never want to be a "yes" person who just delivers whatever the client wants no matter how unreasonable or out of pocket the request may be. I'd actually argue that being a "yes" person could easily be categorized as unethical, which contradicts our first principle.

Learning how to balance being the expert and being a servant usually happens in two phases: creation and feedback. If a client makes a request that doesn't align with best practices, say so in a manner that clearly communicates your stance but is also void of arrogance. Years of working one-on-one with different clients taught me how to master this art. Here's an example of what I say in these circumstances:

I love where you're going with that idea! Here's the thing. Best practices in this area show that doing XYZ instead may give you a better chance of reaching the goal you're trying to achieve. How do you feel about that? Let me know your thoughts and how you would like to proceed.

As a result, you build trust with your clients because they know you're using your expertise to truly help them. Establishing trust will also make them less likely to push back in the future.

Create for the sake of creating and nothing more.

Make it a priority to create outside of work simply for the love of creating. Doing so provides a great opportunity to bring ideas to life that you may not be able to execute at your 9-to-5 or even in your side hustle.

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