Wanting to Get One's Own Way - The Excessive Need to Be

Whether it’s a trivial decision among peers or a significant matter at work, we often find ourselves grappling with the irresistible urge to have things our way. This innate need to assert our preferences and maintain a sense of individuality – also referred to as the excessive need to be “me” – often proves to be quite a challenge in our journey towards positive interpersonal behavior change.

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What Does Get One’s Own Way Mean?

The act of “getting one’s own way” revolves around an intrinsic desire to prioritize our individuality, often elevating our flaws as virtues simply because they define who we are. This phenomenon, known as the “excessive need to be me,” is among the 20 bad workplace habits discussed by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith in his enlightening book, “What got you here won’t get you there“.

As humans, we all possess an innate inclination to hold on to certain behaviors that we identify as a core part of ourselves. These behaviors may stem from a combination of our personality traits, early upbringing, and past experiences. Some of these patterns may indeed be positive and advantageous (e.g: being diligent, honest, or compassionate) – on the other hand, others might be less favorable (e.g: being excessively controlling, argumentative, or inflexible).

Within the realm of personal and professional growth, the desire to get one’s own way is a potentially significant hindrance to transformation. According to Dr. Goldsmith, this excessive need to be me tends to instigate resistance against modifying our behavior – even when it is evident that such change would benefit both ourselves and those around us. The all-too-familiar rationalization, “That’s just the way I am,” becomes a protective shield that obstructs our capacity to learn, evolve, and adapt in the face of evolving circumstances.

Read more: Living in the Past – The Problem of Dwelling on What Was

Examples of The Excessive Need to Be ‘Me’

The desire to get one’s own way manifests in various behaviors that hinder our ability to connect with others and impede our personal growth. Examples include:

  1. Always thinking you are right

Those with an excessive need to be “me” often find themselves in constant arguments, attempting to assert their perspective as the only valid one. They struggle to accept that others might have different viewpoints, leading to strained relationships and an inability to collaborate effectively. Their unwavering certainty in their beliefs becomes a barrier to meaningful communication – as well as prevents them from embracing diverse ideas and insights.

  1. Over controlling

An overwhelming need to be in control can be observed when one struggles to delegate tasks or entrust others with responsibilities. The fear of relinquishing control stems from a desire to maintain an image of competency and authority – in addition to the desire for perfection by always adding input to every discussion.

Unfortunately, this control-freak attitude often results in stifled creativity and team dynamics, ultimately hindering progress and growth.

  1. Being argumentative

Those who exhibit this trait are relentless in their pursuit of proving their point – even at the cost of alienating others. They find it challenging to let things go and move on from disagreements. This tendency often leads to tense and unproductive interactions, creating a negative impact on both personal and professional relationships.

For instance, a salesperson who constantly interrupts customers and disregards their feedback – in the belief that her action showcases enthusiasm – may alienate potential clients and damage the company’s reputation.

  1. Acting defensive

People with an excessive need to be “me” are quick to perceive any feedback, constructive or otherwise, as a personal attack. Such defensiveness makes it difficult for them to listen to other’s input, apologize for their mistakes, and identify areas for improvement.

For example, a colleague who habitually arrives late to meetings and misses deadlines may become defensive when confronted, attributing the behavior to her creativity and spontaneity – rather than recognizing its negative impact on team performance.

  1. Being stubborn

A refusal to change one’s mind, even in the face of compelling evidence, is a hallmark of stubbornness driven by the excessive need to be “me.” We become trapped in certain fixed ways, reluctant to adapt our views or behaviors. Such inflexibility will eventually result in missed opportunities for growth and improvement.

For example, a manager who resists giving positive recognition to deserving employees due to a fear of appearing insincere or weak is essentially denying valuable motivation and appreciation to the team.

Read more: Not Listening – The Silent Killer in the Workplace

Why Do We Want to Get Our Own Way?

Our desire to get our own way is rooted in various underlying causes – some of which include:

  • Fixed mindset & Fear of change

As mentioned, those harboring an excessive need to be “me” are often characterized by a fixed mindset – they are convinced that their traits and abilities are innate and unchangeable. The fear of acknowledging flaws or weaknesses might prevent them from embracing personal growth and improvement. To them, changing their behavior feels like a threat to their identity or authenticity – as a result, they cling stubbornly to established patterns, even if these patterns prove detrimental in the long run.

  • Insecurity

For some, such behavior may stem from deep-seated insecurity issues, yearning for admiration and validation from others. Feeling superior and entitled, they resist changing their behavior as they believe they are always right or inherently special.

The feelings or needs of others may take a backseat to their own desires, and they may fear rejection or disapproval. Consequently, they attempt to control their behavior to please others and gain approval, reinforcing their self-worth through external validation.

  • Low self-esteem

The desire to get one’s own way may also be linked to low self-esteem. Due to their craving for acceptance and approval from others, one may become extremely resistant to behavioral change. This lack of self-assurance hinders their willingness to embrace change, as they remain trapped in a cycle of seeking external validation.

  • Lack of awareness or feedback

Sometimes, we may be unaware of the impact of our behavior on ourselves and others – which blinds us to the potential benefits of adjusting behavior. Some may be unsure of how or why to change, or may fail to recognize the need or value of doing so.

Wanting to Get One's Own Way: The Excessive Need to Be

The Costs of Getting One’s Own Way

The excessive need to be “me” comes with a range of negative consequences that can significantly impact both our personal lives and professional endeavors:

  • Limiting personal & professional growth

Clinging to old and ineffective habits prevents us from seizing opportunities to improve ourselves, develop new skills, and build stronger relationships. By remaining steadfast in our ways, we miss out on valuable chances to evolve and become better versions of ourselves.

  • Damaging credibility

When excessively wanting to get our own way, we essentially market ourselves as an arrogant, stubborn, or ignorant person. This perception erodes the respect and trust of others, making it challenging to establish meaningful connections and collaborative partnerships.

  • Harming performance & results

Complacency, rigidity, and lack of creativity stemming from the excessive need to be “me” often impedes our ability to perform optimally. Ignoring the needs, preferences, and feedback of others means we are likely to fall short of expectations and standards. Over time, our failure to adapt to evolving situations or challenges with outdated approaches can result in subpar results and missed opportunities for success.

  • Alienating oneself from others

The excessive need to be “me” may lead to behaviors that alienate us from others. Insensitivity, defensiveness, and selfishness all offend and hurt those around us, driving them away. Arrogant or dismissive attitudes can isolate us from meaningful connections and lead to feelings of social isolation.

  • Personal problems & Emotional toll

The burdens of constantly striving to be right, in control, or seeking validation can take a toll on our emotional well-being. Anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem may arise from the constant need for validation and the fear of accepting feedback or criticism. Such personal problems are among the factors that hinder our ability to relax, enjoy life, and embrace personal growth.

When Getting One’s Own Way Means Compromising Personal Flaws

(This part – along with the case study below – is compiled with inspiration from Habit #20 discussed in the bestseller ‘What got you here won’t get you there’ by renowned executive coach, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith)

Each person possesses a repertoire of behaviors that they perceive as intrinsic to their identity, encompassing both positive and negative traits. These chronic behaviors, which we often consider unchangeable, form the essence of what we refer to as “me.”

For instance, someone might habitually neglect returning phone calls due to being overcommitted, exhibiting rudeness, or subscribing to the belief that persistent callers will try again if it’s truly important. In such instances, they grant themselves a form of self-excuse, rationalizing each instance of failing to respond by saying, “That’s just who I am, deal with it.” The prospect of change seems to be a major challenge to the very core of their authenticity.

Similarly, those who perpetually procrastinate, disrupting others’ schedules, may justify such behavior as an expression of their true selves. Likewise, people who consistently voice their opinions, regardless of their hurtful or unconstructive nature, perceive it as exercising their right to be authentic.

Over time, it becomes perilously easy to blur the lines and view these flaws as virtues – merely because they constitute a significant part of our perceived identity – the “me” we identify with.

This misguided loyalty to our genuine selves, driven by the excessive need to be “me,” proves to be one of the most formidable obstacles to effecting positive, long-term changes in our behavior.

Read more: Passing the Buck – Why Do We Often Play the Blame Game?

The Excessive Need to Be “Me” – A Real-life Case Study

The excessive need to be me is a symptom of not being me.

Marshall Goldsmith

Several years ago, Dr. Goldsmith encountered a high-ranking executive who faced a significant roadblock in his leadership style – specifically, he struggled with giving positive recognition to his staff.

In an attempt to understand his client’s perspective, Dr. Goldsmith engaged in a conversation with him. The executive justified his reluctance to offer praise, citing high standards and concerns about diluting the value of genuine recognition. He believed singling out individuals might weaken the team’s cohesion.

Client: “What do you want me to do? Go around praising people who don’t deserve it? I don’t want to look like a phony.”

Goldsmith: “Is that your excuse? You don’t want to look like a phony?”

Client: “Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”

However, it soon became apparent that the root of the issue laid in the executive’s self-limiting definition of himself. The executive associated praising others with being disingenuous, as it didn’t align with his rigid view of who he was.

Goldsmith: “Why can’t this be you, too? Is doing so immoral, illegal, or unethical?”

Client: “No.”

Goldsmith: “Will it make people feel better?”

Client: “Yes.”

Goldsmith: “Will they perform better as a result of this positive recognition?”

Client: “Probably.”

Goldsmith: “Will that help your career?”

Client: “Probably.”

Goldsmith: “So why don’t you start doing it?”

Client: “Because, it wouldn’t be me.”

The turning point occurred when the executive realized that his unwavering loyalty to his self-defined identity was ultimately futile vanity. Instead, letting go of this “excessive need to be me” allowed him to shift his focus away from himself – and toward the well-being of his team.

He began to recognize the talents and hard work of his direct reports – eventually, he began handing out genuine expressions of praise and encouragement, even when perfection was not achieved.

Remarkably, shedding the excessive need to be “me” resulted in a cascade of positive change. The executive’s other rationalizations fell away, as he witnessed the significant impact of acknowledging and appreciating his staff’s contributions. His reputation as a demanding boss did not suffer; instead, his managerial skills soared, and his career advanced.

It’s an interesting equation: Less me + More them = Success.

Getting Rid of the Desire to Get One’s Own Way

Overcoming the excessive need to be “me” is an empowering journey of self-discovery and personal growth. By implementing the following strategies, one can gradually release themselves from the shackles of this limiting behavior:

  1. Cultivate self-awareness

The first step to ending the desire to get one’s own way is to foster self-awareness. This involves gaining a deeper understanding of one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. By becoming more attuned to our own inner workings, we can challenge the assumptions and beliefs that drive our desire to get our own way.

  1. Challenge assumptions

We must learn to recognize that our assumptions about ourselves and the world are not always accurate. The beliefs that underpin the excessive need to be “me” may be shaped by past experiences, upbringing, or cultural influences. Questioning these assumptions and realizing that our behavior does not define our core identity are crucial – in order to open ourselves up to the possibility of positive change.

  1. Embrace change with openness

The fear of change often reinforces the tendency to get one’s own way. As a result, embracing change as a natural and inevitable part of life paves the way for personal growth and evolution. Being open to new experiences, ideas, and perspectives enables us to break free from stagnation and explore our true potential.

  1. Seek feedback & Learn from others

Soliciting feedback from others provides precious insights into how our behavior impacts them. By listening attentively to their suggestions and opinions with an open mind, we allow ourselves the chance to foster empathy and the willingness to adapt – so that we may improve our interactions and relationships for the better.

  1. Experiment with new approaches

By exposing ourselves to novel experiences, ideas, and individuals, we broaden our horizons, stimulate creativity, and expand our skill set, ultimately enhancing our overall performance and results.

  1. Reframe identity and authenticity

Changing behavior does not equate to losing identity or authenticity. In fact, recognizing that flexibility, adaptability, and respect can coexist with individuality will empower us to express ourselves constructively. This reframing will make it simpler for us to navigate situations more effectively and cultivate harmonious relationships.

  1. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness – the art of being present without passing judgment – enables us to observe our thoughts and behaviors with clarity. Such practice aids in recognizing when we are slipping into the excessive need to be “me,” providing opportunities to redirect our actions towards healthier choices.

  1. Seek professional guidance

For those facing challenges in overcoming the excessive need to be “me,” seeking professional help from coaches, mentors, or counselors should be an immensely beneficial choice. Working with these experts will help you better understand your behavior and develop effective strategies for positive change.

Final Thoughts

The excessive need to be “me” – to get one’s own way – is a formidable obstacle in our journey of personal and interpersonal growth. When clinging to self-limiting definitions of who we are, we deny ourselves the ability to embrace change, adapt to new circumstances, and foster healthier relationships. For those who wish to attain greater success in life, it’s critical to shift your focus from solely on “me”, but also on how your actions impact others.

Other resources you might be interested in:

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