More Thoughts on Impostors

Not to be a Holden Caulfield, but, aren’t we all phonies? You have to fake it ’til you make it; if you think you can’t, you have to project that you can; be yourself, but not too much yourself; be a better version of yourself. On a job interview, a first date, a roommate interview, any situation that requires small talk, really, aren’t we all phonies?

I don’t know how to project confidence. When I talk about myself, I start listening to the words coming out of my mouth and how they sound and I start to lose my train of thought, and by the time I finish whatever it was I was saying, I have no idea if I’ve answered the question. Ugh. I’m more comfortable listening to other people than talking about myself (which makes no sense because, clearly, all I do is write about myself). It’s just something I have to get over, I know. Job interviews are a part of life as an adult. It’s uncomfortable, but that’s the business. Small talk and networking and business cards and handshakes. . .

After I published my last post about impostor syndrome, I talked with my roommate about our penchant for self-sabotage.

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Why do we self-sabotage?

You know how in middle school you learn that if you laugh at yourself, and do it before your tormenters, then it hurts less? You acknowledge your flaws and your missteps and make fun of yourself to show what a good sport you are. Ha-ha, I get it, that was dumb. Self-sabotage is the career version of laughing at yourself first.

Driving to my interview, I felt myself getting nervous. I was thinking, It’s just a job, it’s not a big deal, maybe I don’t even want this job.

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False. I want the job. I think I could be great at the job. But I start to convince myself otherwise so that when I’m informed that I’m just not the right candidate for the position, it doesn’t hurt as much. It’s not as much of a disappointment.

We self-sabotage because it’s the safe option. Self-sabotage is a defense mechanism. And particularly destructive one. It keeps us from going after what we really want. I mean really going after it, with abandon, without fear of rejection or failure or embarrassment.

Maybe this is just one of those things that comes with age. You’ll understand when you’re older. When you enter your thirties you become comfortable with who you are. Maybe. Or maybe practice makes perfect. The more interview and small talk situations I have, the better I’ll be at them and the less phony I’ll feel. Maybe. I need to aim for more Mary Tyler Moore and less Bestie Boy.

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I know there are plenty of people who don’t find these type of interactions phony. They’re naturally friendly and cheerful and can quickly think on their feet and impress people. And they’re probably the ones who get the jobs. And some of us are just better on paper.

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