Do you remember your first job interview after college? How many times did you check the route before starting out? How long did you wait in the parking lot so that you would arrive exactly seven minutes before the interview started? How did you fix your hair? What did you wear? What questions did you have prepared to ask the interviewer?
Do you know the answers to these questions, because I sure do. I remember the answers because these answers were more important to me than say, whether or not the job would be a good fit, whether or not I could be valuable employee and whether or not my direct supervisor and I would get along.
Interviewing for "real jobs" in a sluggish economy lent itself to a crisis of confidence, and learning that the company was known for interviewing 8-10 people for a single entry level position didn't leave me feeling any better. I knew that I should have been emphasizing my strengths, or my marketable skills, or at the very least my scintillating personality, but I was to scared for all that.
I thought that the real me would never be good enough for this entry level position, so I decided to upgrade. I wanted to create Me 2.0, but I didn't have the skills to create a whole new operating system overnight. Instead, I bought a shot of confidence.
I bought a suit. A grown up suit, that grown up people wear. I wore subtle, adult make up. I did my hair like an adult (no pony tail for me). I rehearsed lines from What color is my Parachute? and Strengths Finders 2.0. None of this was me. It still isn't.
I didn't believe the real me could add value. I wore the Halloween Mask to each and every interview. I called the mask, grown up, skilled adult who knows about quantitative analysis.
The mask helped. I got through a few hours worth of interviews at a time, but my mask did not instill confidence. Rather, I could hide my problems and my imperfections long enough to land a job.
The mask is more sophisticated but the insecurity is the same
The problem purchased confidence is that the confidence is unfounded. The suit becomes old, the make up out of style, the words full of hot air, and the hair pulled back in a moment of stress. When you buy confidence, your focus suddenly has to be keeping up appearances. Growing and becoming no longer matter. The presentation of self matters more than anything, and to keep it up, you have to buy a whole new mask.
But to be honest, I'm good at masks. Masks are comfortable for me. I've been wearing them since middle school, and they got me through my adolescent insecurities... or did they?
The insecurities I felt at my job interviews are sophisticated versions of what I felt on the first day of middle school. I didn't walk into Highview Middle School wondering how I could show love to people. I didn't wonder what I could do to grow in wisdom and make the world a better place. I wondered how I could become well liked. I figured out the answer, and I made it happen.
Why did I wear Abercrombie and Fitch? Why did I participate in the gossip circuit? Why did I listen to N'Sync or drink Fruitopia or play Apples to Apples or spend my Friday Nights at high school football games?
And is the answer to these questions any different than how I behaved on my job interviews or for that matter on the job? When given the opportunity, do I choose authenticity or do I choose a newer, more sophisticated mask?
Whose approval are you seeking?
I believe that confidence can only come when you remove your masks and start to understand whose approval you are seeking. If I am seeking the approval of others, I will constantly parade around in one mask or another attempting to please each person. Eventually my masks will fail to give me confidence and I will have to put on a new one. I can even give this a name. Self-reinvention. But the re-invention isn't for me- it's for someone else.
Or you can refuse to wear the masks at all. This is where authenticity and confidence begin.
I am constantly astounded (in a good way) by the character and actions of people who have self-confidence. I think that self confidence comes when you rip off the masks and you take stock in your actions and your motives. You become increasingly confident as you develop an "authentic self" where your actions become more and more in line with your internal values. This is hard work and sometimes thankless, especially if your values are not mainstream values, but it will yield confidence.
This type of confidence is better than any confidence that you could ever try to buy or to win.
Is there a confidence better than self confidence?
Although self confidence is a beautiful thing, I believe in a greater confidence. A confidence so great, that I call it hope instead of confidence. This kind of confidence is an unwavering, future confidence that I don't think any human can muster up within themselves.
For me, this confidence is on a cosmic scale. It is the confidence that God isn't ambivalent towards me. Instead, he loves me. He loved me enough to die for me when I didn't love him back. He loves me enough to change me to better and better reflect his image. He loves me enough that I can depend on his grace and mercy even though I'm far from deserving. For me, there is no better confidence than a confidence that doesn't depend on me and it doesn't depend on others, but it depends on God.
As I trip and stumble through this journey called life, I find hope that God has already given to me the "authentic self" that I am becoming, and despite my failings, he's not going to take this gift back.
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.