You don't have to lie about it.
"But above all, in order to be, never try to seem." -Albert Camus
Have you ever lied, even a little bit, to help your chances of landing a job or making a splashy impression?
Maybe you haven’t, but I have. Up until very recently, I made a point of mentioning “I consistently meet deadlines” in my cover letters, especially if that exact phrase showed up in the job description as it often does. And I felt a pang in my belly every time I did—because the truth is, I haven't.
Left to my own devices, I’ll tweak and perfect the website copy or speaker bio one last time to get it just right. Even if doing so takes me an hour or a day past the deadline. I can (and do) temper this urge, but sometimes the urge wins.
I’ve lived in fear of being found out that I’m wired this way. No matter how well I write or strategize profitable marketing plans and create an atmosphere of cooperation among stand-offish stakeholders to boot, I’ve felt a hum of anxiety in the back of my head, as though I'm constantly on the edge of being disqualified from whatever position I’m in.
You can probably imagine the pattern this has set up. I’d often agree to work on quality-compromising project timelines from the onset and feel like a colossal failure when I just. Couldn’t. Deliver.
Then one day, after hitting send on a “sorry I’m behind” email to an annoyed client, I put my hands on my flushed face to calm myself down, and wondered this.
What compelled me to say “I consistently meet deadlines” to virtually every potential client or employer?
I was a little delusional (okay, aspirational). A worker who breezily turns things in on time, early even, is a pretty fantastic image to behold.
I thought if I shouted it loudly enough they’d believe me and not press for evidence on the consistently part.
I sensed the level of comfort they'd feel just hearing that.
I paused at that thought. "Wait...is it possible most hiring managers feel as uneasy as I do about deadlines?" I asked aloud.
It's completely possible that they, too, are suffering from silence, because we've made it so hard to have an open conversation about how to wisely discern a must-enforce deadline from one that'd benefit from flexibility.
And maybe underneath their stated aspiration for a consistently-deadline-meeting-superhuman is a very human need to be respected, and to feel safe from the judgment that could come from compromising the wrong thing in the eyes of their stakeholders.
So instead of lying or suppressing the urge to tweak, I thought, maybe I'd be better off taking a risk to open up about this struggle.
“Utter perfection or just-get-it-done-on-schedule, which do you prefer?”
The first client I had this honest conversation with chose the latter without hesitation. She knows I’m wired to keep going for "just right" and she’s clear my “almost-perfect and done” is what she wants. As it turns out, not only can I work with this, I feel good knowing what matters most to her and placing my attention on it. As a result, I'm breezily turning my work in on time, early even,consistently.
I fulfilled my fantasy by accident when I gave up on being superhuman and showed I was a human affected by conundrums instead.
So maybe you haven't lied as I did to try to get a job or to look good. But I'll bet that you, too, have at some point overcompensated for something you considered a liability. And felt bad about it, or experienced the backlash even.
You don't have to be stuck in this rut. You deserve to shine as you are.
There's medicine inside your poison: I heartily recommend you turn the spotlight around 180 degrees, and call attention to the very thing you’re afraid to show.
It’s terrifying. But try anyway. I'm right here to hold your hand and cheer you on.
PS. What do you call a noodle with confidence issues? An im-pasta. (Joke courtesy of my 14-year-old.)