A lot of critics are lazy. They don’t want to look closely and analyze something for what it is. They take a quick first impression and then rush to compare it to something they’ve seen before. – Willem Dafoe
Remember the way you behaved at school because you wanted to be one of the cool guys? Or how you desperately needed to catch the attention of that cute guy or girl who didn’t seem to care about you at all, because you wanted to join the club of couples?
When we grow older, we remember these episodes with a smile. They are funny in hindsight. However, how much did we learn from those experiences? How much have we changed?
Peer pressure and the need to belong do not only apply to adolescence, but also to adulthood. The difference is, we usually don’t see it that way anymore. We label it as measuring up to social standards in order to be called successful.
Being part of a social circle and being respected by our peers are just as important as before. Making an impression is the key to valuable relationships that are worth more than anything else if you want to make it to the top.
We assume we have to convey certain personality traits that seem to be favorable, but trying hard to be someone we do not only make things complicated and stressful. I have to admit I was guilty, too, but it made me feel miserable and exhausted.
We have to live up to what we want to represent, but if you are a different person at heart, you are going to struggle emotionally. I was chasing the wrong ideas for quite a while, making me end up with many question marks about myself, my values and my future.
Over the years, I’ve learned that the best is just to be myself. Whether in business or social environments, it doesn’t pay to show a version of yourself you don’t feel comfortable with.
Without a doubt, first encounters do matter. However, we should not force ourselves to make an impression. I believe when we are genuine we do not have to worry about anything, and here’s why.
Getting Caught in the Impostor Trap
Unless you are a very confident type, you will end up feeling like a fraud. Very often, I felt as if I was the greatest impostor in the world. By trying to present myself as the poster girl for success, I was putting much pressure on myself: Whenever I started a new job, I felt stressed as soon as I entered my new office, scared I would be exposed any minute because I did not feel like the person I pretended to be.
We do not have to be candid about our weaknesses. It is not going to get us anywhere, especially in business, but instead of permanently pretending to be someone else – which saps a lot of our energy – it would be better to capitalize on our strengths and abilities.
Whatever we do or whichever picture we paint of ourselves, there always will be people who don’t like us or think we are not qualified enough – irrespective of how hard we try. It’s not necessary to desperately want to impress people. Either they are impressed – or they are not. Put your focus on what you usually would do – the real you.
People Don’t Like Masquerades – Do You?
When you see a person, do you just concentrate on their looks? It’s just a first impression. Then there’s someone who doesn’t catch your eye immediately, but you talk to them and they become the most beautiful thing in the world… – Brad Pitt
The more we hide our true self, the less authentic we are. When trying to come across as someone we are not, we risk losing our credibility and will not be taken seriously in the long run.
Respect comes with being a person who does not send out contradictory signals. We can tell people that we are the greatest, funniest, most cosmopolitan person in the world, but if we do not live up to the expectations we have raised, we have a lot to lose.
I don’t mean to hide your light under a bushel – but be realistic about yourself. It’s okay to sugarcoat to some extent; we all do, but don’t exaggerate the things you are uncomfortable with, just because you assume this is what you need to do. It will come back to bite you later.
If you state that you are adventurous and a risk taker, it can end in sweat and tears when you realize that you might have to jump off a bridge with a rubber band around your waist on your next team-building event.
Know Who You Are
It can be a challenge to become aware of our true self when not being sure what really matters to us. We have to be honest with ourselves, and it can be a painful process. Still, once we know it and manage to stand by it, we do not have to try to impress others anymore.
Honestly, how many people have you met and thought: “Wow, I want to be like her/him”? Ask yourself why that is. These people usually are real and don’t seem to care what others think. They give their opinion. They know about their strengths as well as their weaknesses and are okay with it.
No one is perfect. When realizing what we are capable of, weaknesses are not a hindrance. To know when it’s better to ask for help is a strength we should nurture. It makes life less stressful.
The Real You Needs Love, Too
Yes, it’s nice to make an impression. But always ask yourself at what price? As soon as you start the game of acting, you have to keep up “the good work”: presenting a person that’s not you. It is exhausting. No one can hide their true self forever. We all long for being accepted the way we are.
Just because you are not the loudest person on the planet, doesn’t mean that you don’t have interesting ideas or the ability to lead.
Concentrate on what you have to offer and what you can contribute. Build up your reputation by being someone no one can match: YOU.