I decided not to fake it and got rejected.

Last week I got a rejection letter from a prospective employer. It was after the last round in a lengthy interview process and a final performance I thought I nailed. I fully expected to get an offer. So, the “we were impressed but chose another candidate” message really punched my ego. The recruiter offered to collect and share feedback in case I was curious about where I fell short. I welcomed it, certain that the stories in my head could not have been any more pleasant than the truth. I was right.


“You didn’t seem excited about the role.” That was the main consensus amongst the panel of judges who had scrutinized my aptness for the job. There was no criticism about my qualifications or concerns for my ability to carry out the role. And most importantly, there was no mention of my flaws, a long list of imperfections that my brain had already been scanning through trying to figure out which one might have been the culprit. 


I figured it had to do with my being shy, my greatest insecurity when it comes to human interaction, particularly in an interview setting where confidence and assertiveness are expected. I thought they might have noticed how nervous I was. Maybe they saw my cheeks blush or heard my voice tremble. All aspects I fear make me a less than ideal candidate. Yet, as often is the case, the story I told myself was just that – a story. An elaborate tale made-up by my bitter alter ego, Stuart, who likes to eat Nutella and wallow in self-pity. 


I didn’t get the job because I didn’t really want the job in the first place. I just wanted the satisfaction of being the chosen one. I didn’t get the job because they saw right through me. Or better yet, I was too transparent. I voiced concerns about aspects of the role I didn’t find suitable. I gave honest answers when asked questions about my interest in the company and aspirations for the future. I didn’t pretend that working for them was my lifelong dream. I didn’t deny that I have personal passions and interests that a proper work-life balance should allow me to cultivate. I didn’t fake it and it cost me the job. 


That’s the price of being authentic. Staying true to yourself means that you can’t make everyone happy. Some people may like you and relate to you, others won’t. Some people will say YES to you, others will affirm a decisive NO. It’s a harsh reality for people-pleasing perfectionists like me. We are masters at conforming to our audience in order to elicit the desired response. But having to put up an act is exhausting. Even if effective at shielding us from rejection, the constant pretending inevitably leaves us tormented by the symptoms of impostor syndrome. I know this because I lived through it. Impostor syndrome is the nemesis of self-love. 


When you stop faking it, you find freedom. That freedom empowers you. It allows you to get to know yourself much better and learn to love yourself much more. Rejection always stings a little. It’s hard not to take it personal. Yet it’s quite egocentric of us to expect that the world will always, unanimously, unequivocally agree with us. Let’s instead be ourselves and celebrate what makes us different, what makes us unique. Even if that means not getting the job. The right one, I’m certain, will come along.

Antonella

You’re on your own and that’s the hard truth!

What the hell am I doing? I woke up nagged by this question today. Two years ago, I quit my job and left the country in search of purpose. On this quest for meaning and enlightenment, I rediscovered myself and gained a great deal of confidence. Yet today I still battle with the voice that tells me I’m not good enough. My coach encouraged me to give it a name, an identity. I called it Stuart, don’t ask me why. It was in one of those tap-into-your-unconscious exercises where you’re challenged to close your eyes, put your mind to rest, and just feel from your gut. I felt the name Stuart. 

Stuart shows up about once a week, typically in the absence of sun, in a shitty mental and emotional pattern that halts my progress, sucks my energy, and dims my light. Since leaving corporate America I started cultivating new dreams. I began envisioning myself as a solopreneur, aspiring to create something meaningful that would allow me to make a living while directly impacting peoples’ lives. This desire is so strong within me that it cannot be ignored. It drives me, it excites me, it simply feels right… Until Stuart tries to tell me I don’t have what it takes. I instantly believe him and lazily abandon myself to the overwhelming disappointment. I wallow in the confusion and resign to self-pity. Me, a solopreneur? Who am I kidding? 

It takes a lot of courage to build something from scratch, and on your own. Courage takes confidence. Confidence can be irritatingly volatile. Even on my best days, when I feel like hot stuff and virtually unstoppable, all it takes is one rejection, one negative comment even from a random stranger, for Stuart to reinforce his case: You see, you should just give up! Stuart then convinces me that the best thing to do is hide at home and avoid social interactions at all costs. My introvert side celebrates. It’s a great excuse to sink into the couch with whatever comfort food I’m craving at the moment and the latest bingeworthy Netflix series. Sadly, while we all need and deserve these moments in our lives, they are not a good solution for addressing self-doubt. Self-doubt is a lonely place to be. 

Here’s what I’ve figured out about loneliness. It accompanies us throughout our lives. And it’s best experienced with low levels of confidence. That said, it doesn’t matter if you have a million IG followers, the best of friends, a perfect partner, or the most supportive family in the world, you will still have to face loneliness. While you can (and should) lean on others and ask for help when needed, the hard truth is that in the end You’re On Your Own. Stuart tried to remind me of this today to deprive me of any lasting shred of fight. I wanted to dispute it. I thought about all the people in my life, those I can call and trust to go out of their way to be there for me, and I thought about the strangers, the infinite number of good souls out there who may be nothing like me yet they’re sharing similar paths, or similar challenges. I have no reason to think that I’m ever alone. Yet the feeling occasionally transpires and I just can’t shake it. So, today I decided to give into it and I quickly realized that I was about to face a great fear. The fear of facing myself. Of having only myself and nobody else to count on. Of myself being enough: good enough, strong enough, whole enough. As Stuart’s voice finally went quiet, I basked in a moment of pride for having had such courage. And the great thing about courage is that it reinforces confidence. Suddenly, I felt empowered. Alone, but not lonely. I recognize I am no master at self-love, but the only chance it has to grow is if I continue holding up a mirror.

Antonella