Everyone has insecurities. Even those who appear “perfect” to the rest of us have something about themselves that they don’t like. According to an article entitled, “10 Celebrities with Weird Insecurities,” Megan Fox is self-conscious about her “stubby thumbs,” Angelina Jolie thinks she looks like a “funny muppet,” adding that she believes she is “odd-looking,” Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting of The Big Bang Theory hates the sound of her own voice. Even Kate Moss, the internationally acclaimed supermodel is self-conscious about her “bow legs.” Everyone has something about which they feel insecure. It is a part of the human condition.
Here is the deal, however. Even though you may feel insecure about some quirk that you believe you have (and probably no one but you would believe or even notice), you can’t let it interfere with your ability to get out in the world and let yourself compete and succeed. If you do, you are the one holding yourself back…it isn’t someone else who is keeping you from being all that you want to be. You are doing it to yourself!
As humans, we have a knack for smelling other people’s insecurities, and because of our struggles with our own “stuff,” we find it a big old turn off when other people indulge themselves in their insecurities. In other words, you wind up sabotaging yourself if you don’t get control of yourself and start behaving like the amazing person you are—warts and all—instead of agonizing over some perceived flaw in your appearance or personality.
Want to know how these insecurities can negatively impact your ability to interview successfully. Read on. I am offering nine different ways that your insecurities are hurting your interview every single time:
1. Poor eye contact.
People with low self-esteem tend to indulge in poor eye contact, especially in uncomfortable or awkward situations. We tend to be afraid of eye contact because we are fearful that someone will be able to look into our eyes and tell exactly what we are thinking. The irony is that it is at least partially true. Not being able to sustain good eye contact conveys to someone you just met that you have something to hide. It may even lend itself to the perception that you are “shifty” and can’t be trusted. Learning how to maintain good eye contact is hard work if you are naturally shy or introverted, but you need to work on it because it is crucial to your success in any interview. You need to be able to maintain appropriate eye contact with your interviewer(s) throughout the interview. You want to appear relaxed about it, however, as opposed to forced. Staring down your interviewer in an attempt to overcome your desire to avert your eyes could be interpreted as aggressive or even creepy. There is a fine line between good eye contact and glaring.
2. Apologizing for no reason.
A lot of insecure people will apologize with a quick “Sorry” for everything…even things that are not their fault and over which they have little if any control. If you are a chronic apologizer, stop it! This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t offer a genuine apology on the occasion when you have screwed up, but apologizing because it’s raining and therefore your umbrella is dripping a little when you come through the door is a sign that you are feeling insecure and feel you need to apologize for everything. It is annoying. Don’t do it.
3. Responding to questions with an upward inflection in the voice.
We have all been guilty of this on occasion…haven’t we? (Pretend you can hear my voice trailing up and off sheepishly.) Answering a question with an answer that sounds like another question is a sign that you aren’t sure of yourself. You may be dead wrong, but if you say something with confidence, people will respect you even if they disagree with you. If you are right but say it timidly and as though you aren’t really sure of yourself, you will come across as wishy-washy and even as a pushover. Learn to control your nerves to the extent that you lose this annoying habit if it is one you have. You probably know if you are guilty of this one or not. If you aren’t sure, ask a friend. Practice making definitive responses to questions. Don’t sound timid…which leads to #4.
Timidity, in general, is communicated in body language as well as your voice and poor eye contact. Shrinking in on yourself, hunching your shoulders, keeping your arms tucked…these are all visible signs to even the most casual observer that you are trying to avoid taking up much space, and that is a sign of a lack of confidence in yourself and your worthiness. The only way to overcome this tendency, however, is to work on your mindset. Where your mind leads, your body will follow. Tell yourself that you are powerful and confident, and feel your shoulders lift, and your chest puff out just a little. You will feel looser and less constrained. It is important for you to listen to affirmations and read inspiring messages about becoming more confident in yourself for you to overcome the timidity that you may feel natural right now.
5. Floppy Fish Handshake.
This sign of insecurity is a particular pet peeve of mine. I believe that everyone can practice their handshake so that they are firm and they can avoid this annoying practice. You know what I mean…you go in for that first handshake with someone and the other person hands you their four fingers, not the palm of their hand. It is a weak gesture, and it leaves a lasting impression. Don’t be guilty of offering a floppy fish handshake. I tell clients that you should offer your whole hand, palm to palm, and use the pressure you would use to open a closed door as you grasp a door knob. There is no point in offering a crushing handshake either. That is a sign of being overbearing or attempting to establish dominance. Between your handshake and your use of eye contact, you can make or break how the rest of your interview will go. So be mindful.
6. Nervous laughter.
We have all heard the nervous giggle or “titter” that people make when they feel uncomfortable. You will get a pass the first time, I suspect, but if you continue to laugh nervously or giggle inappropriately throughout the interview, you might as well kiss that job good-bye. The employer is trying to determine if you would be a good fit for their team. If you have a nervous laugh that is annoying or off-putting, you will ruin your chances of being selected.
7. Poor grooming.
This one should be a no-brainer, but you might be surprised. You may think you are well groomed and dressed, but don’t take that for granted. Make sure you have a recent haircut. Ladies, take a little extra time with your makeup and hair. Make sure your nails are well groomed and clean. With few exceptions, guys should wear a suit and tie. Ladies have the option of a dress or professional looking pants suit…but in general, dress at least one step above the type of job for which you are applying. You want your future employer imagining the potential growth you might have with the company should you be hired. Make it easy to picture promoting you by looking the part of an executive. Don’t overlook having your shoes shined and avoiding anything that looks overly worn. Keep jewelry to a minimum including piercings. (Of course, that could depend on the job to some extent.)
Your interviewer will expect you to be a little nervous, but if you are overly fidgety and can’t settle into the interview without constantly shifting in your chair, looking out the window when you should be concentrating on the moment at hand or using fly-away hand gestures, you will come across as insecure as opposed to just nervous in a high-stress situation. Nerves will be forgiven to a certain extent. Fidgeting from a lack of confidence or deep-seated insecurities might not be. Be aware of your behavior. If you need to, have a friend film you while you go through a mock interview with another friend. Watch the video and look for quirks like being overly fidgety and anxious looking and sounding. The feedback obtained from watching yourself on camera might be valuable enough to help break some of these nervous habits that you have picked up over time.
People love people who are confident and sure of themselves. They do not love braggarts, however, and most people can smell out those folks in a hurry. Inflating your accomplishments, offering questionable sounding achievements, sounding overly boastful about past feats may wind up being a turn-off and a hint of a hidden insecurity. Many (perhaps not all, but many) braggarts feel they have to brag to compensate for some perceived weakness in their makeup or their past. They will exaggerate to the point of almost lying about themselves. They may not be lying, but they are suspected of boasting and may even be seen as a blow-hard…one who does a lot of bragging without a lot of evidence to support their claims. Just be careful. It is a needle threading exercise for sure to explain why you are the best person for the job without sounding like an over-zealous car salesman. You need to communicate your talents and achievements, but let your references and those willing to offer recommendations for you sing your praises to the mountains. You just keep to the facts and what can be substantiated in cold hard numbers.
We all have that critical inner voice that dogs us at every turn. We become aware of it as soon as we are old enough to compare ourselves to our peers and counterparts. When I was in first grade, I became acutely aware that a classmate who was a full year younger than me (her birthday was in September, and mine was in October so she was five and I was six) was much quicker than I and hardly ever made a mistake academically. She could already read, and math which is the bane of my existence came easily to her. Had we had a gifted program, she would surely have been singled out. She graduated with a near perfect grade point average because everything came easily to her. She seemed to take it quite for granted, however, and while we lost touch with each other after graduation, I don’t think she ever completed college. I used to wish I had her brains…I thought of all the good I might do in the world if I were only as smart as she was.
I had other things going for me, however, like dogged determination and a will to succeed at anything to which I set my mind. As a result, in spite of whatever academic limitations I perceived myself to have, I have completed not only an undergraduate degree but two Master’s degrees and a Ph.D. With each endeavor, I questioned whether I had the ability to do the work in the beginning. With each goal, once I set it, however, I drew on my determination and persistence and did the work necessary to complete the goal at hand.
We all have weaknesses. We also all have strengths. Concentrating on our strengths can go a long way toward eliminating the need to feel insecure. Practice self-affirming mantras or affirmations. Stop yourself from the negative self-talk you may have been indulging in until now. Give yourself credit for all of your good points and play those up. Examine the beliefs you have developed about yourself. Are they yours or are the bullies you encountered on the playground still running around rent-free in your head still doing you harm? Exorcise those bullies right now. You don’t have to let them torment you one more moment.
Finally, if you are paralyzed by your fear or you feel that anxiety has your stuck and forces you to show up as an insecure person instead of a confident one, get some counseling or hire a coach. Some of these old beliefs that do not serve you need to be talked through in order for you to rid yourself of them. Finding someone to talk it all out with can go a long way toward getting you on track toward feeling the confidence you deserve to feel.
Don’t let insecurities sabotage your job search. You deserve to be considered a viable candidate with the skills and experience that qualifies you for the job you want. Show up believing that, and you will get much further than you show up letting all of your insecurities hang out. You will never be free of all of your insecurities. You don’t have to let them be on display, however, and that is what you should take away from this message. Learn to deal with them now. Eliminate as many as you can and learn to compensate appropriately for the rest. You will be glad you did next time you are scheduled for an interview.
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