The role of vulnerability & insecurity in 1) surviving life and 2) in the realm of interviewing in Higher Education
I had already started writing this blog post when this topic was announced, so I was excited to get to work on the #SAChat live-tweet forum—however, I ultimately came back to what I had written and deleted everything.
I wasn’t confident in what I had written.
I was trying too hard to say the right things to make myself sound like an “authentic” future student affairs professional—when in reality, I was just saying what I thought I was supposed to be saying.
Intentional this, social justice that; self-care this, engagement that.
I wasn’t being authentic.
Authentic!—there’s the word of the week.
The contradiction I saw throughout the #SAChat conversation last week was that people didn’t seem to understand what it really meant to be “authentic” in the context of vulnerability. Nor did I—until I thought further about it throughout the day, into the weekend, and on my long drive to/from Providence for some rasslin on Sunday.
The answer I arrived at was simply that we are different people in different situations. And that’s okay. We don’t need to be ourselves all of the time. Regardless of how you put it, or if you’re even willing to admit it—we are not truly authentic all of the time.
I will say that one more time:
We. Are not. Truly. Authentic. All of the time.
We hide. We hide a lot of ourselves. Often.
We hide behind fake smiles when we’re having a tough day.
We hide behind social media profile pictures.
We hide our love of professional rasslin because it may make us look like a weirdo.
We hide. Often.
At least I know I do.
And maybe I’m alone in this. Maybe I’m the only one hiding.
If that’s true, then I guess there’s no real need to continue reading this week!
But I’d like to think that this is a common mind game we play with ourselves in student affairs. We can’t truly unleash all of ourselves all of the time—that’d be too much for anyone to handle. That’d be too much for us to handle.
I can be authentic with my friends, with my family, with some colleagues—but in some situations, I am not me. I am generally an extroverted person with a lot of opinions; but in some mixed company, I shrink up, quiet down, and withdraw. I am often an oversharer, but there are situations where I force myself to actually withhold information from someone so that they do not view me in a negative or unappealing light.
It’s fear. And as Charles Bukowski simply stated, “we are afraid.” We are afraid of being ourselves because we are afraid of what others might think.
|Even I can have a little bit of a dark side.|
I don’t think it is a bad thing to be insecure. Our students are insecure—our students also aren’t perfect. We are insecure—and coincidentally, we aren’t perfect, either. And that’s okay—that’s where authenticity thrives!
Authenticity thrives in the vulnerability of recognizing your insecurities can be used to motivate you beyond your fears.
Obviously this isn’t an easy task and it took me learning about my own fears and faults—and through a few bouts of depression and anxiety—to be able to acknowledge this motivation; and now—thanks to the support of friends, family, and a lot of willpower—I can acknowledge that what may make me feel insecure in one moment, will serve as a defining source of strength in the future.
It reminds me of my favorite La Dispute lyric—“if my fear has kept me here, only my fear can set me free.”
I—like many current and potential #SAGrad students—have become quickly inundated with interviewing for summer internships. Interviews are situations where someone is most vulnerable at a time when they are supposed to be their most authentic self.
I find there is a fair amount of compromise of character and authenticity when interviewing. It’s terrifying to think about it like this, but we are selfish in our desire to be accepted into a new position that we desire so dearly that we compromise our values in order to seem like the perfect person for the job.
Now, in many ways I am authentic in interviews because I truly am eager to learn more. I am eager to try out a new position in a new environment—hell, I moved 3,000 miles for my grad school experience. That kinda shows some dedication. And honestly, I do have a lot of fun when I interview because I know that interviewers have to sit through so many candidates that it can probably get a boring or restless—so I try to keep things interesting.
Yet, some of my withdrawal in interviews comes from the fear of saying the wrong thing at the right time.
Does that make sense?
I’ve been on the other side of the equation, where I was interviewing people for a position and they said something that triggered me in just the wrong way at just the wrong time—it might’ve been a single word, a turn of phrase, or simply a tone of voice—regardless, I wasn’t impressed.
Maybe I was being too sensitive at the time, but that’s the fear that is constantly running through my head as I interview—especially as an oversharing extrovert with too much eccentric energy for one phone call or Skype interview to handle. Interviews are sensitive matters where lots of words are said and many words are left unsaid—so the inner dialogue often takes over more often than not.
Am I being honest? Am I being pretentious?
Did I already say that? Am I being me?
Am I talking too much? Am I talking too little?
What was the question again?
Interviews are a necessary—and yet, frustratingly sensitive and vulnerable—aspect of our field. So the fear of the inner dialogue taking over is justified because our brains want to remind us of all of the things we practiced five minutes before the phone call and that can withdraw from our authenticity because we are not thinking fully about each question.
Instead, we try to answer the questions that weren’t asked.
I hope this post made sense.
I hoped to draw on the ideas of authenticity in a vulnerable way.
Maybe it worked. Let me know your thoughts!
Hope all is well.
Want to continue the conversation?
Find me on Twitter at @CrigBididman