Why Your Should Think Twice About Being an Impression Manager

This article is an excerpt from The Thing About Creators by Jessica Carson. Read other excerpts at the end of this article. 

Impression Manager — Perfectionism v. Vulnerability

There’s nothing worse than standing in a room on fire, pretending everything is cool.

OMG I’m totally fine. But how are you? 

In the pursuit of perfection, we have become scary good at suppressing, disguising, and managing our realities.

We hide our authentic feelings from the people we date, feigning disinterest when we’re bubbling over with feels. We hide our true selves in social situations, pretending to have the best night ev-er when we’d rather be home, alone, in bed, with snacks.

And we even hide our reality at work, positioning ourselves as impenetrable when we’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Just waiting for someone to take our stapler.

Indeed, many a great meme has been inspired by keeping your professional sh** together.

The successful among us are often best at these games. We’ve refined the art of “fine-ness.” We’re praised for our ability to lock it down and keep it in.

We have become expert impression managers. And for good reason.

Those who have mastered impression management are rewarded. They receive more funding, faster promotions, and greater status. They are praised for their sponge-like ability to absorb chaos on capsizing ships.

And for Creators, impression management is a skill honed from years of fake it till you make it. It’s not just a nicety — it’s a damn near requirement.

The disruptive impression manager is a puppeteer. They artfully regulate information to show only want they want you to see. And with funding, employees, and projects on the line, tugging at the strings can appear to be the only way.

So the Creator bounces from meeting to meeting, seemingly unaffected by mounting stresses. Transitions from hair-pulling conversations to inspirational team speeches in a matter of minutes. Raises money or solicits buy-in for products they themselves have serious doubts about.

Creators are so adept at impression management because they are often notable perfectionists. Trust me — they have higher standards for themselves than anyone could possibly impose upon them.

So the Creator dons a mask. They skip the processing. They push forward.

But all this impression management has a dark side. There’s a trade-off to sugarcoating. Nasty side effects of all of this ignored integration.

Impression management demands a perpetual state of cognitive dissonance.

A permanent life in alternate reality. A chronic state of emotional constipation. A never-ending game of masking a mounting misalignment. A destructive domination of emotions with logic.

And when we live in a state of cognitive dissonance long enough, our internal BS detectors start sounding. After enough holding back and glossing over, the identity can crack.

If we become too good at impression management, the self can start to forget who it really is. But don’t worry Creator, you can always come back home.

The cure for the impression manager’s identity crisis is vulnerability. Permission to be exposed in words, thoughts, and actions. To create space for gross, awkward, cringe-worthy, awesome authenticity.

So look — I understand if you continue managing your impression. We can’t all run around with our hair on fire. Someone needs to keep it together.

You can still keep your poker face, Creator. But just make sure you have an outlet when the mask needs to come off.


That Don’t Impress Me Much: Suppress, Strategize, Share


There are four big things I’ve learned about impression management & Creator identity:

-Creators are expert impression managers
-Impression management creates dissonance between appearance and reality
-After enough cognitive dissonance, the identity can succumb to crisis
-Creators can reestablish their identity through vulnerability

Here is my three step recipe to overcome the impression manager’s identity crisis:

1. Identify Your Masks — Suppress
2. Personify Your Masks — Strategize
3. Remove Your Masks — Share


1. Identify Your Masks — Suppress

Managing your impression is a full time job.

We do it at happy hour, in the office, and definitely on dates. Creators know full well, you can’t let them see you sweat.

Think about a time you majorly managed your impression. When the self you portrayed was dramatically different from how you felt.

The first step is to identify your masks. What situations do you wear your mask in? What feelings, insecurities, or fears are you masking?

Maybe you were frustrated in a team meeting but kept a happy face. Or you had a doubt about a project or product but didn’t show it. Or a fear about a task but didn’t dare share.

Example
I wear a mask when I feel insecure about my competency. I wear a mask when I am not the smartest person in the room, feel behind the curve, or lack the skills to do the job at hand. I wear a mask when I pretend I don’t need help.

2. Personify Your Masks — Strategize

Masks are plastered with cognitive dissonance.

So when you wear a mask, you don’t only lock down your reality. You also cover it up with a compensatory self-presentation strategy.

You go the extra mile to cover up the stench. You fluff your feathers or point to the shiny thing in the corner to distract people from the phony facade.

The second step is to personify your masks. What self-presentation strategies do you use when you’re managing your impression? Do you boast? Intimidate? Flatter? Project? Insult?

Example
When I wear a mask, I project my deficits onto others. I judge and criticize to divert the attention from myself. I boast about my own accomplishments.

3. Remove Your Masks — Share

I know it’s a tall order. But the only way to remove your masks is vulnerability.

Creators must create conditions in their personal and professional lives to encourage vulnerability. To share expressly. To be okay with not being not okay.

The third step is to remove your masks. Share your thoughts, fears, and hangups. How can you vocalize and express yourself in a productive way? How can you be authentic to your emotions?

Example
When I feel insecure about my abilities, I will vocalize my fears, ask for help, and express myself with humility. I will seek environments where vulnerability is encouraged.

 

Identify Your Masks: Suppress Personify Your Masks: Strategize Remove Your Masks: Share
 

I wear a mask when I feel insecure about my competency. I wear a mask when I am not the smartest person in the room, feel behind the curve, or lack the skills to do the job at hand. I swear a mask when I don’t ask for the help I need.
When I wear a mask, I project my deficits onto others. I judge and criticize to divert the attention from myself. I boast about my own accomplishments.
When I feel insecure about my abilities, I will vocalize my fears, ask for help, and express myself with humility. I will seek environments where vulnerability is encouraged.

The Thing About Creators

Don’t be fooled: Breakdowns aren’t reserved for your burnout roommate. In fact, the most spectacular freak-outs, funks, and crises are saved for disruptors, innovators, influencers, trend-setters, and go-getters. It’s basically a right of passage. Welcome to the club.
The Thing About Creators explores the crisis of meaning plaguing modern day success stories. The Creator is a powerhouse of psychological and energetic strength — but these rarified abilities make them uniquely vulnerable to funks. Add to this our current work and play climate, and we have an epidemic in the making. But Creators can capitalize on their crisis unlike any other. They can disrupt themselves.

Check out other excerpts from The Thing About Creators:

–  The Thing About Creators– An Overview
I.  How to Manage Your #FOMO as a Creator
II. How to Find Your True Competitive Advantage as a Creator

III. Why Your Elevator Pitch is Hurting Your Self Concept
IV. How to Handle Your Restlessness as a Creator
V. Why You Should Think Twice About Being an Impression Manager
VI. How Your “Personal Brand” is Keeping You Stuck

VII. How to Maximize Your Resonance With Others as a Creator
VIII. Why You Need to Stay in Your Body as a Creator

I hope this taste of The Thing About Creators serves you. Share your thoughts with me — I can’t wait to hear from you, Creator.

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