Disruptor Syndrome V — Impression Manager

This article is an excerpt from Disruptor Syndrome by Jessica Carson. Read more about Disruptor Syndrome and 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 reality.

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 we’re having 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 created about keeping your 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.

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

The skilled impression manager is a puppeteer. They artfully regulate and manage information to show only want they want you to see.

They bounce from meeting to meeting, seemingly unaffected by mounting stresses. Transition from hair-pulling conversations to inspirational team speeches in a matter of minutes. Raise money or solicit buy-in for products they themselves have serious doubts about.

Disruptors are so adept at impression management because they are often notable perfectionists. They have higher standards for themselves than anyone could ever impose upon them.

And so the disruptor 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.

We dominate emotions with thoughts. We railroad over feelings with logic. We ignore the fact our emotions don’t give a damn about our logic. Two totally different languages, bro.

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

If we’re too good at impression management, the self can start to forget who it really is. But don’t worry, we 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, disruptor. But just make sure you have an outlet once the mask comes off.


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


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

-Disruptors are expert impression managers
-Impression management creates dissonance between appearance and reality
-After enough cognitive dissonance, the identity can succumb to crisis
-Disruptors 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. Disruptors 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.

Disruptors 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.

Disruptor Syndrome

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.
Disruptor Syndrome explores the crisis of meaning plaguing modern day success stories. The disruptor 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 disruptors can capitalize on their crisis unlike any other. They can disrupt themselves.

Check out other excerpts from Disruptor Syndrome:

–  Disruptor Syndrome — An Overview
I.  #FOMO —
Novelty v. Commitment
II. Competitive Advantage —
Withholding v. Giving
III. Give Me Your Elevator Pitch — Duality v. Fluidity
IV. Twice-Born Souls — Restlessness v. Rootedness
V. Impression Manager — Perfectionism v. Vulnerability
VI. Era of the Personal Brand —
Permanence v. Experimentation
VII. Connecting Your WiFi — Separation v. Resonance
VIII. “I Can’t Feel My Face” — Dissociation v. Embodiment

I hope this taste of Disruptor Syndrome serves you. Share you thoughts with me — I can’t wait to hear from you, disruptor.

 

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