Career Tip: Don’t Compare Your Insides to Other People’s Outsides

by | Mar 23, 2021 | Career Planning, Job interview, Job seeking

Have you ever found yourself judging your internal experience by looking at others’ external demeanour? Or to put it another way, judging your behind-the-scenes preparations against someone else’s ‘highlights reel’? From a career development perspective, this is a mindset well worth avoiding.

In the ‘old days’ (pre-Zoom), we might go for a job interview and end up sitting with the other candidates, nervously waiting to be called in for our ‘grilling’, or maybe sweating through the ordeal of an assessed group exercise.

If you’ve been in that situation, maybe you can recall the distinct feeling that everyone else seemed calm, confident and generally together while you were focussing on your sweaty palms, shaky voice, and the fluttering of butterflies in your stomach. You might have had a similar experience on your first day at a new school, or a new job, or in a particularly high stakes meeting where you’ve wondered ‘am I the only one here who doesn’t quite get it?’

The American writer Anne Lamott is credited with the instruction ‘don’t judge your insides by other peoples’ outsides’ The thing is, we can easily fall into seeing others’ external poise and apparent confidence and comparing it with our own inner unease when that comparison isn’t valid-because we can’t see what’s going on in their heads.

Or we may be the one struggling to find a direction for our career, and thinking that everyone else seems to have theirs sorted. This is usually an illusion.

Left unchecked, the tendency to judge our insides by others outsides can seriously stifle our willingness to take chances, put ourselves forward for opportunities, and express our honest opinion on something that’s really important to us. In short, the effects can be limiting to our career and to life in general.

So, in that interview waiting area, that new team you’ve joined, or that high stakes meeting, it’s really worth remembering that others are probably experiencing something similar to you. They might even be looking at you and thinking ‘he/she seems to have it all together!’ The truth is we are all ‘muddling through’ in one way or another, putting on our ‘fake it to make it’ face and often just putting one foot in front of the other and taking the next breath to keep going.

See Hollywood actor Rob Lowe’s personal and powerful take on not judging our insides by other peoples outsides here Rob Lowe: “Don’t Judge Your Insides by Someone Else’s Outsides”.

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