My whole life I have suffered from something I like to call Shrinking Self Syndrome. The basic mechanics of Shrinking Self Syndrome are to build somebody up in your mind as if they were something flawless and intimidating of which you are totally unworthy...almost demigod like. When you do this, you suppress your own self to afford full reverence to the greatness before you. This prevents the “great” person from getting to meet YOU!
Example - The Job Interview
“Thank you for interest in the position of lowest man on the totem pole. You will be interviewing with the Bill, the Senior Totem Architect, Steve, the Manager of Totem Operations, and Felicia, the Vice President of being better, happier, and richer than you ever will be. See you on Tuesday!”
I’m already building these people up in my mind...so great...so successful. They really have it all figured out. I’m probably going to embarrass myself in front of them. Even though the position I’m applying for requires little more than work authorization and a pulse...somehow I feel unworthy. Little do I know that Bill is actually awkward around people and is very apprehensive about conducting an interview. Steve has a bad relationship at home and takes it out on everyone he meets at work to make himself feel big. And Felicia, while yes she is more beautiful, successful, and wealthy than I, has deep envy of her boss the Senior Vice President of being better, happier, and richer than you ever will be.
All these hidden truths about Bill, Steve, and Felicia are lost on me. To little old me, these people are flawless executioners of business and life that will be judging and critiquing my feeble skill set in ruthless fashion. This makes me feel nervous, stressed, and even a little desperate not to fail.
This is me. This is them.
The crazy thing is, if they suffer from the same mental blocks that I do, the picture could be completely reversed in their heads!
“Andy’s resume is really impressive. He is probably overqualified for what we’re looking for. I wonder if our company culture will live up to his expectations. Our reputation is not as strong as some of his past employers. He’s probably going to ask about our non-existent company benefits and laugh a little when I tell him we have none.
If I hire Andy, he’s going to immediately outshine me and shoot right past me on the corporate ladder.”
The reality is I am doing myself a huuuuuge disservice by falling into this silly mental trap. Not only is it a manifestation of my own lack of self-confidence, but it also prevents me from being open to connection. Afterall, how could the Vice President of being happier, smarter, and more successful than I ever have any desire to connect with a peasant like me? He’s already got it all figured out!
The reality is ALL people are JUST people. It doesn’t matter if you’re meeting a celebrity, interviewing with the CEO of Google, meeting a successful entrepreneur, meeting the girl of your dreams, meeting a famous sports star, or auditioning for SNL...all of these are situations where imperfect human beings are interacting with other imperfect human beings. Nothing more, nothing less.
What you SHOULD be preparing for is something closer to this:
All people, even really super successful and needlessly intimidating people, are still fundamentally human. They are moms, dads, sports fans, neighbors, grocery store customers...etc. They crave connection and authenticity. They have their own demons and struggles. They are attracted to smiling faces, positive energy, and are eager to help. And they might even be as intimidated by you as you are of them.
What causes Shrinking Self Syndrome? I believe it stems from an overactive ego. Your ego is the part of you that’s constantly comparing, judging, seeking approval, and wildly insecure. Your ego looks at a homeless person and feels great. Your ego looks at a CEO and feels like crap. Your ego looks at a competitor and wants to beat them. Your ego definitely serves a purpose in life...but is also largely a spiritual idiot and the root of a lot of self-limiting social behaviours and mental processes.
To improve the symptoms of Shrinking Self Syndrome, try to let go of your massive ego for a minute. Let it float away to go be insecure in the corner. Now what are you left with? You’re left with the best part of you, the most compassionate and selfless part of you. Start treating every person you meet simply as an equal, whether they are a celebrity, family member, or homeless beggar. Treat everyone you meet as an equal - as an imperfect and beautiful human being - and watch as your own personality and potential begins to shine brighter than ever.
Andy is a curious soul with INFJ-T personality who likes to examine life closely and lives for those moments of deep revelation and spiritual connection.