Last night after a long day of work, a couple of people in the office got together for dinner and invited me to come along. It would be my first time hanging out with them after office hours and while I was hesitant at first, my grumbling tummy eventually agreed.
We queued way longer than expected for sushi and when we finally got a table to ourselves the conversation quickly turned to how I've been settling in at work. I shared about what I've learned and observed over the past few months or so with the rest.
It felt odd having an audience of colleagues outside the workplace. I tried to find the right balance between tact and honesty as I recounted my experience. Everyone seemed to be listening intently without offering any remarks of their own and I started to get uncomfortable.
At first I thought I was worried about being judged. But it soon became clear that I was more concerned about whether I was making a good impression on others as "the new guy who seems cool enough to hang out with".
This need to impress extends beyond my interactions in real life. Even on social media, it is immediately apparent that many others, including myself, have an innate craving for attention and recognition in one way or another.
I found this quote by C.S. Lewis helpful in negotiating the need to impress:
“You will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making."
In the pursuit of leaving an impression upon others, we would be wise to remain true to ourselves. Even the slightest whiff of inauthenticity is enough to ring alarm bells in people's heads. This remains true both online and offline.