The concept of self-inflicted roadblocks is something that I think about often. We stop ourselves from trying new things or taking risks because of some insurmountable obstacle we created in our own heads. It seems like a side effect of impostor syndrome; we've convinced ourselves that we aren't good enough, smart enough, and people don't like us. It's a battle I fight with myself on a regular basis, though I try to be mindful of the self-doubt that creeps in with alarming regularity.
Last week a candidate for a position in our office withdrew from our process because she was concerned about how many candidates we already had. I paused, thinking that were I in her shoes at the point in my life she is now, I also would have let that doubt win over my desire for a new experience. I responded to her email with the following:
I’m disappointed to hear that. I hope that in the future you won’t let the possibility of what may not happen stop you from pursuing opportunities in which you are interested. You will likely never know the number of candidates in a search process – it’s an interesting side of the ACUHO-I process that we all know there are 993 candidates. We specifically reached out to you because we were interested in your candidacy based on your resume and other materials. Not everyone on our interview schedule can say the same; some reached out to us. Other people were turned down for interviews entirely because they weren’t a good fit for our position or our department.
Job searches, whether internships or professional experiences, can be tough. They are competitive, and search committees have to make some difficult decisions. I hope, as you move forward in your career, you’ll let the committees make the decision instead of self-selecting out of opportunities. There are enough obstacles in our career paths that we should work to remove the self-inflicted barriers we create to get in our own way.
I sincerely hope she took that message in the spirit it was intended because I do want her -- and everyone, really -- to be mindful of the self-inflicted obstacles we create. About a year ago, I called a colleague at another institution to ask why he wasn't applying for a leadership opportunity for which he was more than qualified. He read me a laundry list of reasons -- he was too young, he didn't have enough experience -- but none of them were real obstacles. He was making the decision for the committee rather than showing his interest and his worth. We talked about those self-inflicted barriers and how to remove them.
It makes me wonder -- if we all took the time to point out to others when they are creating their own obstacles, would it eventually become easier to identify it ourselves? Could we create a culture of care and empowerment to replace a culture of fear and impostor syndrome?