I’m Exactly What It Says On The Tin

It’s Day Two of my Interview Panel Skills Training – everybody go yaaaaay – and today we are conducting mock interviews – everybody go boooo. I woke up with a sickly sheen of dread coating my body. For I despise days like this, where you are encouraged (forced) to partake in role play within the training environment. The only benefits are I don’t have to go near the office today.

Mock interviews involve us practicing the classroom skills we have been taught during the first day of the course. It’s the safe place where we can make mistakes prior to being unleashed upon the general workforce. Many embrace this opportunity but I’m the opposite. I cower in the corner of the room dreading those fateful words – ‘Your turn Stephen.’ The spotlight suddenly settles upon me.

it’s made worse in that I have to endure this ordeal with, and in front of, complete strangers who then, horror of horrors, provide you with ‘constructive’ feedback regarding your performance. I cringe, I cower, I place my hands over my ears and go ‘lah lah lah’ over and over again. For we hates it my preciousssss, we hates it. Have I ever told you I tend to exaggerate occasionally?But you get my drift.

Hate is a strong word, I know, but I hate these training exercises. Playing a role, donning a persona and acting it out in front of others. I might be asked to be a nervous interviewee, or an empathetic and supportive interviewer. There has even been talk of the interviews being video recorded. So I have to watch myself going through the ordeal. Ye Gods, is there no end to this madness?

I would far prefer to be out in the workplace, doing my job for real and just….well….getting on with it. Being real, being me. Thinking this thought yesterday as I was informed of what lay ahead, I suddenly stopped in my tracks. Playing a role? Donning a mask? Haven’t I been doing this for most of my adult life? For when it comes to fitting in with others and acting the social chameleon, I am second to none.

It’s only since I started seriously writing I have stripped back the layers of pretence and revealed the real me, warts and all. Fellow bloggers commend me on my honesty, but for years I wouldn’t have known the truth if it had walked up and slapped me about the face with a wet fish. I was a liar, a fraud, and especially online where I created a faux personality in order to impress and ingratiate myself with various social media communities.

The book I have written is fiction, an urban fantasy where supernatural forces of good and evil battle one another on the back streets of Belfast amidst its homeless community. Yet my central protagonist, Kirkwood Scott, is loosely based on me in my mid twenties. Within this fictional work I write more honestly about my struggles and flaws than I ever have on this blog.

So, think of me today as I mutter and mumble my way through mock interviews like the most miserable of fish out of water. I will be at my most awkward, socially inept to the point where people may pity me. But, at least they will be seeing the real me. The ugly duckling as opposed to the proud peacock who used to preen and strut around, playing to his audience . Today I’m exactly what it says on the tin.

Have you ever donned a mask? Played a role? Pandered to an audience?

How did you feel, both then, and looking back now?

48 thoughts on “I’m Exactly What It Says On The Tin

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  1. Awww! I want to give you a giant hug! I cannot imagine many things worse that the ordeal you wrote about (actually bungee jumping springs to mind). Perhaps (and I realise that giving advice is dangerous ground, particularly from Yours Truly) Perhaps the way forward, should you have to do this again, is when waiting with clammy hands and a turning stomach to say (out loud or otherwise), “Gosh and goodness me … Isn’t this fun! Isn’t it exciting! Darlings, I shall now perform for you!”
    Said with gusto and a metaphorical slap of the hand on the thigh, it might work … perhaps? If not, I could send you a twin pack of my ginger nuts, that usually helps me in dire situations.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ‘Flexing my style’ is the way one trainer described it during a similarly dreadful training session I recall. You wouldn’t want to be disingenuous, but you can’t just flatly tell someone what a total Nimod they are. I’m not real big on Shakespeare, but it appears “all the world is a stage’. I’m sure you will play your part well Stephen. Strength man. This too shall pass.

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  3. I too have written fiction with the main character loosely based on myself at a younger age. I found it to be quite therapeudic, and since it’s fiction, I don’t have to admit to any of it. 😉 I suppose I could even have the character doing what I would do if I were to go back to that time knowing what I know now. But then I usually just have her learn from her mistakes (faster than I actually learned) hoping that others can glean some wisdom from “Liz’s” life and not have to learn certain lessons the hard way.

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  4. Sending massive amounts of good vibes to you on this day of nincompoop-yness (my made up word of the day, you’re welcome!) We also hates days like this Precious, even more than we hates nasty chips. Ok, Gollum aside…

    As a BPD sufferer I also play the game of faces, wearing masks to fit whatever hell hole of social interaction I’ve been dropped into. For me personally, for this day of pretending, don a mask that suits. Make your new self fit with the intellectual level of your colleagues, (I remember having to do this on a training day for Tesco, I was the only one in my class with a degree, oh the shame) and observe your counterparts to learn your role until your turn arrives. This is crude but can be effective at blending in…

    You can do it, use the force or pray to the many-faced God, or if in doubt, always follow your nose!

    Luna x

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  5. You and I sound very similar (except for our past histories) as I absolutely hated those courses where you had to role play. I could never ‘act’ to save my life. I’m a true Yorkshireman – telling it like it is, even when I should really bite my tongue (you may even have noticed! 😉) Good luck with the rest of the course – maybe they are designed so that you actually enjoy going back to the office…?

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  6. Honest post, yes I think almost everyone has donned a mask sometime or other, or I must say we are playing a role 24*7 in our society.
    Nobody wants to see the real you, because real us is vulnerable, weak, stronger at the same time and also in need of love always.
    Who wants to be among such person, so to avoid being lonely, we end up wearing a mask and play a role.

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  7. Yes, I have donned a mask numerous times in life. Today will be yet another day that I do the same. I begin a new job today. As for the mock interviews…the real ones are difficult enough. Be strong!

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  8. I think to a certain degree we all have to “play the game” in certain functions. That may require wearing a mask or dampening down our true selves. I am always me but sometimes I practice more restraint depending upon the environment and circumstances. I feel good that I can be me and maintain control and navigate all different types of social circumstances.

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  9. I think most people have a mask on until at least 30, when we sort of get used to who we are. Hopefully. I played the role of sorority girl, Marine wife and mother, single parent, social hostess…. While some of those don’t change – my youngest *will* always have been a Marine – I’d never step back into those roles as I did. I’d do whatever as “me” and not what the social construct is.

    Just be you. Say “I’m nervous”. ANyone who goes into a job interview without a case of the jitters is not to be trusted.

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  10. Don’t know that I ever played a role – but I often wore a mask as a pastor’s wife. Smiled when I really wanted to cry. Listened to someone complain about a blister on their finger when I was fighting for my life from cancer. That kind of thing. When my husband retired he was so sad – and I hated it for him but I was saying “yay.! Now I don’t have to live in a glass house any more.

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  11. I think we all don masks from time to time in self defense of the arduous task called living. Sometimes our trust has been so broken it takes years to rebuild it, if not decades. I often play the clown in social situations to protect my soft underbelly. I don’t think I am unique or alone in this. I am more myself on my blog. I hope this exercise was not fatal and you will be back with us on the morrow. Best of luck my friend.

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  12. …Sorry; I got a bit hung up on your being a fish out of water but also being slapped by a fish. Maybe the slapping fish was also out of water?

    I’m always me, though usually behind a nice, unfeeling wall. Maybe the wall has spikes. They’re cactus spikes because you really only see them as you get closer.

    Whoa; I should write a blog post about this.

    Cactus fish.

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  13. I don’t have as much of a mask. I have been working on being more open with people. Especially when I think there is a misunderstanding. It is not easy. I love words and writing because being open this way comes more easily to me.

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