Writing for Fortune, Kieran Snyder followed an anecdotally-supported hunch that women’s careers were often undermined by perceptions of abrasiveness. She collected performance reviews, functioning as a written record of perception, from men and women in tech — 248 reviews from 180 people (105 men, 75 women, 28 different companies).
Cheryl had never been backpacking before she set off on this hike, and yet she did it anyway. As an actress, have you had similar moments where you felt like you were in over your own head, signing on to do something incredibly daunting and barely able to believe that you could make it work?
Oh yeah, a lot. Half the time on set, I feel like I’m hanging on by the seat of my pants and I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. I basically have a new job every three months where I’m like, “Uh, am I qualified to do this?” And I find out during the process whether I am or I’m not. This film was really a gift, and it’s exciting to not know if you’re gonna make it, or if you’re gonna break down in the right place. Really interesting creative things come out of that process.
Maybe Polly Pocket is feigning modesty here, doing a ‘Stars: They’re Just Like Us!’ routine. But she seems sincere, perhaps because she also comes off as thoughtful, and that’s harder to fake. (“I’ve never seen a film like Wild where a woman ends up with no man, no money, no family, no opportunity, but she still has a happy ending.”) Starting a new job every three months sounds incredibly stressful, after all; you’d have to have the preternatural self-confidence of a Tracy Flick not to let it get to you.
Another high-profile victim of Impostor Syndrome: Hello Kitty.
We’ve all had that job evaluation, right? The one where you get ranked along a scale, and “Meets Expectations” is in the middle of the scale, followed by “Exceeds Expectations” and “No, Seriously, This Person Demolishes Expectations?”
When you see a scale like that, you know that in this company “Exceeds Expectations” actually means “Meets Expectations.” There’s a certain sadness in this reconfiguration of the language, in the idea that you have to figure out what the secret expectations are and then meet them so you can be marked down as having exceeded the original expectations.
Because, according to a new study in Social Psychological & Personality Science, people really do just want you to meet the expectations. They don’t actually want you to exceed them.
I read about this study in The Atlantic this morning, and it rang true like a bell. Of course people don’t really want you to go above and beyond; the social contract goes much more smoothly when everyone does what they say they’re going to do, and when everyone does what’s fair. Or, to quote Atlantic author James Hamblin:
Imagine you’re a kid with a cookie and a friend who has no cookie. What happens if you eat it all? Your friend will be upset. What happens if you give all of it away? Your friend will like you a lot. What if you give away half the cookie? Your friend will be just about as happy with you as if you gave him the whole thing. His satisfaction is a pretty flat line if you give anything more than half of the cookie. People judge actions that are on the selfish side of fairness. Maybe because we denigrate do-gooders, or because we’re skeptical of too much selflessness, the research shows that, as Epley put it, “It just doesn’t get any better than giving half of the cookie.”
“Are your parents upset by your liberal-arts degree? Show them this chart.” Says the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The 8th floor of a huge, high-ceiling building just north of Houston Street in Manhattan is a good place to work. My little chunk of it, a sizable room, comes with air conditioning, comfy chairs, a sofa, a whiteboard, a large mirror, an Apple device charging station, a yoga mat, several industrial-chic lamps, a coat hook, two windows that are each taller than I am, three unobtrusive plants, a magazine rack, and a conference table that can seat six. Ordinarily, the space costs $30/hr but it’s free to me from 1:00 to 3:00 PM via Breather, the room-for-rent service.
A psychiatrist I once saw operated in this very building. I dubbed him Dr. Worthless because I am uncharitable that way, especially after a break up. He tried to get me on a strong psychoactive medication and I resisted because my mother had been prescribed that very medication and reacted badly to it. He kept forgetting that I had said no, or kept pushing it on me anyway, and finally I lost my temper. “What, do they pay you or something?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he replied, without blinking.
He also told me I wouldn’t need the pills he did give me because the placebo effect of my carrying them around will suffice to keep my anxiety attacks at bay. The poets sing of placebos: Oh, a good placebo, who can find it? Its worth is above rubies. What would the copay be on an effective placebo? I’d pay rubies, sure.
Month 1 of DWYL: Year 2, is almost over. Year 2 is going to be even more scary interesting than Year 1 was, because Ben, my life partner and co-parent, has joined me in the quest of tying personal satisfaction to professional fulfillment. He has traded one FT, well-paying if soul-sucking job for a combination of two PT jobs, one of which is in what he thinks is his chosen field. I am still freelance. No benefits, no stability. This is, patently, crazy.
Award-winning cartoonist turned front-end developer Rachel Nabors writes for Medium about (NOT) doing what you love. Her amended advice: Don’t do something you hate for a living.
Michelle Lyons worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for more than a decade, and the decade George W. Bush was governor, at that. She witnessed the death of 278 inmates on death row. Pamela Colloff chronicles Lyons’ career for Texas Monthly. It is tough to read at points but, wow.
As workplaces get more casual overall, not just with regard to clothing, fewer and fewer things are codified, and more is left up to judgment. Just because there are no rules doesn’t mean there aren’t (wildly varying and complicated) expectations, and often unspoken consequences. It’s nice to be treated like a human and not be condescended to in that way, but people aren’t born knowing some of this shit, either.