A Case of Overcompensation
Writing is funny. Sometimes I’ll have weeks’ worth of ideas for articles and I can’t wait to get them on paper. Other times I’m sitting down, staring a blank screen and wondering if the mouse has stopped running on his wheel in my head. This week I’m stocked full of story ideas but they are all being preempted by a story that my wife told me at dinner tonight.
Earlier this year my wife was working at a major international bank. Not too long ago she got a great job offer from BCBSFL and came back where at all started. We learned recently that the bank backfilled her position with a person they recruited from BCBSFL. I suppose I’m biased, but I think it’s fair of me to tell those of you who don’t know my wife that it would be very hard to try to step into her shoes. She’s one of the most effective people I’ve ever seen in the work environment. I actually felt a little bad for the guy.
At least, I did. Tonight I learned that this person has been telling lies at the bank about phony interactions with my wife from the past when they both worked at Blue Cross. For her part, my wife didn’t recognize the name when she heard who was backfilling her old spot. However, apparently this person has been claiming to be the person that they would send my wife’s work to in the old days to make sure that it made sense. He’s been implying that my wife wasn’t as trusted as he was in this imagined past.
My first issue is this. If you’re going to lie about something to try to sound like a big shot, don’t you think that it would be wise to come up with an example that actually makes sense?
Anyway, I couldn’t help but write about it because it is a great example of a behavior that I used to possess and find uniformly appalling – Overcompensation. Put simply, we overcompensate when we lack confidence in ourselves. We feel the need to tell tall tales, elaborate stories with ourselves as heroic lead. I used to do this when I wanted people to believe I was cool, even though I knew that I wasn’t.
Most of the time this is harmless, a victimless crime. The only person who suffers is the person who is overcompensating. But bringing someone else into the story is always a bad idea. Instead of a simple overcompensation you find yourself saying things that make the other person look bad in order to make yourself look better. That’s no different than the bully tactics that can be found in playgrounds all over the world.
I’m afraid it won’t work out well for this guy. Remember, my wife’s shoes are not easy to fill. It’s one thing to come into new work environment and struggle a little bit. It’s harder when you’re trying to replace someone who was a great performer. It’s hardest when you try and replace a great performer while talking about how much better you are than they were. I am confident that justice will be served when the rubber hits the road in this situation.
There’s really only one way to stop trying to overcompensate for your shortcomings. You have to build real confidence. Real confidence is the difference between the brash, loudmouth boxer and the quiet, confident martial artist. The boxer is masking insecurity. When he loses a few times he will try to back away from his statements. Eventually he’ll try to hide and pretend it never happened. On the other hand, it’s not the end of the world when the quiet, confident fighter loses a match. Winning or losing a fight doesn’t define him. Instead, his thoughts, decisions and actions define him. Knowing this he holds his head high.
If we want to live life to the fullest we have to become more confident. We can do this by working hard, making good decisions and being honest and forthright. I don’t try to hide it when I fail at work or do something wrong. I admit it freely. I’m confident that I made the best decisions I knew how to make at the time. I’m confident that I did the best that I could. I also know that I will study the situation, ask for advice and learn how to succeed on the next go around. Because of this, I’m confident that there will be a next go around for me. The person who overcompensates might not be so lucky.