How my guilt over being an impostor forced me to change my photo.
Will the real John Smith stand up? You’ve probably seen it before. You see someone’s photo on LinkedIn, you meet him in public, and notice that he barely resembles his photo. A bit older. Somewhat heavier. He’s an impostor.
We’ve all been there. People look significantly different than they’re portrayed on their LinkedIn profile, almost to the point where we don’t recognize them in a crowd of people (one reason to have a photo is to be recognizable). You feel like you’ve been duped…hoodwinked.
An Impostor I met
I tell a story to my LinkedIn workshop attendees about a time when I met the real John Smith (not his real name). Weeks before meeting him I saw his photo on LinkedIn. I thought that the man portrayed on LinkedIn was young and muscular, but when I saw him in person he was older and thin.
Whether out of spite or because it just popped out of my mind, I said, “John, you don’t look anything like your LinkedIn profile.” Shortly after, I noticed that his photo changed to one that was more recent.
The Impostor I am
I experienced the other end of the Impostor Syndrome when I was leading an Advanced LinkedIn workshop. I showed them my profile pointing out that I have a photo, and one attendee told me I look older in person than I do in the photo. Ouch.
I passed off being an Impostor by telling the group I hadn’t had the time, nor resources to get a professional photo taken. It still stung when I was told I look younger in my photo. Maybe it’s because my current photo is at least four years old.
What makes one an Impostor?
Four possible thoughts cross my mind when I encounter an Impostor.
- He is vain. This is the worst kind in my mind. Pride is listed as one of the 7 deadly sins. Vanity is a form of pride. As my father said, “We enter this world naked and we leave it naked.” As Popeye said, “I Yam What I Yam.” Why should we pretend to be someone different?
- He doesn’t realize that eventually he’ll be outed (as in my story). I’ve entered many a room where someone says, “Hi Bob.” Not caring much about etiquette, I respond by asking who they are. I learn that they’ve seen me on LinkedIn. It’s flattering, while at the same time a little creepy. People do recognize you on social media, so you will be outed, if you don’t update your profile.
- He doesn’t realize that honesty is the basis for networking. One point I make in my Advanced LinkedIn workshop is that those who don’t have a photo on their profile will not be trusted as those who do. To gain complete trust, don’t put up a photo of you in college when you’re 20 years beyond those golden years. What does this say about your trustworthiness?
- He isn’t concerned about branding himself. Your photo is a way to brand yourself in a positive light. It can tell people about your personality; it really can. My photo, old and new, I’ve always felt it tells people that I’m caring and nurturing, and, hopefully, wise. Others can brand people as authoritative, creative, serious, intelligent, etc.
Lately I’ve been struggling with the Impostor Syndrome. You see, I have a photo that is at least four years old. Since getting it taken, I’ve added some wrinkles and gained white facial hair. Oh, I’ve also gained some weight (gulp).
I’m no longer an Impostor
I’d like to say that I haven’t gotten my photo retaking because of financial reasons, but who am I kidding? I haven’t gotten it retaking because I’m vain. I don’t like how I look and don’t want my ugly self being part of my branding—I mean everyone looks so great.
So recently I had a colleague take the photo of the real me. He took it with his own camera in plentiful lighting, and he even blurred the background. I appreciate his willingness to do this, as well as his encouragement, but I’m not too fond of my true image.
Here’s why: the faults I mentioned above show brilliantly clear. His camera is of great quality. He has a steady hand. Basically there’s no excuse for why I look like I do. I guess I’m vain. One of the seven deadly sins. I’m doomed.
So what do I do? Do I continue to go with the older me, or do I present the real me (the photo included)?
If you care to weigh in, I would appreciate it.
First Photo: Flickr, Kathy Tarochione
Photo: Tim O’Connor