Does my mouth look weird?
November 20, 2014 4:46 PM   Subscribe

How do you combat self-consciousness that translates into shifty eyes, strange expressions, stiff demeanor, etc?

Asking after a job interview that I had last week where I was nervous and just became an expressionless, stiff awkward person. More job interviews are coming up soon. I know that I am completely capable of being animated and decently articulate, but it seems to take the perfect combination of feeling prepared, confident (confidence is a weird thing for me that seems to fluctuate wildly), excited and at ease. And also it seems to take me not working myself into knots ahead of time and totally psyching myself out. I feel like if I am not careful, this is what will happen again. In particular, my thing the past week seems to be becoming hyper aware of what my mouth looks like - as I am thinking about smiling welcomingly, my mouth twists into a tight-lipped half smile and then I can't get it to relax and I worry that I am weirding people out.

Okay, maybe this question is just obsessing over the issue in a way that will make it worse, but if you have experienced something like this and have any tricks or advice for relaxing and being less hyper self-aware, it would be appreciated.
posted by thesnowyslaps to Human Relations (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I used to interview for jobs I didn't actually want to practice interviewing. [Sorry HR people]
posted by vapidave at 5:14 PM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

For now, could you practice with friends who could give you caring and honest feedback who are focused on facial expressions and overall tone?

In the long-run, I'd recommend trying improv or public speaking classes, like those through Toastmasters. Good luck!
posted by smorgasbord at 5:15 PM on November 20, 2014

This may sound terrible, but I've been using Tinder dates for the "comfortable with strangers" part of interview practice because I'm just out of a relationship and nowhere near interested in a new one just yet so the stakes couldn't be lower. They're easier to arrange than interviews (provided you're single or have an understanding partner) and you can try as many as you like until you start to feel comfortable. I know exactly what you mean about the hyperfocus on what your mouth is doing, I've had that for years. Just had an interview yesterday and it went perfectly, I was very relaxed and totally unselfconscious and I definitely credit that to meeting as many new people as possible in a short period of time.
posted by mireille at 5:46 PM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Before the interview, go in a private place and shake it out. Shake your head wildly, shake your arms, shake your hands, shake your feet. Physically loosen them. And make faces at yourself in the mirror! This is even something you can do in the bathroom at the interview place.

Remember that everyone gets nervous and can relate to it. Displaying your nervousness is far better than forcing a fake attitude or fake expression. I had a recent interviewee pull the fake sunny disposition on me in the hallway when the interviewee was being introduced around. And this person was Way Way Way Too Happy To Meet Everyone. It was unnerving-- far more unnerving than it would have been if it was just clearly nervousness or awkwardness. (If the person was nervous, I couldn't tell because they were just so incredibly fake I was kind of flabbergasted.) Give the people interviewing you some credit for being able to recognize that you are human. If you need to take a deep breath during your interview to calm yourself, go ahead and do it. You can even say, "oh man, I always get so nervous at interviews!" It might even provoke genuine smiling.

In your words, you think you may be weirding people out, but the thing is you don't know what weirds them out or what they're thinking. I'm sure Way Too Happy To Meet Me person thought they were coming off great! So focus on the interview content. Focus on getting to know them, on getting the answers to the questions you came up with when you were researching the position for the interview. If you feel you can't count on showing your best self with your expression, demonstrate it with your interest in the job, interest in the mission, with your preparation, and with your verbally expressed happiness to be there.
posted by zennie at 6:04 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

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