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“What is your greatest weakness?”: On Public and Private Flaws
March 14, 2021 at 1:00 pm EDT
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Fellow Interintellect Linus Lu invites you to discuss the different ways we choose to present our weaknesses to ourselves and to the world.
One of the most dreaded interview questions is “What is your greatest weakness?” You feel put into a double-bind: you don’t want to totally evade the question and seem like you’re hiding behind some banal talking point. But you also don’t want to raise your own red flags, and get totally booted out of the recruiting pipeline.
We live in a society that largely values authenticity—wearing our “true” selves on our sleeves—yet can simultaneously be unforgiving of faults. We feel the need to be real and perfect at the same time: a virtual impossibility.
So we decide upon—or sometimes even invent—flaws that we can present to the world, to illustrate that we are in fact human and genuine, without needing to reveal the deeper weaknesses and vices that we carry within ourselves that we feel are too dangerous to reveal to others.
Is this an unsustainable societal hypocrisy? Or is this how things have always been?
Should we have a society that actually accepts full authenticity—the good and the bad—or should society be more humble with its expectations, and acknowledge that it’s okay to have public and private selves?
Is this where a large part of imposter syndrome comes from: when people feel like they’ve attained success by burying their private faults with public ones, while everyone around them applauds?
Do flaws deserve to become public, and is justice and righteous judgment only possible with complete transparency? Or is it actually more moral and tenable to retain a space for private vices as an inevitable part of human nature?
Pre-salon reading list (totally not required, mostly just for inspiration!):
- Indeed.com’s advice on how to answer “What is your greatest weakness?”
- Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue
- Jeff Koons, Celebration series
- T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock“
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