The question I dread the most (apart from an enquiry into my love life), is, ‘What do you do?’. It should be easy to answer. After all, I’m a journalist. I’ve been one for 12 years. Yet, when faced with saying it, I stutter and mumble, because the truth is that, even after all this time, I don’t quite believe it.
I was not one of those people who always knew what they wanted to do. Between the ages of 12 and 22, I considered, among other career options: actress, vet, lawyer, banker, manager of a rock band and, briefly, hostage negotiator.
Somehow, I ended up working for a newspaper. I panicked. Everyone would be better than me. They’d see that I wasn’t good enough to be there. They’d know I was a fake and a fraud, and then they’d fire me, probably live on Periscope, just to rub in the humiliation.
Looking back now, I’m embarrassed I thought this way. After all, they’d hired me, they kept paying my salary and, most importantly, I was completely capable of doing the job.
But the fear that I wasn’t good enough crept in, and the only way I could deal with it was to play the role of an Über-confident ballbreaker. I put on that mask and didn’t take it off for three years. It was exhausting. And terrible for my love life.
The fear that you’re not good enough, and that you’re going to be found out, is a common one. Psychologists call it ‘imposter syndrome’ and it seems to affect nearly every woman. It doesn’t matter how qualified she is, put a woman in a big job, and she questions whether or not she deserves to be there.
When Hillary Clinton makes it to the White House (not if, I’m an optimist), I’m confident she’ll sit in the Oval Office and have a small, beautifully coiffured freakout. It takes determination to become leader of the Free World, but no secret service agent can take the self-doubt bullet for you.
Accepting that you’re going to feel like this is step one in learning how to control it.
The thing I try to remember, when the terror bubbles up, is that everyone feels the same. We’re all putting on masks and trying to fake our way through. If we want to get rid of the fear, we have to get rid of the mask.
By showing who we truly are, by admitting we might not be good enough, but we’re going to try our hardest, we turn our backs on the ‘shadowing’ us, and step into the light of our true selves. Even better, you free up someone else to do the same.
A world in which we’re all just being ourselves – wouldn’t that be wonderful?