I’ve always been a pretty socially confident person. I’m good at small talk, I don’t find meeting new people scary and I like doing public speaking stuff. For someone who used to earn a living speaking on the radio, this is handy. However, despite what many people might think, for as long as I can remember, I’ve also suffered regular bouts of major self-doubt. You know that inner voice that lots of us have, whispering “you’re not good enough, give up now”? Well, at times, mine goes from a whisper to a thundering roar.
It’s a common misconception that confident, out-going people are confident ALL the time. In fact, some of the most confident people I know are also, privately, the least sure of their own abilities. Working in the media has put me in contact with plenty of uber-gregarious, confident types. These are the people you want to hang out with at the pub, because they’re funny and witty and full of the laughs. However, when the cameras stop rolling, some of these people haven’t actually been very confident at all. Privately, one-to-one, they can come across as pretty shy and self-deprecating.
Appearances can be deceiving.
And, like those cameras, nothing is more deceptive than social media. Looking at my Instagram feed a couple of weeks ago you’d never have guessed I was experiencing some crippling self-doubt and anxiety. At one point, that inner roar in my head got so loud that I started actively Googling job adverts, I was so sure that I had no future as a freelance journalist, blogger or general person-on-the-internets.
My problem, like many others before me, stems from a deep fear of failure. Throughout my life I’ve often been so terrified to fail (and sure that my failure was a fore-gone conclusion) that I’ve held back from certain situations. As a kid and teen, my parents would urge me to take that step into the unknown, willing me on, knowing that I wouldn’t fail and that, if I did, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing anyway.
As it happens, the driving test I tried to get out of – which my mum forced me to do – wasn’t such a disaster. I passed first time. And the A’Levels I thought I’d buggered up were also not so bad, even though I very nearly didn’t bother opening the results envelope. (When I was handed my results, I was directed to immediately see some guy in the corner of the room. I was so sure my envelope contained a set of fails and the guy was the college careers advisor sent in to help distraught students try to get a place at uni through UCAS Clearing, that I almost turned around and walked out the door. As it turned out, I got three A’s. The man was a reporter from the local newspaper.)
As an adult, this fear of failure has been both a help and a hindrance. I’ve suffered Imposter Syndrome so acutely, that I’ve not gone for jobs that I probably could have got, or pitched to editors who might have commissioned me. On the other hand, though, every time I do get commissioned for a magazine article, or get approached to work on any new project, it’s such a surprise I feel like I’ve passed my driving test first time all over again.
In this day and age, though, it’s not cool to not be confident. In an age of Instagram posing, Pinterest life-affirming-quote (“She felt the fear and did it anyway”) loving, self-promoting Twitter types, admitting that you often think you’re a no-good loser who should just give up and throw in the towel is decidedly unattractive. No one wants to be a needy mood-hoover, after all.
It’s also not a very helpful trait when you’re negotiating for project rates or pitching for new work (“Oh you want me to do a post with styling, social media promotion, full photo shoot, video and competition for £20? OF COURSE! That’ll be my pleasure” or “Hi there, can I write an article for your magazine? I mean, I’m not very good and I’ll probably mess it up, but you could always give me a go anyway. No? Totally understand.”).
So I do what many other secret self-doubt sufferers probably do. I fake it until I make it, and if I don’t make it I fake it some more.
I keep my crises of confidence under lock and key, hidden under a winning smile and a breezily happy tone, even if some days I feel like giving up and having a little cry. And why do I do this? Well it’s not just for the potential clients, magazine editors or people on Instagram. Actually, it’s not for them at all. It’s for my girls. I want my girls to see a confident mum who can take on the world without crumbling.
Because that’s the type of woman I want to be. And that’s the type of woman I hope they will one day become.
If this post touched a chord with you I urge you to read this post at Not Another Mummy Blog.