If what I’ve gathered around the world, throughout my 27-year existence, is correct, I have more confidence than the average person. Especially the average woman.
And that terrifies me.
Because, yes, I parade around a stage singing my heart out, wearing pretty dresses for a living. And yes, I wake up early to run 10k in the morning because it gives me endorphins, which make me happy when I look in the mirror, because no, I do not have space in my life for self-loathing or body shaming. And yes, one day I decided that writing, and sharing the positive parts of the world, brings me a special kind of joy, so I made a blog and I’m f*cking running, sprinting, skiing and triathlon-ing with it. But no, confidence isn’t a persistent presence in my life, like the freckles that have painted my skin for the past 27 years. In fact, just this week I learned how fleeting confidence can be, and it scared me into writing this little piece of my heart.
To add a dash of context, my venture into blogging and writing is about six months old. I’m practically a newborn. But like everything else in my life, I delved in with 150% energy and zero patience, determined to become successful as quickly and efficiently as possible. So I started to put myself, and my fledgling blog, out there in my small circle of friends and family. With every post I found a bit more of my voice, and better yet, figured out how to navigate the formatting and un-fun design quirks of blog templates. After a month or two, I reached out to one of my favorite travel blogs, the Travelettes, inspired by its all-female team of writers sharing their voices around the world. And with a bit of blind faith, backed by the countless hours I’d poured into my own blog, I landed a trial spot as a contributing writer for the Travelettes, the same blog whose words had pointed me in the right direction, all over the world.
I wouldn’t say I was a writer, but I was on my way.
I say this in the past tense, like it’s part of some long-lost childhood, but this was me just a few months ago. This matters, because last month, thanks to the support of one particularly badass friend and photographer, Chloe (follow her on Instagram @lyttlelens), I was contacted about a freelance writing job. And “AIDA Cruise Ship Star” Emily, the girl who’s always positive and confident, the girl who emerged from the New York theater scene unscathed by the seemingly constant rejection of a life in show business, the girl with a cool blog (if I do say so myself…) and a picturesque life in Portugal, totally froze. Not only did I freeze, but I began to walk back on the six months of my life I’d dedicated to writing and learning the skills that would earn me spots like, oh I don’t know, a freelance writer. I wasn’t sure I could do the job, and the not-nice part of my brain started coming up with a litany of reasons why I would fail. And to be honest, when I, thankfully, accepted the job, I took comfort in knowing it was for a person I’d never met and had no strong connection to, so if I failed, I could pretend it never happened.
What kind of messed-up rationale is that?
Allow me to answer my own question. Because this writing assignment about Artificial Intelligence in the world of recruiting, quite possibly the most random topic I’ve ever written about, led me to some unexpectedly inspiring corners of the internet. You see, while I was researching how AI is used by big companies and blah, blah, blah, I found some startling statistics about women in the work force. At the end of the day, men and women can have the exact same qualifications for a job, but the men are plastering words like “command” “lead” and “success” across their resumes, and landing the job almost twice as often as the women. That’s right. It’s been scientifically proven that women downplay their talents. And of course we can examine the rhyme and reason of the world we live in, which leads women to act this way. But instead, I took this information to be a small gift, in the form of a mirror. I am a part of this problem. And if you’re reading this, there’s a 50 percent chance you are too.
It’s a confidence problem that, at least in my case, is rooted in fear. Fear, deep in the heart of a person who always calculates her decisions to ensure a pleasant outcome, a person who likes to keep the peace, a person who is always known for being positive, and most importantly, successful. The fear of failure can shake the confidence of anyone. And I recently found wisdom in a not-so-unexpected place: Michelle Obama’s new book “Becoming.” You don’t have to be political to appreciate the key phrase she often speaks to herself in uncomfortable situations.
“I am enough.”
It’s not the deepest phrase in the world. But it’s enough. And so too, are we, in whatever it is we’re setting out to become in this world.
It turns out I needed Michelle more than I realized. (We’re on a first name basis. She just doesn’t know it yet. Luckily I wear a nametag every day…) Just this week, I was offered a dream blogging stay, during my upcoming trip to Indonesia, and instead of celebrating, I felt a dark cloud of insecurity rushing over me. You see, once I booked the plane tickets for my holiday and was riding the “traveler’s high”, I contacted a few surf camps and resorts, explaining my voice and mission as a writer, and asked if anyone was interested in collaborating. Because that’s what bloggers do. And as Michelle says, “I am enough” to be like the other bloggers. Mind you, I also name-dropped the Travelettes, as their reputation and the fact that they think I *might* be enough, helps my case. And on Monday morning, eagerly waiting in my email inbox, starred as important (thanks creepy, gmail algorithms), was an email response from a luxury surf retreat, inviting me to stay as a professional blogger. And even as Michelle’s pearly-white, book-cover smile stared at me from the corner of my shelf, I panicked. How could I possibly accept this offer? I’ve never done something like this before. I’m still a newborn! Newborns don’t get fancy things because they might break them. I mean, I thought maybe I’d get a free surf lesson out of my carefully drafted email campaign. As a virtual nobody, never did I ever think I’d land something of this scale. Slowly but surely, the fear of failure came crawling back in, wriggling its nastiness into my thoughts.
I realize, at this point, that this might be annoying to read because, yes, I’ve been offered an incredible treat on an island paradise. And if all goes according to plan, I will write and photograph my tushy off, trying my utmost to do justice to this gorgeous retreat (and I will subsequently post an instagram with a happy, carefree caption, like it’s nothing). As I type this, an email draft, graciously accepting the offer, is lurking at the bottom of my inbox page, but I haven’t worked up the guts to press “send.”
Because I’m scared.
Scared of not living up to imaginary expectations I have put upon myself.
And this is just one specific example of the demons I, a fairly confident person, am struggling with, when in fact, all over the world other women (and men) are battling their own inner opponents as well. Why can something completely imaginary destroy the joy that lies beyond taking a risk? It’s not fair. But we have the power to change it.
Maybe it isn’t job related. Maybe it’s a passion project that hasn’t yet been given wings. Maybe it’s learning a new language. Maybe it’s booking a trip to a country with an unglamorous name. Whatever it is, I’m here to be your Michelle. And I’m asking you to be the Michelle for somebody else. Because we’re selling ourselves short, and that’s downright sad. No, I’m not as established as other professional writers and bloggers out there. But I’ve got a blog that some people read and a passion as fierce as my fiery-red hair, and I’m pretty sure that qualifies as “enough.”
If I’ve learned anything in this six-month blogging venture, it’s that opportunities of all sizes are absolutely everywhere. And, with some hard work and preparation, if you go fishing for a small one, you might just reel in a very large bass. And you have two options. You can either release your opportunity back into the water, because you aren’t a big fisher, or you can awkwardly reel in your hefty opportunity and stand proudly beside it, knowing that you’ll figure out what to do next. Because you are enough.