I don’t think it’s any big secret, but many of us suffer from low self esteem. It’s pretty much the one topic that’s been constantly brought up since I was in grade school: the importance of self confidence and self esteem. I suck at both of those.
All my friends are shocked to learn that I suffer from pathetically low self confidence. You see I have this one quality, this one great and terrible ability.
I’m not talking about telling falsehoods. I’m morally bound from perpetrating things that aren’t fact, but I am talking about knowing I’m a coward and stepping up to bat like I don’t have a care in the world. I have presented the world with a falsely confident person. My colleagues ask me how I give talks so well. I tell them the hardest part is keeping my knees from shaking too hard to climb up to the podium.
Do I have confidence? No. Do I think I’m doing a good job? No. I live in mortal fear that someone is going to knock on my office door and say “Ms. Ford, you’re a fraud, and we’re here to make sure you leave the department quietly.”
I got my degrees like everyone else. I got into the program like all the others (although I happen to know I was the bottom of the barrel, but that’s a whole other issue entirely). Still, I feel like I don’t belong. I don’t feel smart enough. I don’t feel talented enough. I don’t feel good enough.
When I took my comprehensive examination, I brought boxes. I was so certain I wouldn’t pass that I wanted to be able to pack up and leave as quickly as possible. I didn’t want to embarrass anyone by staying a minute longer than I needed to after I’d failed.
And then, I didn’t fail. I had all these extra boxes in my office and I had to do something with them. I was in shock. Now everyone says it’s completely ridiculous that I felt that way. What they see in me isn’t what I see in me.
I blame all those years of riding horses on this false confidence I show to the world.
With horses, they react the way you do. There’s a reason cowboys are stoic, and it isn’t that they know life’s mysteries. You just can’t let the horses see how scared you are. It’s just the way it goes. Imagine, for instance, riding along a winding road on a cliff side and a snake slithers out onto the track. Panicked horses don’t do rational things. They fall down, roll over people, jump off cliffs, and otherwise endanger lives. Horses will follow anyone who seems to be in control of the situation. A snake on the path is only scary to the horse if it’s scary to the rider.
And so I spent my time building up this façade to show my horse (he wasn’t that bright either, so I got to be pretty clumsy at first). Now, everyone buys it. My colleagues, my friends, my peers, my students, even my mom.
The stupid thing is that even though I am wracked with doubt and fear, I actually have done great things. I do have those degrees like all the others. I did get into the program. I have written novels. Sure, I wasn’t the top of the class, and my writing style needs help, but I have still done these things.
I’ve been faking it, I guess it’s time to start making it.