Gillian Harvey: Why (like many women) I’m terrible at blowing my own trumpet – and how it’s holding us back

Read the latest column from on the trials and tribulations of trying to have it all from freelance writer, author and mum-of-five Gillian Harvey.

Ever feel as if you’re just not good enough? If you’re a woman, chances are the answer’s “yes.”

Recent studies have shown that about 6 in 10 women suffer from Imposter Syndrome and – as no-one actually asked me – the number’s probably even higher.

My first experience of this condition came at 23, when I was in my first teaching post. Fresh out of college, I was barely older than the pupils I was teaching (and at 5’2”, quite a bit smaller than some).  

I turned to face the class, saw their expectant faces and felt completely mind-blown that these little children actually believed I knew anything that could benefit them.

When I first started writing for a living in 2012, I felt as if I’d won the lottery (okay, the prize was small, but still…). And even now, apart from the odd moment of confidence, often induced by a sugar or wine-rush, I feel a bit shy when describing myself as a journalist or author.

But although I think this self-doubt will always linger, I’ve promised myself I won’t let it hold me back.

It was actually watching the TV show ‘The Apprentice’ that made me realise how far people could get by talking themselves up. Whilst many candidates fail spectacularly on the show, they often have amazing back-stories of six-figure salaries based on more hot-air than talent.

Watching the programme and feeling – as we all do – that I could definitely do a better job when selling sausages or pitching a half-baked product idea, made me realise that if I wanted to be seen, I had to be willing to talk the talk – however I felt inside.

I broke into journalism via the back door – cold-pitching ideas to editors until I finally got a ‘yes.’  Then slogged away for years, building up my CV.  Most of the time, I felt like a fraud – but my emails were confident, and I tried as hard as I could to big myself up.

I’m terrible with rejection. A perfectionist by nature, I’m unlikely ever to be completely satisfied with anything I do.

But whenever those nagging voices of doubt start shouting too loudly, I silence them.  After all, if I don’t promote myself, who will?

Instead, I close my eyes, steel myself and jump in at the deep end.

Because if I don’t, I’m pretty sure someone else will be more than happy to take my place.

Gillian Harvey is a writer and mum-of-five. Her debut novel Everything is Fine is out with Orion in May 2020.