I have spent the last few weeks running around like a headless chicken. I am back in college for the final year of my degree; I am working part time with a professional services firm; I am messaging Shane every twenty minutes with plans and ideas for the Grassroots Gazette and Equitas; I am recording for Stocks, Silks, and Saddles Podcast, I am riding my beautiful horse and I am trying to look after my mental health, exercise, sleep, and see my friends around that.
Although it may look like it, I am not writing this to say “look at me, I am just so busy and productive”. I am writing it because I went to a grad fair last week, and I walked around feeling so out of place because there were all these really impressive companies - the type of companies you dream of working for and I felt hideously out of place. It is worth bearing in mind that I already work for one of the big “dream” companies in a job I love, so clearly I am somewhat qualified to be there. I wanted to walk away from all the jostling soon to be grads seeking out employees at various stands, comparisons of working from home or in the office, debates over working in Dublin or down the country. I wanted to go straight home, put on a pair of jodhpurs and ride my horse.
You see, I am living a life that childhood me could only dream of. I have always been a planner, so I had planned out a career path that would hit all the milestones - one that would get me a good job in a field I love, working with an amazing team doing work that actually matters. I have gotten a taste of that in my current role and I love it. I am lucky to work in a collaborative team, where my opinion is considered and valued, I am given opportunities to grow and learn and I have gotten so much practical experience. Since the first time I saw my neighbour's ex racehorse sail over a gate with her on board to get to his stablemate, I knew I wanted to get one as an adult. I did one better though; I got a mare. I also get to be a part of positive change in the equine industry.
And yet, the imposter syndrome is overwhelming. I feel so lucky to be where I am, doing what I am doing with my life. I know I work hard to balance everything and make sure that I am achieving my goals, taking opportunities and putting myself in positions where I can learn, grow, and make progress, but I still feel like I have just had a really lucky run of it all. I still feel like at some point, the run of luck is going to stop and my talent and work ethic will no longer be enough.
I find it really disconcerting to be in crowds like those at a Grad event, because I find myself looking around, trying to figure out if I actually am the best person for the job and wondering if I got it, would somebody who is that little bit more talented, who has worked that little bit harder lose out? Would it be fair on them? In my head, I nearly talk myself out of contention based on the idea that in order to be seen to be contributing, I should be doing more than anyone else. So my solution is to try to be the person who works the hardest, who validates their selection by achieving results, learning what they can and adding as much value as they possibly can.
Many people feel similarly when it comes to their horses. A friend complimented me on how I handled a situation with a horse recently - and I found myself flicking through my mental Filofax to find a reason why what I had done could have been better, or wasn’t that special. Similarly, I have been told that I am doing a good job with CJ and Liffey and I immediately went through the people who helped - my farrier is very patient with Liffey so she stands well to have her feet done, or CJ has such a good work ethic and my housemate reads her really well and can give me advice. The traditional response to a compliment is to say “thank you” and yet, with all the pages in my internal Filofax, that seems to be the hardest one to find.
I feel this is partly down to social constructs. I have always felt that I needed to prove myself in every room - to not be the token woman who was picked for gender balance rather than talent. I have always been driven by a need to be able to stand over my work and to be able to explain why firstly, it was good enough and secondly, I deserved to be there. I feel a pressure to be able to do everything gracefully, to float through like a swan while being relentless in the pursuit of excellence and conscientious to a fault.
I know that many women feel similarly - we dash around with a to-do list as long as our arm, aiming to achieve these high standards, to be able to feel confident that we have excelled and achieved and added value to all those around us.
I know I am really lucky to be where I am, doing what I am doing. I am trying to learn to recognise the work I put in and celebrate my progress and hopefully, I will learn to take a compliment without going beetroot red and getting awkward. So being entirely aware that I am about to be hypocritical, I would love to see more women being kinder to themselves, celebrating themselves and acknowledging the work they do to keep the show on the road. Women are amazing…. we just need to get used to hearing and feeling it.