I’ve got a terrible secret.
I’ve always known that one day, I’m going to be breathtakingly successful. Which isn’t the sort of thing you’re supposed to admit as a woman.
I know this because I’ve listened to countless interviews with other successful women, and the one thing they have in common is that they never saw it coming. They never dreamed in their wildest dreams that they’d be where they are now. This was all so unexpected.
But me? I’ve always known, deep down in the pit of my stomach, that I’m destined for success.
Maybe it’s the dreamer in me, who’s always had a penchant for imagining what the impossible would feel like.
Or maybe it’s the performer in me, who’s always loved trying on other people’s lives.
It’s certainly the privileged middle class white girl in me, who grew up being told she could do anything and be anything because she was white and middle-class and thin and able-bodied.
Whatever the reason, my conviction has rarely wavered. At age 6, I performed musicals to my stuffed animals in preparation for taking the West End by storm. At age 8, I practiced my acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Now, at age 22, I imagine what music I will choose when I’m inevitably interviewed by Kirsty Young for Desert Island Discs.
Sure, there have been brief moments when I’ve wavered. 15-year-old me worried she was too outspoken. 16-year-old me thought she was too opinionated. 17-year-old me feared she was unlovable. 18-year-old me was too preoccupied with starving herself to death to think of anything much at all.
But overall, the certainty of my success is etched into my DNA just as clearly as my green eyes and blonde hair and high risk of breast cancer and diabetes.
And there are two reasons for this.
Firstly, my definition of success is constantly changing. Where 8-year-old me assumed success would be getting her debut novel published at age 16, 22-year-old me knows that success will come when I can quit my day job and write nonsense about my life and the world for a living. See, it’s easy to believe in success when you get to define what success is.
The other reason my success is so assured is because it has to be. Because if it isn’t, why am I spending every spare hour scrawling in notebooks and publishing blog posts and filing away rejection letters from publications? If I don’t believe – truly, madly, deeply believe – in my success, then what’s the point? I might as well not bother.
Because if I don’t believe in myself and my abilities, then no one else is going to.
Rich white men are exceptionally good at believing in themselves. It’s why they apply for jobs and promotions when they only meet 60% of the criteria while their female counterparts put it off until they meet 100% of the requirements. It’s why we’ve ended up with Donald Trump as President of the United States.
Women, on the other hand, are raised – either by their parents or the media they consume – to downplay their skills. No one likes a showoff; no one likes a bossy little girl. We’re told that success is something that men achieve, and women accidentally stumble across if they’re really good and really lucky and really thin and really white. And even then, it’s not assured.
When we raise our women like this, it’s no wonder that we don’t have more female CEOs. It’s no wonder we’ve never had a female President. It’s no wonder that the only female British Prime Ministers have been white Tories. Until we start telling young women to believe in their abilities, we’re never going to have enough successful women.
Of course, it’s against the patriarchy’s best interests to raise a generation of powerful, confident, self-assured women. The patriarchy needs women to believe they’re weak, because if they all realised their true power, centuries of oppression would come crumbling down.
So ladies, listen up. In a world that’s telling you to be quiet and humble and content with your lot, I’m telling you to believe. Believe in your worth; believe in your power – because once you do, you’ll be unstoppable.