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On Confidence

Last weekend, I was invited to speak at The Book Taster. Obviously my first thought upon being asked was that someone must have dropped out. I cried all over my friend before I went onstage, because I didn’t want to follow Kate Sawyer and Sue Fletcher, who are both accomplished, intelligent, capable women with many successes under their belts while I told a story about how Kevin Bloody Wilson signed my mum’s tits and I’d not packed enough pants.A lot of people told me that I deserved my place on the stage. A lot of people said a lot of very wonderful things. I wish that I could believe them. I wish I didn’t have this force field around me that stopped compliments from landing but let in criticism, let in failure. I wish I could dismantle myself and reboot. Since coming home I’ve spent some time thinking about how I got here and aside from growing up very working class and being branded as a ‘no hoper’ there are a couple of key incidents that affected me.





When I first moved to Brighton, I got a temping job working as a PA to a woman called Helen and she was horrible. I can see that now, but at the time I was 23, anxious, poor and a terrible people pleaser. Helen asked me to get her lunch from Pret every day, which was a longer walk than my break allowed. I had to do her kids homework, work out how add her contacts into her Blackberry phone (that I’d never seen before).  She was Miranda from The Devil Wears Prada but she wasn’t even well dressed. She asked me to type up her letters. At the time I didn’t know what (sp) or (sic) meant and so added them in to the final copy because I was too scared to ask. She laughed at me. Properly laughed. The Monday before Christmas, she texted me to come in early. When I got there, she sat down and told me she was firing me. I never even asked why. I went outside and cried in the street. I still drive past her building sometimes and shame hits me like someone turned the air con on full blast.


I got another job. Marketing assistant. I had to post out leaflets and set up the stand at events. My boss told me I needed to wear a tight top with the logo on. I did because I hate myself. He stood on his phone while I lugged in a TV on wheels. I was pregnant. Too soon and too scared to tell anyone. I dragged plinths in from the van and prayed. I remember going out for a meal with the sales team and being told by one of them to pay for it. I didn’t have more than £20 on me. I was told I should take out a credit card for those sorts of things and claim it back. Then I was told to go around the exhibition in my nice tight t-shirt to drum up business. I didn’t take out the credit card.


 After having my baby, I went back to work part time. One day, midway through updating the intranet with ‘getting to know you’ posts, I was called to the boardroom where I, and all the other part time working parents were made redundant with immediate effect. We were allowed to go back to our desks to get our things and then we were to hand in our passes and leave. I want to tell you I kicked over the desk, set a small fire with the white papers I used to print and staple and took the MD hostage. I wish I could tell you I fought.


I didn’t realise until looking back, how much this trauma has stayed with me. I didn’t even like those jobs. Imagine then, my fear that my dream career could be over any second. I feel such shame when I remember my shock at being let go. How blind, how ignorant I was. How everyone knew but me. How stupid I must have looked, working on pretend projects to keep me busy. Even now my cheeks heat. Even now I want to headbutt the wall.


Add to that the time my only friend dumped me on the first day of middle school for the cool gang (no you can’t sit with me anymore- I had to join the weather club so at lunchtime I had somewhere to go ‘what IS the atmospheric pressure today? Can’t wait to find out!’) and that time I sent someone a card because their dog got run over in front of them but it was Valentines Day so they thought I was hitting on them. Or that time I worked as a kitchen porter and the chef used to put chicken bones down the back of my shirt and sing ‘Stupid Girl’ by Garbage to me (and I carried on working there) and you can maybe see how I got where I am today.


What I am trying to say is this, it’s self-preservation. I can’t lean in too close. I need to stay on my toes. Historically, the things I love have been whisked away and I have been left, exposed, and confused. I have been that horse than carried on running long after the rider fell off, thinking everyone was cheering me on, not booing me off. My confidence has been gouged away, like a paint stripper on old walls.


I am not that friend looking at herself in the mirror, bemoaning her appearance for compliments. I am not trying to be disingenuous. I have to keep all success, all praise five feet away, where it cannot touch me.

 

 

1 Comment


suzanneburkill1962
May 17

Oh Ericka the past path that you trod was paved with shameless stones,their shame not yours.

It’s not difficult to understand how that has shaped your perception of yourself.However let me tell you that you are utterly deserving of your success,the seat on that stage is yours because you earned that little spotlight.Your books are like you,funny,frank and transparent,with

heartfelt words and real flawed people who get in your heart and stay there.

I am proud to have found them and know you🌸

Stay you xxx

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