Welcome to Notes On, the newsletter from The Imposters Club. Every other Monday we’ll be sharing what’s on our minds, what we’ve been loving, and thoughts & tips from our community.
SEASON 4 IS COMING SOON - and we need your help!
We want to hear YOUR voices and share them on the podcast. Over the coming weeks we'll be asking for voice note submissions of your experiences, thoughts and stories on different topics that affect our lives. So, we'd love to know: What does success mean to you? Send a short 30 second voice note including your name + age to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll feature as many as we can on the podcast!
Melissa: the shame filter
The other day I was with one of my close male friends who I’ve known for more than ten years. I was speaking openly about my period and realised that this wasn’t always the case; I used to put makeup on for when he came over, and ensured my legs were smooth or covered. I never- never- would have brought up bleeding.
His closest female friend was always filtered on and off screen, so what did he expect from the women he dated, or the women he worked with? I realised that by holding on to my own shame about myself, I was complicit in upholding unrealistic and unfair standards for other women. And if I was doing it, what were other women around me also not saying- keeping quiet, concealed, riddled in shame?
But the thing is, shame assumes wrongdoing. A failure so colossal that it deems us unworthy. Do hairy legs, having an opinion, periods, the menopause or poos make us unworthy? How the hell has our very existence become a taboo? This shame contaminates our sense of self into believing we are flawed and forces us to waste all of our energy “fixing” or hiding ourselves.
Shame gets us stuck in our heads. It’s that beginning part of a relationship, where sex is spent thinking about what your body looks like from every angle and how to appear sexy, rather than, y’know, actually enjoying yourself.
That feeling when your period comes and you don’t have any supplies and panic sets in. You’d prefer to load up your knickers with rough toilet paper than ask someone openly in the office and risk everyone knowing that you- in a shocking turn of events- are bleeding.
It’s not our fault. I was taught to shame myself. I was taught that a woman must be filtered in her skin, her actions and her attitude. Something I was- and if I’m really honest, still am- dedicated to: making sure I make the people (mostly men) around me feel comfortable, making sure I don’t discuss taboo topics, and, most importantly, making sure I look good enough before I speak.
We’ve been sold a lie: we’ll be beach body, office body, relationship body, leader body ready when we’ve “fixed” ourselves. And shame is the fuel that drives these “self-improvements”. My body isn’t good enough, so I must improve it; I’m single, so I must find a partner; my family pressure me about my career, so I must get a new job. But if we are powered by shame, we must assume that we are not enough as we are. And here is the problem: shame can be used to make us buy things. So they’ll keep on shaming us, because believing that we are inherently wrong is pretty lucrative.
I see how embarrassment turns into long lasting shame, which turns into withdrawal. We don’t enjoy the summer because our bodies aren’t good enough, we don’t ask that question in the meeting because we don’t want to humiliate ourselves. We don’t reach out for help because we don’t think we’re worth it.
As I get older the list of things I don’t give a fuck about gets longer. But wouldn’t it be great if even shame wasn’t something I had to fix, but instead something we weren’t taught? I want to unlearn shame so I don’t feed into the problem, but where to start?
I’ll start by talking to all my friends about every bodily function I have. I’ll start by dressing any way I god damn please. I’ll start by spreading my legs and speaking my mind. I’ll start by having conversations about anything on the taboo list.
And all of this frees up my brain. Frees up my brain for learning new things, planning world domination or simply thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner.
You will not rid yourself of shame by changing you. Shame will disappear when you realise you are enough as you are.
Sinéad: home safe x
TW: sexual harassment, sexual assault, mention of rape.
A year ago, in the last week of normality, walking home late, alone and in the dark. A woman across the road from me stopped and caught her breath; she was crying and had been running in her heeled boots. I crossed over to her and asked her if she was okay, if she needed me to call someone. She told me that a man- a friend of a friend- who had raped her a few years ago had been following her from the station. I walked her home to where her best friend was waiting, went home alone and cried in the corner of the sofa.
I’ve been thinking about her a lot this week. I’ve been thinking about all the times my friends have texted me when they got home safely. About all the times I haven’t felt safe as I walked, keys through my fingers, as quickly as possible through quiet streets. About Sarah Everard, Blessing Olusegun, Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman, and the countless women whose names we haven’t heard. The friends who never got the ‘home safe x’ text they were waiting for.
A spring morning in 2013, running through Victoria Park, listening to Florence + The Machine. A man carrying a heavy Sainsbury’s bag, handle straining, stepped in front of me and exposed himself. I darted out of the way and ran on, faster this time, until he stood in my way again a few minutes later, and again a third time. The darkest part of my mind lingered on what might have been in the bag.
Social media is alight with a fresh rush of exhaustion, anger and safety tips. My phone contains multitudes; I’ve learnt that if I press the right button enough times, it might save my life. I wonder do the men in my life know about these alarms.
In my therapy group I found myself breaking down in tears alongside the other women over Zoom, as we shared the fears and stories the news brought up for us. One of the men quickly became defensive, antagonistic, telling us that it was weird that we found it so distressing, because “it happens all the time”. We are distressed because it happens all the time.
2008, shortly after I first moved to London at 18, on a bus home one evening. It was busy, and a man sat beside me. I felt something touch my hand- looking down, I saw his flaccid penis; looking up, his face was inches from mine. I jumped up and moved to another seat; he soon moved beside me again. I stood instead, swaying with every lurch of the bus and holding onto the handle, my hand slick with nervous sweat and bile rising in my throat. The bus lurched again and he was behind me. I got off the bus at the next stop and waited in the cold.
I’m so tired. I’m tired that women share the terror, exhaustion and anger that this keeps happening. That we have to stay vigilant, monitor our clothing, report our status to each other. I get into Ubers and immediately share the details of the trip with friends. I remember how we reacted when that feature was announced: Oh good, this will keep us safer.
I realised that since the first lockdown, a year ago, I haven’t walked home alone in the dark very much. I’ve been locked away in my attic, safe from the predators lurking in the shadows. It took a fucking pandemic locking us into our homes to make us feel safer, and still it wasn’t enough. For so many of us, home isn’t safe either.
I’m sorry I don’t have a positive, uplifting thought to end this on. I’m sorry if you needed one; if you, too, are exhausted, angry, scared; if you, too, brush incidents like these off as ‘nothing happened, really’. If you picked up your pace, or your heart rate rose in panic, or you wanted to be anywhere but there, alone and frightened, I’m telling you now- in case no-one else has- that something happened and your fear was valid. I hope you never have to feel that way again.
I hope that you get home safe.
Things we’ve loved
Cooking everything from Anna Jones’s One: Pot, Pan, Planet - just as I was starting to get Oddbox fatigue, this glorious book came along. This week’s misshapen swede is magically transformed into a smokey swede carbonara. SKK
Buying armfuls of daffodils - as Mel once said to me, daffodils give you a really good return on investment. For £1 per bunch I’ve been filling wine bottles, water jugs and every receptacle I could find with bright yellow blooms, bringing instant sunshine to the gloomiest of weeks. SKK
The Club: Catri Barrett's tips for trusting yourself
Catri Barrett is a Certified Life Coach, Mindset Expert and Founder of The Curiosity Club. She helps womxn access the tools, knowledge and confidence to befriend themselves, each other and the planet.
Catri’s unique coaching programmes help anxious and frustrated procrastinators and perfectionists develop the mental and emotional habits to get out of their own way, stop self-sabotaging and quieten their inner critic once and for all. Here, Catri tells us her tips for learning to trust yourself.
To truly trust in yourself means to believe in your ability to change your current reality and get to where you want to be in life, whilst having the resilience to overcome any challenges you might be faced with along the way. Self-trust is knowing that you will be okay no matter the outcome and believing in the possibility that you are capable of creating the reality that you dream of, even if it seems completely out of reach right now. Trust allows for hope and hope creates space for motivation to keep going.
Cultivating this sense of self-belief can be challenging for a lot of people but the good news is everybody can learn to trust themselves more. Here are some practical ways to develop your self-trust:
1. Identify where you currently lack trust in the different areas of your life.
Spend 10 minutes journaling around the following questions:
When it comes to your work, relationships, and self…
Where are you currently lacking in trust?
What impact does this have on you?
How do you want it to change?
2. Catch your self-talk.
In the moments of your life when you’re not trusting yourself observe your self-talk and for everytime you tell yourself you ‘can’t’ do something, tell yourself 3 reasons why you can.
3. Choose trust in each moment.
Spend 3 minutes journaling around each of the following questions and practice speaking, doing and thinking each of them in the moments of your life when self-doubt comes in. Overtime, this can help to make new trusting mental and emotional habits within yourself.
If I trusted myself fully right now, what would I say and think?
If I trusted the outcome right now, what would I do?
Follow Catri on Instagram @catribarrett
The Curiosity Club makes the life lessons missing from our schooling accessible. Through educational, uplifting and, most importantly, interesting content, courses, podcasts and events, The Curiosity Club prioritises the awkward conversations needed to break taboos around topics like mental health, money and sex, and to share the stories that need to be heard so that no one feels alone in their experiences.
Listen to The Imposters Club
Yvadney Davis on Motherhood, Owning your Identity and Finding Beauty Everywhere
This weekend in the UK we celebrated the mothers of the world in all their glorious guises. Back in the last lockdown we were joined by stylist and founder of Mums That Slay, Yvadney Davis, who is one of the stars of the M&S Mother’s Day campaign. We talked through celebrating your identity, the need for more diverse depictions of parenting and why 2020 was the year she said ‘sod it’. Listen now wherever you get your podcasts.