I am an imposter
I don't know who you are, where you're from or what you believe in, but I am worried about what you think of me.
Will you judge what I'm about to share on the internet? Will you question my ability to run a business after seeing my vulnerability? Do you already question whether I'm good enough to be the boss of my own life?
I wouldn't blame you. It's taken me two months of silence as Pippa Says - the blogger - to find the courage to write these words.
I've been avoiding you. I've been tweeting about Netflix, instagramming the part of my life that's "picture perfect" (ahem, filtered) and checking into airports on Facebook. I've also been jotting down plots ideas, snippets of poems, and ghost writing for other people.
You see, around 6 weeks ago, I had a huge revelation - and promised myself that it would be the next thing I shared with you as Pippa Says.
But, I kept making excuses. I told myself I'd find a solution, then I'd share it with you all. Everybody wants solutions, right?
Well, reader, the solution's not quite as simple as you think.
You see, the truth is: I am an imposter.
My palms sweat as I go to shake the hands of an entrepreneur, in fear they might look into my eyes and see I'm not one of them. My throat scratches as I go to speak in front of an audience about how I became a business woman, in fear that they realise I'm not really a business woman at all.
My finger hovers between the 'submit' and 'cancel' button whenever I go to enter a writing competition, in fear that my work may end up on a "how not to write" chapter in a GCSE book. And my chest tightens at the thought of anyone seeing the "imposter" sign that drags heavily on my shoulders.
This burden, this secret, this lie is exhausting.
The hardest part - and the very reason why I'm shining the light on my sign - is being silent. I've been watching other women I greatly admire suffering from this very same thing and I've not said a word until recently.
Shame on me.
The first person I confessed to was a friend, who admitted to being an imposter too. I couldn't believe it. She's a strong, powerful, entrepreneurial woman whose respect I cherish deeply. How could she be an imposter? Her work is outstanding.
She questioned my confession, too.
I wonder if that's what I was fearful of: being told it wasn't true. I wasn't an imposter. Feeling trapped in a lie that noone could see.
There are many different statistics out there highlighting the number of people who call themselves "imposters".
Sheryl Sandberg, Emma Watson, Kate Winslet and Maya Angelou are just a few of the names in those numbers.
It's terrifyingly common in young women, and it can't be ignored that it's also very prominent in young men too.
These facts are not new, nor is the concept of "Imposter Syndrome". I'd been talking about the rise in Imposter Syndrome amongst young women long before I admitted that, actually, I had the same thing myself.
My own revelation came in an Entrepreneurial Spark 1-2-1 session, with what they call an 'enabler' - but, really, is more of a coach/guardian angel/devil's advocate/God send. Although it's likely they didn't realise what they were getting themselves in for, they gave me the courage to share how I was really feeling in the six or so months of running a business.
It started with a sentence: "I just don't know if I'm good enough to do this." And poured into a confession.
Their response struck a chord: "Pippa, you have Imposter Syndrome".
It's here that I should mention that one part of my business pitch is that young women are increasingly suffering from loneliness, isolation and imposter syndrome due to the lack of social structures in place for women in cities - that's why they need the City Girl Network.
Turns out, that's why I need the City Girl Network too.
I've read almost every article on pages 1 to 4 of the Google Search 'How to cure Imposter Syndrome', along with 'How to stop being an imposter', desperate to find a solution.
Every single article relates Imposter Syndrome to 'inner confidence', 'knowing your self worth' and 'getting rid of self doubt'. Trouble is, I'm still trying to figure those things out too.
So, for now, I'm trying something new: I'm embracing it.
I'm being honest.
The more honest and open conversations that I have on this topic, the lighter the "imposter" sign starts to feel, the less my hands sweat, the clearer my throat becomes and the braver I feel to push 'submit' on my stories.
If some of the most powerful people on the planet and the most inspiring people in my life can confess to being an imposter, then so can I.
So, reader, share your stories - no matter how heavy your sign may feel, or how worried you are that people will see you differently. Call a friend, tell a coach, or just let me know in the comments, or via email.
When you start to face the fear of being 'found out', you start to realise that - maybe - there's nothing for anyone to find.
All photographs in this post were taken by Dan Wheale on a recent holiday to Spain in the quiet village of Benissa. Ironically, that shoot was one of the rare few times I haven't felt like an imposter - but, hey, they fit the aesthetic. Kind of.