THIS WEEK: on FONMU (fear of not measuring up)

Frankie:
Having a bathtub breakdow

I’m standing in front of the hallway mirror, legs astride, hands on hips, chest puffed out.

“Err, what are you doing?”

“I’m Power Posing, Ben”

“Right. You look ridiculous. Bye”.

I do look ridiculous (or at least I did, this was a few weeks ago) but it was a small price to pay for what, Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk assured me, would boost my confidence in high stress scenarios – which that morning happened to be writing 1,500 words on tote bags. On reflection I can’t say it helped hugely (the 5pm glass of wine, however, did).

Power posing, self-help books, mantras –  when it comes to getting a grip on my self-assurance,  I’ve tried it all. But alas, at 31 years-old I remain a fully signed up member of the FONMU club. Weirdly – or maybe not so weirdly – I only suffer from the affliction in my working life. I can happily walk into a party full of strangers or go on a blind date without so much as a second thought. But when it comes to career stuff – urgh. I have spent years in offices (and latterly at my dining room table – aka my home office) waiting for someone to find me out.

Imposter syndrome. I didn’t hear this phrase until my mid twenties when I already had several confidence crises under my belt (one of which involved wailing down the phone to Charlie whilst I was sat in the bath – don’t ask – trying to finish my University dissertation. Poor Chaz). But yes, imposter syndrome is what I have – just call me Tom Ripley.

It’s exhausting (mainly for the people around me – I require a lot of cheerleading), at times it can be debilitating and ultimately it makes no sense at all – people continue to employ me, which would suggest i’m not totally shit (unless they’re just being nice. Are they just being nice?!).

But what I’ve come to realise about imposter syndrome, or FONMU, or whatever you want to call it, is that most people get it. My brilliant designer friend gets it, my equally fabulous ex-colleague gets it, apparently even Michelle Obama gets it. And although this doesn’t stop the confidence wobbles from surfacing, it does normalise the whole thing somewhat.

Who knows, maybe that constant FONMU feeling isn’t such a bad thing. Might it even make you better at your job? I mean, if Michelle Obama can, well, be Michelle Obama whilst feeling crap about herself then there could be something in it. I’ll tell myself that the next time I call Charlie from the bathtub.

Charlie:
Behind schedule

My oldest friend – the one I’ve had thelongest, not the eldest – will be the first to have a baby. Sitting across from her at dinner, I remembered riding our bikes up and down our street avoiding those yellow plastic squares on thepavement; practicing our times tables; painting rocks for her sister’s birthday (the sentiment was there). And now she’s nine-and-a-bit months pregnant.

Until this point, babies have been therealm of older colleagues, school friends who I’ve lost touch with – and who live outside of London – and independently-wealthy uni friends who were on the property ladder years before the rest of us (I still can’t reachthe bottom rung). But this baby will start a new chapter. People tell me that couples disappear into parenthood for a while, just as they do at thebeginning of a relationship. New parents don’t spend their Friday nights in the pub, or go on girls’ holidays with their still-single friend. 

I’m not too old, I know – 31 is not too old. The wedding years aren’t quite up yet; there are still a few couples to go, and a few other single women, too. But I feel like I’m missing my window. When the idea of having a baby seemed like a far-off future, Frankie and I joked about coordinating maternity leaves: long lunches, each of us with a baby in a backpack. But although we never had a schedule in mind, somehow I’m behind it. Frankie is getting married in October; I’ve yet to find a plus one.

Weddings are supposed to be a great place to meet people – or at least that’s what your married friends will tell you. But by the time you hit your mid-twenties anyone even close to eligible is taken, and by 31, you’re left with theguy whose dick is nicknamed (dicknamed?) after a spiny dinosaur,the only-recently-legal cousin, and thegroom’s friend with mouth chlamydia: those are the single men on Frankie’s guestlist, and who knows if they’ll still be single by then.  And the dating pool seems to be getting ever-shallower. The men offered to me by dating-app algorithms seem to either be 27 or 37. There’s no in-between: all the in-betweens are in relationships, though some of them will re-emerge after a bad break-up (and with a lot of baggage) in time to jointhe 37 club.

I spend my Friday nights swiping past men who like Taekwondo, those ‘not looking for anything serious, winkyface’, the ones who leave theheight box blank, those whose bitterness radiates from the phrase ‘not into shallow girls or time-wasters’. The ‘commitment’ apps are even worse. Apparently many, many men look like thumbs, and they are all signed up to Guardian Soulmates. 

But no more excuses. I have six months to find a date for Frankie’s wedding – not the one, just a plus one who I can split the cost of the hotel room with. That should be plenty of time, right? 

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