Our insecurity blanket

Our insecurity blanket

The first time I raised my hand to pitch an idea in a newsroom, I began with four to five disclaimers before even getting to my actual point. It went something like this:
“Sorry, I know this is probably wrong, or someone already said it, or it’s probably stupid, and I don’t know if it makes sense, but ________.”

And then I ended it with, “That probably made no sense, sorry, I don’t know.”

Let’s analyze this for a second, because chances are, you have either heard yourself and/or others do this same self-deprecating, questioning speech many times. And you’ve probably heard it, unfortunately, from a woman.

This type of speech is common for women in professional settings. (This brilliant WashPost article, for example, rewrites famous quotes, “the way a woman would have to say them during a meeting”. ) Not only ingenious and entertaining, but also poignant and telling.

Throughout my life, whether in a classroom, at a party or in an office, men typically make their voices known more loudly, more assuredly and more often than their female counterparts. Of course that is a generalization, and I’ve met my share of confident, outspoken women and shy, uncertain men. People of all genders suffer from insecurity or are just not outspoken. And yet women have been proven to be less confident and less likely to speak up than men, especially in a professional environment.

I read this article recently on this phenomena known as “The Confidence Gap”. While I wish it had gone more in-depth about the social and psychological aspects, overall it provides an excellent analysis of the difference between the confidence levels of men and women and, more importantly, why it exists.

To summarize (even though you should definitely at least peruse that article) there are a number of aspects that may play into this discrepancy. One example begins in the schoolyard.

Firstly, girls are taught from a young age that they are rewarded for being “good girls”: quiet, neat, calm. They are rewarded for being this “perfect” child and learn to link their self worth to this praise. Boys, on the other hand, are excused by a “boys will be boys mentality”. They are expected to be rowdy, loud and messy. While generally this means that boys are scolded more often than girls, it also means that when children are criticized, girls take it more to heart. They internalize those feelings, attributing them to a problem with their deeper selves, while boys often learn to blame external factors.

This is just one example (shortened and simplified quite a bit: read the article!!) of the way in which boys and girls are socialized to see themselves a certain way and to act based on the expectations of others. Many girls, then, learn that being quiet gains approval while speaking up can lead to judgement and, even worse, mistakes. Many boys learn they are rewarded for displaying “masculine” qualities such as competitiveness, outspokenness and assertiveness. (Both sets of these expectations cause problems for all gendered people; this particular post is simply focusing on women.)

And so, after years of sociological and psychological imprinting from a society still steeped in sexism, we reach the later part of our lives when we may be entering the professional world.

Many women, even unconsciously, have a fear of speaking in front of others because they’re terrified of being wrong. For me, even if I was 99% sure I knew the answer in class, I bit my tongue. If I had been thinking of a great idea for a week, it rarely crossed my mind to actually bring it up to someone. Even in large groups outside of work or class, I would often edit everything I thought about saying before actually saying it and then, if it wasn’t perfect, kick myself for speaking up at all.

Of course, not every woman does this, and many men may experience the same problems. Additionally, part of this problem can come from anxiety and other disorders, which impacts millions of people, no matter the gender.

And yet, as I’ve said, women have been proven again and again to suffer from this intense confidence-anxiety more often than men.

This manifests itself in a number of ways. Many females, even those that meet all of society’s requirements for being “successful”(wealthy, powerful, intelligent, ect.), second-guess themselves, constantly self-critique, underestimate their abilities and downplay their own role in their successes.

When I first started thinking about this, I kind of scoffed, to be honest. I don’t do that. I thought. And just like that, I was taken back to a moment my sophomore year during my first news reporting class. My professor told me that my article, which was assigned as a project not meant for publication, was brilliant and well researched. She told me to take it to the local newspaper (the good ol’ Missourian) and look into getting it published. I remember telling a friend and hearing him exclaim how great that was and complimenting my work. I told him that there was no way I was going to turn in that story, I had just gotten lucky and stumbled on that information, and I was definitely not the most qualified person to write the story. And I really believed that. (And no, I didn’t end up publishing the story or going anywhere near the Missourian until the next year).

During my multimedia class, my professor told me I had a gift for photography. I had been told I was bad at art my entire life, and convinced myself I had just magically stumbled across good shots. When a coworker told me I was good at interviews, I laughed and said no way, I talk too much.

Even writing this, it feels like bragging, like I should throw a disclaimer in here to make sure readers don’t think I believe I really am good at all of those things. Which proves just how entrenched this low confidence attitude really is, that even when you recognize it, it’s still hard to shake.

I’ve heard so many of my female friends and coworkers say these same negative mantras about their own work. I just guessed well and got lucky. I was in the right place at the right time. I’m not really good at this, I shouldn’t be here. I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m not as qualified as someone else. I don’t, I’m not, I can’t, I shouldn’t…

And so on and so on with this unsure, insecure, second-guessing… well, bullshit, to be frank. This isn’t modesty. This is taking all of our talents and successes and badass-ness and burying it underground beneath excuses and inaccurate attribution. This is undermining all of our hard work and natural gifts. This is taking our incredible natures and throwing it in the universe’s face. This is dooming us to never fully grasp not only how great we are, but how great we can still become.

Because it is not ridiculous at all to say every woman I’ve met has had an enormous amount of potential. I know women who are incredible doctors, artists, mothers, CEO’s, journalists, athletes, friends, teachers, photographers, writers, listeners, talkers… And I bet half of them don’t even know it. And they should.

So I have a message for them (and for myself).

It’s time to stop starting every sentence with an apology. It’s time to stop ending every thought with a disclaimer. It’s time to stop attributing every success to some external factor. It’s time to stop telling ourselves we’re not good enough or we don’t belong here. It’s time to stop second-guessing ourselves.

It’s time to shed our insecurity blanket.

It’s time to be confident.

Today was my first day at my internship at Politico in Brussels.

When I had an idea, I called over a coworker and said; “Hey, here’s my idea.” And that was it. And it was a good one.


Photocred: Katealia Lilly


the 33 steps of writing as a jschool kid

the 33 steps of writing as a jschool kid

I never thought I would miss writing essays in high school, but I really do sometimes.

Not necessarily the having to write about whatever topic your teacher picked for you or the introduction and claustrophobic structure, and I definitely don’t miss bulleted outlines and intext citations. But I do miss the simplicity and straightforward-ness of the high school essay.

In high school it was like:

  1. Outline
  2. Introduction
  3. Thesis with three things you’re gonna try and say
  4. Three body paragraphs with an opening sentence, and then the things you’re trying to say
  5. conclusion
  6. switch rough draft with closest friend in class who won’t be too mean to you
  7. hand it in and hope for the best

Journalistic writing is more freeing, but it’s also, for lack of a better word, floopy.

This is my writing process now. And what a wonderful mess it is.

  1. Try to think of something. Literally anything.  0955e45edbe384905496c2969d96e45a
  2. Pitch fourteen ideas to editor.
  3. Get every idea shot down.spit on your neck fantastic
  4. Gather yourself from the puddle you are on the floor and rethink everything.
  5. finally pitch an idea that sticksrachel cheering
  6. realize what you’ve gotten yourself into                    nooo
  7. cry ross cry
  8. do Katherine Reed’s checklist so she won’t yell at you and it actually is pretty helpful
  9. break for coffeecoffee
  10. do a lot of research                                  laptop
  11. start calling everyone you know          phone
  12. lose your voice and get carpal tunnel from typing
  13. drink some hot tea and keep typing and calling
  14. look at the seven pages of interviews you have
  15. cry                                                                     ross 100% done
  16. take a nap and probably dream about getting kicked out of the jschoolsleep.gif
  17. gather yourself and start organizing everything. somehow. maybe.
  18. get cranky with everyone around you dont touch the computer
  19. try really hard not to tell your photographer what to do because you know they know what they’re doing but you’re a control freak and need to just take a deep breath and count to ten and not be an assholedont hate
  20. get something that resembles a story
  21. show your editor and listen to them talk like thiscryyy
  22. learn you did about two thousand things wrong find out your
  23. no matter how nice they try to be, convince yourself you are trash and everything you touch turns to trash, but try to be chill about itim fine
  24. talk to a friend/parent/attentive animal who probably doesn’t understand half of what you’re saying because you’re talking really fast and using words like “DSLR” and “nut graf” but the point is you just need to get it off your chest so thank you i think i know what i need to do now go about your business mizzou squirrelpull yourself together
  25. drink coffeecoffee 3
  26. look up after three hours and find something actually pretty decentexciteder
  27. show your editor and it kind of feels like they’re doing this to youjoey pushing ross
  28. redo half of it, fact and accuracy check, aka back to the grinder for another three hours and everythings starting to sound like this eh blue blah floo
  29. probably show your editor again and fix sixty more things stop the madness
  30. press submit and breathe for thirty seconds until you realize that you just wrote something that actual human beings are going to read and what if they don’t like it? and what if you got something wrong? and what if you didn’t say everything that needed to be said and what if
  31. just calm your shit and take a nap.      nap
  32. do it all again the next day.
  33. and most importantly: love it the whole time because somehow, there’s still nothing else you’d rather be doing. hug

What we’re not supposed to say

What we’re not supposed to say

Every week, I feel like I’m on top of one thing and falling behind on another. It’s as if by putting my energy into one aspect of my life, I have to take it away from another. Everything can’t just be good at once – if I’m going to be great at one thing, I’m going to suck at another.

I think at least a few other people feel this way, and yet we’re not supposed to talk about it. We’re supposed to effortlessly do everything, or at least make it look like we are. But I don’t want to do that. I want to be honest about the fact that this whole life thing is hard and I’m still trying to figure it all out.

phoebe(me, trying to figure it out)

Two weeks ago, I had two stories published, got multiple interviews done and was in the newsroom more than I was in my bedroom. I felt so good about that, like I was accomplishing something in the field that I want to dedicate my future to.

(Here’s one of the stories I was particularly happy with.)

I slacked off, however, in terms of being healthy. My physical health is extremely important to me. I ran cross country and track in high school and continuing to be active in college has been a point of pride and happiness for me. Between being constantly in the newsroom or working on stories, however, I let myself skip workouts and meals, not get enough sleep and overall put my physical health on hold in exchange for journalistic success.

I also put my social health on hold. I would get 100 texts and not read any of them. I ended up missing half of a dinner with two of my friends who were in town because I had to finish a story on my GA shift. The next day, I was so exhausted from the week that I opted out of a night out with friends. I just wanted to curl up with Netflix and not think about anything.


Last week, I got back in the workout groove. I ran and went to the gym, ate healthy and felt great about my body. I also tried harder to spend time with others. I hung out my friends’ apartment and watched movies with my boyfriend. I stayed up late, woke up the next day motivated to work out and have a fun day, and almost completely put journalism on hold.

While I was focusing on health and happiness, physical and social health, I did far less in terms of journalism. While I still got some base research done and two interviews for my current story, I could have done far more if I hadn’t been going on four miles runs and making mid-day mall trips.

Today, I’m looking back on the past few months and really thinking about this back-and-forth game of either giving everything to journalism or setting it aside to get my bearings on the rest of my life. On one hand, this does mean that during some weeks I have given 100% to the newsroom and knocked out stories. But it also means that on the other weeks, I am constantly reassuring myself “I did so much last week, I should give myself a few days off,” and pushing journalism to the back of my mind.

Amidst these three main concerns are, of course, all the other demands of life. Other classes, my job, planning trips home to see my family, paying bills, applying for state residency and what feels like a million other things.

I also miss my cat. A lot.

Featured image (i mean, look how cute she is)

Pervading through all of this is a constant, gnawing anxiety that I’m not doing enough. Or that everything I’m doing is good enough.

When I’m running on the trail or doing squats, in the back of my head I’m thinking “I should be working on a story.” When I’m watching a scary movie with friends, I’m thinking “Why am I not working out?” When I’m in the newsroom, I’m bothered with the thought that I’m not appreciating my friends enough and ignoring their texts and calls.

the moon knows

The most frustrating part of this is that I’m only in college. I haven’t even started an actual career yet. I don’t have a mortgage, children or even my own phone bill yet.

These are all things I’m not really supposed to say.

I know that for others, there are even more things they have on their plate and my own struggles are ridiculously easy compared to so many people. I still have parents who I can fall back on financially if I really needed to, I have supportive people in my life and I’m not failing anything. Beyond that, I have two amazing parents, great friends and my physical and mental health.

familia (look at the cute little family)

That doesn’t change the fact that sometimes, when I’m running around trying to do absolutely everything, I just want to give up on it all, go to my bed and stay there for at least a year.

Having all those good things, however, keeps me from hiding under the covers forever.

In general, I think I should be more grateful that I have so many things in my life instead of being frustrating by that fact. It’s a blessing to have so many aspects of my life that I care about so deeply.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re also feeling overwhelmed and like life is a roll of the dice deciding what you’re able to focus on each day, you’re not alone. So here’s to surviving and trying to figure out some kind of balance, someday, maybe.

youll need these

My deepest fear: The diary of a self-proclaimed Mess

My deepest fear: The diary of a self-proclaimed Mess

I am a mess.

I do not have my life together. My friends know me as absent-minded and mildly irresponsible: I’m often late, usually frazzled, and always thinking about five different things at the same time and not coming to a conclusion about any of them. Currently, I have a parking ticket that’s 14 days overdue and a pile of clean laundry that’s been at the foot of my bed for a week and a half. I forget about appointments, assignments and adult duties in general (rent, taxes, grocery shopping, ect).

Evidence: Me trying to make brownies


I am also a perfectionist.

Paradoxically, I’m obsessed with getting everything right. I procrastinate my assignments because I always need it to be “the perfect moment” to do things. I’m always running around like a crazy person because there are a dozen things I want to do in a day and do them perfectly.

Evidence: Me trying to take the “perfect” selfie (some might call this narcissism. not perfectionism. I would argue they’re almost the same thing.)


I’m that person who lays awake at night and goes over and over everything I did that day and dissects it: What did I do well? What did I suck at? What can I do to be better? Then, in classic Kaley form, I forget to set an alarm, oversleep the next day, miss a class, and obsess over that for a few days.

As a defense mechanism, sometimes I’ll convince myself that I actually don’t care about anything. When I’m nauseous with anxiety all day because I raised my hand in class and said the wrong answer, I’ll shut down that part of myself that needs to be perfect. This usually results in a few days of shoulder shrugs, three hour long naps, and a general sense of blasé about everything in general. Once I’ve messed everything up with my counterfeit carefree-ness, I suddenly snap out of it and the whole thing starts over.

And so I keep doing this dance, bouncing between perfectionism and casual indifference. The steps are well rehearsed and completely out of tune with the world around me.

This 100% impacts my journalism.

I wrote a story on Thursday about an anti-racism rally that happened on campus. (The experience itself was fascinating and an amazing opportunity, but that’s a post for another day.) I reported the titles of the main speakers of the rally; one as a president of an organization and the other as the graduate assistant of another. I had checked LinkedIn and Facebook for both of the titles, as the speakers themselves had decided they were not commenting to the press that day. The story was published.

I got an email about two hours later from one the organizations that said one of the speakers was the former president, not the current. Shortly after, I got a similar email about the other speaker, who I was informed was no longer the grad assistant of their group.

The corrections for the story ran, and that should have been that.

But for me, the expert at overthinking, it wasn’t.

I’ve been increasingly upset with myself for the errors in my story. When they first surfaced, I berated myself severely (and very melodramatically), telling myself I would never be a real journalist and I’m horrible at fact checking and I was probably going to be yelled at by the entire newsroom, and my entire life was falling apart, etc etc.

While I’ve calmed down over the past few days, the basic knots-in-my-stomach, sinking-feeling-of-dread-and-regret have remained. And while my brain immediately went for the “I don’t care about anything, f*ck it!” mentality, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to have to shut down all my passion every time I make a mistake.

One of my favorite poems begins:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

I think that this may be part of my problem. I am afraid that I am inadequate. But I am far more afraid that I am actually powerful and capable and gifted and that I’m somehow going to screw all of that up.

My own ambition scares me, because I know that I’m never going to be happy with myself unless I feel that I have met that ambition head on. I can’t be content unless I feel that I’m fulfilling my duty to myself to be the best I can be.

But, by constantly obsessing over being perfect, I’m limiting myself just as much as when I’m obsessing over being apathetic.

Perfection is not attainable. That’s a very difficult concept for me to grasp. There is no ideal, no magical “me” that I will somehow get to if I try really, really hard.

We’re all already amazing and capable, we just have to accept that about ourselves. That doesn’t mean we get big egos and lose our humility, that just means that we don’t obsess over this search for the perfect self that doesn’t exist. We abandon the search and focus on the work in front of us, on adventuring forward instead of staying in the same place and digging for a nonexistent treasure chest.

This is way easier said than done, of course. But it’s also important to try and do.

In typical Kaley fashion, I want to end this post perfectly – and I have no idea how. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? There is not one, perfect way, and it’s okay to have no clue what that would even look like if it did exist.

And so, I’ll leave you with this quote from Rebecca Wells: “Good enough is good enough. Perfect will make you a big fat mess every time.”