When I walk into a casting, I’m Emily the model.
“What’s your name? What agency are you with? How long have you been modelling?.” A lot of the time I feel like laughing at myself. Who do I think I am? Look at all these other girls; they’re so gorgeous, so beautiful. I mean seriously? I’m not a model! I’m just me, Emily, the little girl who grew up in a small town in Kent. Lankier and taller than all the boys in my year. I was an awkward teen. I vividly remember an exercise a teacher set for my class when I was 10. Write a poem about your partner sitting next to you describing them as an inanimate object. I was described as a tree.
I hoped this feeling of inadequacy would only last during the first few months of entering the industry. An industry so overwhelming, one without a guide, where all of a sudden, you’re instantaneously self-employed but have no idea what self-employment entails. Wait, What? Do I have to do my own taxes?
But the feeling didn’t fade. Some of you may have heard the term imposter syndrome. Psychology Today described it as, “a pattern of behaviour where people doubt their accomplishments and have a fear of being exposed as a fraud”. Many successful women have spoken out about this feeling; despite huge accomplishments. Amy Schumer spoke at Elle’s 22ndAnnual Women in Hollywood Awards saying that she feels as if she’s a tourist in Hollywood.
Often, I’ll have old school friends messaging me and strangers telling me that “I’m doing so well” and “They’re so happy and proud of me”. I always shrug it off, thank them, but deep down inside I conclude that they don’t know the whole story. I’m not doing well.
In the age of social media, it is becoming increasingly simple to open up Instagram and see everyone’s highlight reels. In the modelling industry, I think this is accelerated. Value, in that world, is based upon what your life looks like, what you look like, and well, how many followers you have. I see my girlfriends flying all over the world for jobs, having flawless skin, working out 5 times a week, and just killing it. Don’t get me wrong; this makes me so happy. Them doing well does not take away from me at all. That is fully their victory. But seeing a polished version of someone’s life provokes that little voice in me asking this question: why am I not accomplishing the same?
I have been in the industry for less than a year. In that year, I finished my degree as a journalist and jumped straight into the deep end by becoming a full-time self-employed model. I starred in my first TV commercial, appeared in stores, got to travel, be the face of campaigns and work with brands I’ve loved my whole life. When I remind myself of these facts and that in the first year of starting my business I have turned a profit which is mostly unheard of, I am happy almost shocked. As a beginner, I need to be kind to myself. I’ve hardly even gotten started and look where I am.
When I have some time off, I often get in a little panic. No one is booking me. Why is no one booking me? Where is my next paycheck coming from? But like all things, the world swings back around again and I find some work, or an opportunity comes my way.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember this is not my whole life; I am also other things. I am the girl who loves quiet yoga sessions in the evenings and longs for the long muddy weekend runs. I am a writer and the smiles I share with my sisters and boyfriend.
When working for yourself, it is hard to see progress when you’re working 24/7 and so I have found that it is integral to take time to reflect, set goals to measure progress and be grateful for where I am. Gratitude is probably the biggest life lesson I have taken away during this process. No matter how uncomfortable life gets if I can remind myself of how lucky I am to have everything I do and how badly I once wanted them, it becomes easier to be proud of myself.
This year instead of a New Year’s resolution, I have decided to be brave. Maybe that means faking it until I make it, working hard in the face of potential failure, and enjoying every minute I get on set, having my life documented, setting my own hours and seeing the world.
I may feel like an imposter, like Emily the model is simultaneously a part of who I am and not me at all. But the only way forward is to embrace her and me and keep moving forward.