Dear Current Boss; I hope you’re not reading this.
I lied at the first job interview I ever had.
The Chinese restaurant owner asked me if I’d be able to memorize the menu in my first week of serving tables. I didn’t even try. After three months of after-school shifts, I still couldn’t remember how many egg rolls came in the appetizer. (FYI: it was two.)
At my second job supporting myself through college at a kitchen store, I knocked a crystal salad bowl off the shelf while absentmindedly dusting, and told my manager it had fallen off when a customer walked by it.
I lied at my first big magazine job when the editor asked me if I was good at handling stress. I sucked at it. Still do.
I lied when I told my staff I was running late for work one day because my alarm hadn’t gone off. It had. I’d spent the morning in bed crippled with period pain so excruciating it rendered me unable to move, and I didn’t want it to call my ability to do my job into question.
I told a room full of people I had to excuse myself from a meeting to use the restroom at my second job as a journalist. Instead, I found a dark corner and hunched down, arms braced tightly around my legs, and tried to remember how to breathe as a panic attack started to set in. When I returned, I gave a presentation and everyone applauded.
In my first job as an editor, I took a week off, and returned with a medical certificate, explaining I’d had the flu. I hadn’t. I’d spent the past seven days in a psych ward being treated for depression after overdosing on painkillers and carving an intricate patchwork of self-inflicted battle scars up my left arm.
Most recently, I lied when a colleague asked me how I was, and I threw my head back and smiled an impossibly wide grin, announcing I was doing great. I wasn’t. I wasn’t even kinda-great. I was having one of the worst days of my life.
I’ve lied to every boss I’ve ever had when they’ve asked me if I’m “on top of everything”. I’ve never felt on top of anything. Not even a little. Not at all.
I lie from the moment the lift doors spring open and I glide into my office smiling and catching up on everyone’s latest as I pass their desks each day. I lie when I sit at my laptop and type away at email responses, simultaneously taking meeting requests and delegating tasks to my team like I’ve got this. I’ve never felt like I’ve got this. Or like I should be anyone’s manager. I’ve always felt like a fraud – anxiously awaiting the moment someone hurls an accusing finger at me like a sixteenth century witch, yelling “She tricked you; she’s not competent to do that job! Fire her!”
Every “Thank you!” or acknowledging smile I’ve given to every compliment I’ve been bestowed for my work has been a lie. Every ounce of laughter in the face of failure, every “It was just a mistake; I’m not going to beat myself up about it” has been an act. I don’t think I did a great job, and I definitely beat myself up about every error I’ve ever made.
Every time I’ve obsessively checked my phone during a stressful project or meeting and explained I was waiting for an important email, I wasn’t. I was willing my partner to send me only the kind of text they could send; a message that I could do this, that no matter the outcome of my day, they’d be waiting at the end of it for me with outstretched arms and a tight, silent hug that would make me believe, just for a few seconds, I wasn’t a total failure.
I lie once every month when I say I’m leaving an hour early to have a regular check-up with my doctor. I’m not. I’m seeing my therapist, to keep my depression and anxiety in check. But they seem like dirty words to use in the office.
I lie hundreds of ways to almost everyone I come into contact with at my job every day. Because I want people to believe I’m the strong, confident girl boss of Beyonce music videos and motivational Ted Talks who has her shit together. Who isn’t secretly hoping she won’t be found out – for using the restroom to cry some days when it all gets too much. Or maybe not quite having it all together. For wearing a three day-old bra and two weeks worth of dry shampoo because I don’t have time to look like a girl boss at the same time as trying to be one. Or for still feeling like a fraud sometimes – an old grocery store box at the ready to pack up my plastic pot plant and stapler so I can slink out silently after I’m shown the door.
And on those days I need to lie more than ever; not to my boss or to my colleagues, but to myself. I need to believe I’ve got this. Even when I really, honestly don’t.
So, if you’re reading this, bosses; I’m sorry for the egg rolls and the broken bowl and the time I ducked out of that meeting.
But don’t worry, it won’t happen again.
Because I’ve got this.
This post originally appeared on SHESAID.