Over analyze, over correct, over prepare, rinse and repeat. That is the standard I hold myself to and yet I still feel timid when I walk into a room where I’m expected to direct a scene I’ve written and dreamt up entirely on my own. Still, I stand there like a deer in headlights, scared of saying the wrong thing, scared of burdening the other people in the room if I mess up.
As a Media Production student and aspiring TV writer who is writing and directing my own work for the first time, I find myself apologizing far too often. In my head I know exactly what I need to say and how I can get it done, but the minute I feel overwhelmed by the expectation that everything rests on my shoulders, I crumble. Suddenly I’m reduced to a meek girl, too shy to say what’s on her mind. The more I’ve thought about this, the more I’m reminded of other times in my life where I put incredible pressure on myself.
At the end of last semester, I stopped by Career Services because I was exploring the option of a summer internship. I had already been there for a previous appointment and was given the personal task of sitting down and finding internships I might want to apply to. I came back with only two. Even the two I chose seemed out of my reach.
“Why don’t you think you could qualify for these internships?” Ariana Mollers, Assistant Director of the Career Development Center at Flagler.
I had no answer.
I even had some experience with the tasks named in the internship descriptions, but there was no guarantee that I could be everything they were asking for in an intern. The chances of failure seemed too great and so I quit before I gave myself the opportunity to try.
Turns out, I’m not alone.
A close friend of mine sent me a jarring statistic the other day from a Forbes article: “Men apply for a job when they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100 percent of them.”
In that moment something clicked. I was guilty of this on more than one occasion.
I give in to this constant pressure and higher standard I believe I have to fulfill, that I have recognized in other women in my life: my best friend who will take down an Intstagram post seconds after posting it because she doesn’t believe it’s good enough, my sister who spends hours practicing piano only to convice herself she’ll never be good enough, and even my mom, who in my eyes, has always been Wonder Woman.
Still, there is this lingering cloud of hesitation that affects her to this day. Finally, at the age of 55, three children later, she’s starting a bridal business, something she has wanted to do for years and years, but still questions if she’ll be successful.
The more I think about it, the more instances of self-doubt I can trace back to and I ask myself, why? Where does this self-imposed roadblock stem from? The answer is… It could be a number of things.
Maybe it’s feeling the constant need to apologize when something doesn’t go as planned, as if it is your job as the woman – to be the voice of reason and organization like all the motherly characters in sitcoms or female sidekicks in action movies.
It could be the feelings of taking up too much time and space – space that was not meant for you, the woman who is lucky enough to be allowed in the male-dominated room. It could also be the desire for approval from those in charge – the male bosses, professors, professors who call your female-centered scripts “girly.”
It could be all of those things combined with the societal pressures of being a young woman, coupled with the subtle undermining of a woman’s intelligence and power when she’s still referred to as a “girl” at the age of 21.
Maybe, it’s because I know that along with my dream to become a writer for television, the writer’s room is still a male-dominated space.
The entertainment industry has always been driven and run by mostly men. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, 96 percent of programs had no women directors of photography. 79 percent had no women directors. 77 percent had no women editors and 77 percent had no women creators.
Not to mention that across platforms, women made up only 40 percent of producers, 35 percent of writers, 30 percent executive prodcers, 26 percent of directors, 25 percent of editors, and 5 percent of directors of photography. If I feel intimidated by applying for internships or directing my peers in my own work, I can only imagine how I’ll feel trying to work my way up the ladder, knowing that as a woman in a room filled with men, I’ll be under a microscope.
But the truth is, things are changing, gradually. Also according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women working in critical positions like creators, directors, writers and executive producers, have reached historic highs.
There is a shift happening. Progress seems to move at a glacial pace, but the question remains: When do we stop blaming ourselves for this perception of women as the weaker sex we inherited and start pushing past it?
I don’t think we can hide behind all the harmful stereotypes anymore. We have to make an effort to silence the echoes of self-doubt and allow ourselves to fail every once in a while.
In 2019, women of all generations are given the unique challenge of flipping the narrative. We have more privilege than women did even 10 to 15 years ago and yet we are still our own worst enemies.
We can be empowered by hashtags and movements all we want, but I don’t think the work it takes to apply this same empowerment to our every day lives has been addressed. It’s hard and it’s scary, but we have to challenge ourselves.
It has to be done little-by-little, so we finally give ourselves room to fail and room to grow.