Internship Diary: Overcoming Self-Doubt

A little over a year ago, I was holding my breath.

Constant clicks to my Gmail tab defined the 48 hours following my interview for an internship with PATTERN. I was not-so-patiently waiting to hear if I’d made the cut, praying that I’d impressed the woman wearing cat ears in a neon-lit office downtown. 

In my head, I replayed that hour over and over—so much so that I still remember exactly where I sat, who was there and what they wore. I distinctly recall one interview question, the kind that you always expect to hear but aren’t always sure how to answer honestly without making yourself sound inadequate or insufferable. 

“Tell us your biggest weakness and explain it.”

The answer was easy: confidence in myself and my capabilities. I’ve always struggled with feeling good enough, wrestling with imposter syndrome and dodging intrusive thoughts telling me I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. I’m a Virgo, so it only makes sense that self-criticism is an unfortunate tendency of mine. 

But sure enough, I got my answer two days later: I was in. I was ecstatic, but as I grew closer to the internship start date, my huge smile and overwhelming level of excitement started to dim. Insecurity crept in, and I began to question if I really had what it took or if I was truly capable of success. I had dreamed of this, and the thought of messing it up was sickening.

As I headed into the office on my first day, I prayed that the flashy fringe on my pink tinsel jacket would be enough to conceal the fact that I was shaking. By the time 5:30 hit, though, my heart rate had slowed and the tension in my shoulders had dissipated—mostly. There was no Miranda Priestly breathing down my neck, but there was a definite expectation that I was going to get sh*t done. 

Even though I didn’t feel the part, I tried my best to look it. Something about dressing like the kind of person I envisioned working at a fashion magazine made me feel more secure, as though my outfits were a suit of armor in my battle to fend off my insecurities. As long as I was draped in fun fabrics, I felt I was doing something right. 

From May until August, I slowly gained confidence. Each moment of self-doubt was countered by a compliment or encouragement, and though I kept expecting an angry Slack message detailing my inadequacies or to be let go unexpectedly, it never happened. I had been creating a narrative of self-deficiency inside my own head, and in the process, completely neglected to acknowledge my own accomplishments. 

Throughout the summer, I had done so much: interviewed kick-ass creatives, created social media content for the PATTERN Instagram, started a TikTok account and played a supporting role in a few editorial photoshoots. Hell, I even installed carpet into a window display—although I will concede that because I am not a contractor, I didn’t actually do too hot of a job.

My jitters gave way to joy, and what had at first terrified me ended up feeling natural, as though I had been born with a laptop in hand and a PATTERN lanyard around my neck. By the time my last day rolled around, I didn’t want to leave. So I didn’t. 

I arrived at the office this spring ready to take on the world, or at least the Indianapolis metropolitan area. This time, the only thing in my way was the difficulty of learning to navigate the Stutz building. I cannot even begin to explain to you how long it took me to find the elevator. God forbid the ever-present construction blocks my one learned route upstairs, or I might never make it back to the Pat Mag suite. 

While I considered myself a Pagazine—yes, that’s short for Pattern and magazine—vet, this semester presented its own set of challenges. It’s not easy having an internship, editing the student newspaper, working a part-time job and taking classes all at once, and the bags under my eyes can attest to that. But I had no doubt that I was going to make it work, whether that meant copious amounts of coffee or significantly less sleep than a 22-year-old girl should ideally be getting.

Recently, during one of our office fishbowl discussions, we had a conversation about how hard work takes grit: resilience; mental toughness; drive; passion; however you care to describe it. Something inside of me clicked, and I realized that in my mission to squash my fears, I had gained grit. Maybe I’d always had it, considering that no matter how terrified I ever felt, I never let fear stop me from achieving my goals. 

I still encounter thoughts of self-doubt, but I no longer let them plague my headspace. Discouraging voices in my head are much easier to squash or ignore now, and I am better off because of it. Because I give them less mental weight, they dissipate much more quickly and I’m left feeling lighter. 

To anyone that needs to hear it: You are your own worst critic. Seriously.

Just a few weeks after meeting my managing editor Cory, she told me “Katie, you have got to stop being so hard on yourself.” I had been beating myself up over a story that didn’t measure up to my mental image of perfection, but really, it was fine. 

So be kind to yourself. Trust yourself. And don’t ever let self-doubt take up an obscene amount of real estate. Even if you don’t feel like you know what you’re doing, that’s alright, because you won’t learn without trying. 

The Pat Mag is liberating. Creative freedom abounds, and although it can sometimes get a little stuffy, the office serves as a ~metaphorical~ breath of fresh air. 

My internship is coming to a close, and I’m holding my breath again. This time, though, it’s not out of fear. Instead, it’s anticipation. I haven’t had enough quite yet, and I’ll be counting down the days until I return as a PATTERN fellow.

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