I still pretend I’m stupid despite decades of success, says Martina Mercer

I still pretend I’m stupid despite decades of success, says Martina Mercer

"On my own journey, I enjoyed being a single parent while cleaning caravans to pay the rent and studying for my degree in the evening."
“On my own journey, I enjoyed being a single parent while cleaning caravans to pay the rent and studying for my degree in the evening.” Image: Shutterstock

I realise this may not be the ideal headline to introduce myself, my writing and my thoughts as a First Women alumni but the past few months have brought this matter to a head for me in my personal and professional life and I’m hoping some, any of you, will identify.

I’ve had quite the soul searching experience as I tried to get to the bottom of this, and although I could have discussed it on another platform, I think First Women is the ideal stage to bring this matter out into the open. I just hope I don’t come across as hostile and bitter, as I’m anything but!

I’m the first to ask people not to call me lucky. We know that you and I have worked hard for our successes; we’ve worked when others have slept, we’ve typed with one hand while feeding babies and we’ve worn our sleepless nights like a shroud.

On my own journey, I enjoyed being a single parent while cleaning caravans to pay the rent and studying for my degree in the evening. On the side, I wrote blogs and found that this hobby soon spiralled into a successful career and business.

It was not luck, it did not land on my milk splattered lap and my scoured finger pads – it was earned. And like you, I still work hard everyday to ensure the opportunities keep coming and my name is met with respect in the digital marketing and freelance writing world.

Why then do I feel the need to apologise all the time? I apologise to the mums at the school gates, to the teachers at my children’s schools, to my childhood friends and to my distant family members. I play my success down and easily pull out the negatives from my life to fluff up our conversations, as I know bleating about my successes will be met with a frown, and a lot of derogatory stage whispers.

 

Am I the only one?

I didn’t start out like this at all. At first my little successes were met with whoops of joy but now I feel compelled to hide the brains behind the business and to present myself, in my personal circles, as a bit lacking in the thought department.

My friends and family don’t need to hear from a clever clogs and besides, they could do my job if only they’d had the same lucky breaks I had – it’s not fair to rub it in their faces by offering my advice or services.

I’m lucky in the sense that my children are my biggest fans and will wax lyrical to their friends and anyone who will listen. Instead of finding this to be an opener for a conversation with mums, I’ve found it excludes me from their little social circles. I couldn’t possibly have anything in common when I work in London half the time and prefer Chanel to Primark could I?

I’ve become very good at telling people I picked up bargains from a car boot for pennies.

When I have shared successes, such as weekends away and fancy hotel stays, they’ve been met with an inner turmoil from my friends and family. They obviously enjoy the perks but hate that they don’t get them themselves and so they pepper these moments with backhanded compliments and tales of how lucky I am to know someone who puts up with my no nonsense attitude and busy lifestyle – as if I’m some sort of booby prize.

It’s all quite alien to me as I’m rarely jealous of anyone. When I come across successful people in my professional life I smile and share their celebration. Strong women build each other up and look for opportunities. We know, as entrepreneurs and businesswomen that we’re the only ones responsible for our success.

Why then do I still, in many areas of my life, prefer for people to think I’m stupid?

 

About the author

Martina Mercer is the editor of Sunday Woman Magazine, a freelance writer and a marketing consultant to many big brands.

She has three children, from five to 15 years old, and spends her free time pretending to be a dinosaur, discussing politics with teenagers, cooking, gardening, painting and fighting intergalactic enemies with her children on the PlayStation.

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