I was recently quoted in a Rolling Stone article about Belle Delphine, an Instagram model who takes a lot of inspiration from kawaii culture and Japanese style aesthetics. Belle has gained an enormous following for her risque cosplay, but recently went viral for selling jars of her supposed “gamer girl bathwater” to “thirsty gamer boys” for $30 a pop.
Skipping over how proud my parents should be on having a daughter who was asked to define ahegao to a mass audience, my favorite part of discussing Belle’s story was talking about her fearlessly entrepreneurial nature. She found a lucrative market and exploited it.
Good for her! If guys want to spend their money on her bathwater and she knows it, then it’s awesome that she’s making bank on that concept. But it’s undeniable that part of the reason this went viral is because people can’t believe she’d have the gall to do it. How dare she make money off of her cartoonishly desperate followers? How dare she claim ownership over her own sex appeal? How dare she make a profit over something so esoteric, even if it did sell out twice?
“How dare she?” is a line that has followed me internally through a lot of my career. It’s the question I can always picture on my imaginary critics’ lips. Nobody has ever actually said it to me, of course, but it’s always the first accusation that flies through my mind.
How dare she quit a perfectly good job to start a business that might fail? Even after six years of being successfully self-employed, I sometimes wonder if I did the right thing.
How dare she raise her rates or negotiate for higher pay? Every time I ask for a better price for a lowball payment offer or consider raising rates for writing or web design, I wonder if this is the time that I’ve finally gone Too Far and will lose a client, but it hasn’t happened yet.
How dare she charge a consulting fee? The “nice” thing to do would be to answer questions for free, not to charge a fee for an SEO analysis or to tell strangers emailing me basic journalism or blogging questions to check out my books on the topic.
I think the presence of an outsized inner critic is particularly common among the self-employed. You don’t get day-to-day feedback from colleagues or a quarterly review with your boss to gauge how you’re performing. You spend a lot of time throwing things at the wall, ideally as minimum viable products, in order to see if they’ll stick. Some of those ideas, like gamer girl bathwater, can be a little out there! I doubt even Belle realized how well that one would go.
The part of my brain that asks “how dare she?” is imposter syndrome at work. Imposter syndrome remains one of my favorite topics to write about because it’s especially pervasive among the people in my life who appear (to me) to be the most capable. Instead of listening to this inner critic, better to check in with your friends and colleagues about whether a practice is really as audacious as it might seem inside your head.
How dare you? Chances are you’ll learn that, if anything, you should dare more.
Other posts I’ve written about imposter syndrome: