The Imposter Project

Louise McSharry

Presenter, Journalist, Writer

It’s safe to say we have a huge girl crush on Louise. A true Renaissance woman; Louise is a 2FM DJ, beauty columnist for, freelance journalist and published author.

What do you like the best about your work?

I believe that shared experience is our greatest currency as human beings, so I love the parts of my work through which I can share my own experiences or facilitate someone else in sharing theirs. When I share, I invariably hear from other people who have been through similar things which can be very healing on both sides. It means a lot to me when I hear from people who’ve felt heartened or less alone when they’ve heard me admit to struggling with various elements of life, from the most basic to more extreme things like my experience with cancer.

Tell us a little about your career journey.

I dropped out of college after first year, having started an arts degree in UCD. I didn't feel in any way connected to the course, but had done some work on the student radio station which I absolutely loved, so I decided to do everything I could to get some work experience in a radio station.

I eventually managed to get myself a three-week placement in Newstalk, which had just started up, and ended up staying there for several years working as a researcher and occasional producer. I then moved to Galway to work on the launch of iRadio, where I ended up presenting The Breakfast Show for the first two and a half years of the station’s life. I was made redundant from the station when i102-104 and i105-107 merged, which I found extremely difficult. In 2010, I began presenting occasional shows for 2fm, before presenting Weekend Breakfast for two and a half years, and The Louise McSharry Show for the past five years. Over the last several years opportunities to write have presented themselves, and now it's an aspect of my career I’m focusing more on.

I also enjoy public speaking, hosting events and am hoping to work on some television documentaries in the next year or so (I worked on a documentary presenting my experience with cancer in 2015).

“...when I wrote my first column for the Irish Times Magazine I felt very insecure about what I was producing because I couldn’t believe it could possibly be good enough to be in a publication I’d been reading my whole life.”

How do you find your Imposter Syndrome manifests?

Fortunately, my Imposter Syndrome is dying down significantly these days, but it's something I used to struggle with a lot. Really any time I got an opportunity to do something I hadn’t done before it came a-knocking. For example, when I wrote my first column for The Irish Times Magazine I felt very insecure about what I was producing because I couldn’t believe it could possibly be good enough to be in a publication I’d been reading my whole life. Even once I’d submitted it I was convinced it was poor, despite positive feedback. I still get it a bit with things I write for The Irish Times. I have it built up so much in my head as a publication that I can’t seem to believe that I’m good enough to be in there, despite having done it many times now!

Most recently I’ve struggled with Imposter Syndrome when it comes to DJing in live scenarios. It’s always something I’ve wanted to do, and I have done it a handful of times over the years, but always felt like I didn’t belong or like I deserved to do it. The voice in my head says that because I can’t mix, or I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of house music or the technical specs for whatever decks I’m using I shouldn't be there.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to DJ at Lumo Club and I nearly said no because I was scared. I have made a rule for myself now though that I can’t say no to things out of fear anymore. I can say no if I don’t want to do something, but not if I’m just scared. So I said yes. I had myself worked up into a right tizzy before I gave myself a good talking to and reminded myself that a) all people want is a good time, and I know how to play music that people will have a good time to and b) there are plenty of shit men who know less than me DJing clubs every night of the week. That night was amazing. The room was packed for the duration of my set and people were dancing their heads off. It was such a joyous experience, and now I want to do lots more. The fact that I could have deprived myself of that experience via Imposter Syndrome is really sad.

You wear so many hats - DJ, beauty columnist, journalist, author – do you find it manifests differently within these fields?

The one area of my life in which I am totally confident is radio. The first time I sat in front of a microphone I felt totally at home. It felt like what I was meant to do. I’ve never been afraid of any radio opportunity, even when I was a total unknown filling in for Ryan Tubridy for a few weeks and everyone else thought it was insane, I knew I could do it. Everything else though? That’s a struggle. It took me a while to settle into my beauty column. I’ve been obsessed with makeup for my whole life, and have built up a wealth of knowledge, but I still find myself thinking, “Yeah, but you're not really a beauty journalist, are you?” But what makes a beauty journalist if it’s not someone who writes and knows about makeup?

I often have to bolster myself when it comes to my writing too. When I wrote my first feature for the Sunday Business Post I was convinced that my editor would regret asking me to do it because it was a different style of writing to the first person confessional style I usually employ. I was so convinced that when she wrote back to tell me she was very happy with it I somehow missed the e-mail and obsessed over it for a whole week before looking again and realising the answer had been there all along. I have to give myself pep talks to rationalise my way out of Imposter Syndrome frequently!

“It was really comforting to know that I wasn’t the only who often felt like they were going to be found out.”

Have you met people who you admire who it turns out have Imposter Syndrome?

I think most women experience it at some stage in their careers but as I get older I find that I encounter it less and less, both in myself and in people I admire. I also think it’s become less fashionable to be overly coy or embarrassed about your talent or ability. I certainly encourage every woman I speak to about career stuff to own their strengths. We all know what we’re bad at, so we might as well get onboard with our talent!

As for coping strategies for dealing with Imposter Syndrome, I use pep talks, and I try to identify where a work fear is coming from and to rationalise my way out of it, as well as asking myself what a man would think/do/feel in my situation. The last one is a game changer.


If you had to pick one song to help kick your Imposter Syndrome to touch, what would it be?

Beyonce, Flawless

Find Louise here:

photography - Nathalie Marquez Courtney, Clio Meldon
illustration - Clio Meldon
interview - Nathalie Marquez Courtney

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