Colorful, stylized illustration of two open palm hands, one on top of the other
Image by Tim Mossholder via Unsplash

When you find your worry twin

Co-written by Emma Pan and Cordelia McGee-Tubb



I wrote an email the other day. Actually, it was a reply to someone else’s email. Upon reflection, the simple task presented a flurry of goals I suddenly felt the need to accomplish: be succinct, sound smart, be clear, include appropriate background and context, provide a summary should the recipient not have enough time to read and watch every attachment, just to name a few. The cycle of writing went, as it usually does, something like: write, re-read, delete, fret, write, delete, proofread, proofread again, fret.


Yesterday, I spent what felt like my entire afternoon composing a thorough yet concise, humble yet confident email to an executive, providing him with a status update and a request. After getting it edited and reviewed by my manager and my manager’s manager, then re-reading it about 20 times myself, I was ready to send it this morning. But just to make sure, I checked the recipients list, weighed the pros and cons of ending my second sentence with an exclamation point instead of a period, decided on using a period, stepped away to make tea, flipped back to an exclamation point, and checked the recipients list again to make sure it hadn’t changed since I last touched it (it hadn’t). I don’t know how long this whole process took or why it made my hands so sweaty, but I do know that two minutes ago, I finally — finally! — sent that email.



I plug in my headphones, turn my microphone off, and join the video call for a design review meeting. There are quite a few people here and I double-check to make sure I’m still muted before I take a big slurp of tea. Yep, still muted.


Nothing motivates and stresses me out at the same time more than presentations. Most of the time, I can’t tell if I’m driven by the fear of failing or the motivation to do well. I’m talking about the presentations where I’m the focal point, speaking about a topic I’m seen as an expert on (despite not seeing myself as an expert in anything, but that’s a blog post for another time), to other experts who, at any moment, can realize I’m a phony and not nearly as qualified as they see me to be. I have found no solution to mitigate this risk except to live life excessively prepared so that I can plan a course of action for every possible question, situation, thing tossed my way. Yes, it is as exhausting (and unrealistic) as it sounds. (Someone once complimented my ability to “see around corners”. It took me years before I realized that I know no other way.)



Emma: Hi! I was meaning to clarify my response to your question during the design review. I don’t know if my answer made any sense. Sorry if it was really confusing 😫 Let me know if you need clarification!

accessibility, comics, awkwardness, and compassion