The fear of assertions

November 20, 2013


lène Cixous’ text Coming to Writing deals with her struggle against feelings of non-being, hindering her from writing. The notion that in order to be allowed, or justified, to write, one must have a clear position from which to write.

But if I wrote “I”, who would I be? I could pass for “I” in daily life without knowing anything more about it, bur write without knowing I-Who, how could I have done that? I had no right. Wasn’t writing the realm of the Truth? Isn’t the Truth clear, distinct, and one? And I was blurry, several, simultaneous, impure. Give it up!” (p. 29)

I find it easy to identify with this perception of not having license to make assertions, be it through writing, speaking or designing. The awareness of being neither interesting nor competent nor someone enough to be worth listening to. The fear of being found an impostor, feigning intellectuality. The hope that this feeling shall pass once I gain more education, knowledge, experience – and the creeping realisation that it probably won’t.

I have created strategies to handle this fear. When in doubt whether something is worth saying – choose silence. Phrase everything as a question, not an answer. Make no claims of certainty. Be humble. Be quiet. Give more room to the opposing view than to your own. Quiet.

What is the origin of this feeling of inadequacy? Where does it come from? Did I create it, or was it given to me? The conceived inferiority, bestowed upon a girl, carried through life by a woman. I have always been disappointed in my sex, resented it, and at the same time felt a terrible guilt for this disappointment. Guilt for internalising something I should know to be wrong. ‘I am as good as any man!‘, I have screamed at myself loudly, desperately, never quite believing it. Knowing that even if I were, I cannot be perceived or treated as such. Knowing that I too see and value women differently from men, however hard I try not to. Unwillingly admiring masculinity, forever unable to practice it.


Hélène Cixous, ‘Coming to Writing’ in Hélène Cixous, Coming to Writing and Other Essays, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.

Malin Ahlgren Bergman

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