I’ve always been bad at this. Really bad – and it’s held me back significantly. As a super Virgo perfectionist (I was told I have something like 4 planets in Virgo, if that means anything to you), I am harder on myself than anyone else. When I don’t look great, or say the right thing, or am bad at something, or wish I’d handled a stressful situation differently – I can beat myself up for months. Years even.
There’s lots of truth in the belief that until you allow yourself to be your perfectly imperfect self, you’ll have a hard time accepting imperfections in others. But I actually find that a bit easier. I don’t expect most people to be perfect. I see them as human and learning. For some stupid reason I hold myself to an unrealistically higher standard. Like for some reason, I should always know and therefore DO better. And it’s hurting me terribly.
Not just because it’s impossible to do and say the right thing all the time. But because it allows others to have power over me. Because the flaws I hate in myself are the very weaknesses that they can use against me.
One “flaw” in particular is my tendency to respond very quickly and decisively in work situations. I’m not always wrong, in fact, I’m often right. But that’s not the point. The fact that I jump to quick decisions in group situations (when I feel pressured for time) makes others feel unheard. I hate that I do that. I know my intentions are pure: my brain is 5 steps ahead and I’m trying to solve the problem and move on. I would imagine in other future positions and places it will be seen as a great skill, but in my current position, not so much. I know I am seen as difficult and controlling. Or at least, I feel that way. But that’s just the point: I FEEL that way because I see this trait as something BAD and sinister, something to be eradicated.
I have done a lot of work on my “quickness” over the years. There are a lot of good reasons it exists. Some of it was survival: it protected me for a long time. I will probably work on letting it go for the rest of this lifetime, but I will never get rid of it. Like the “beauty mark” on my cheek, curly hair, and high instep – it’s a part of me.
What’s helping me start to try and see this “flaw” differently is recognizing how in other women, being ballsy and tough is seen as a strength. It kind of blows my mind, actually. The very thing I’ve been working to hide and destroy from existence, other women are flaunting like a new pair of Jimmy Choos. One friend told me of a successful woman she knows who admitted to being “snarky” in an email to a colleague. Apparently she had it coming. She also reminded me of several other very smart and powerful women who I admire that no doubt have been called “difficult” (among other things): Hillary Clinton, Martha Stewart, and Oprah – to name a few.
I admire women who are comfortable with who they are, physically or otherwise. You can tell when someone has embraced their uniqueness and uses what they have to their advantage. So why shouldn’t I do the same? Why shouldn’t we all?
On my way home Friday night, in the subway elevator, I overheard one 20-something girl brag to her friend about how she can be a bitch when necessary. “You know how I can be, don’t push me,” she proudly announced to everyone in earshot.
I’ll never want to be seen as a bitch – that’s just got way too negative a connotation to me. But I need to get more comfortable with my take-chargeness. Especially as I read more and more of Sheryl Sandberg’s AMAZING book, Lean In. It’s becoming obvious to me how I (and millions of girls and women like me) have been brainwashed to believe that being smart, strong and decisive = bossy.
Boys with the same exact traits are labeled with another word: leader.
“We call our little girls bossy,”Sandberg points out. “Go to a playground: Little girls get called ‘bossy’ all the time, a word that’s almost never used for boys. And that leads directly to the problems women face in the workforce.”
I cried after reading that. I’ve been called bossy my whole life. And there is no doubt in my heart and mind that in an attempt to not be seen that way, I’ve held myself back.
But you know what, I’m done. Go ahead call me bossy. From here on out, I will replace it in my head with that same word: leader.
And I will simply say, “Thank you!”