“Why don’t women get along? Because we believe that being bad is better than being powerful.” – Iyanla Vanzant
Much of what we say to women about a woman we don’t like boils down to “Who does she think she is?” And sometimes, it’s legitimate. I’m the last one to tell you that we can all be kumbayah, all the time because some people are just flat out rude. BUT. You should not let someone else’s behavior dictate your own, and no matter how justified you may feel in disliking someone, it doesn’t give you license to cut a fool too. However, those situations are not the ones that I want to talk about. I want to talk about why it is that we so often say, “I just don’t like that chick” on first impression. While I’ve definitely uttered those words more than once, I’ve much more often been on the receiving end. People (90% being the female variety) have told me that I’m spoiled, stuck up, arrogant, unfriendly. This usually followed a time where I was not deemed to be accommodating enough to other people’s agendas. When conversations arise that result in me voicing my high expectations for suitors; situations where I affirm my belief in self-care and say “no” to something; when I refuse to bend over backwards or change myself to convince someone to like me- that is when I am suddenly, “too much.” But why is that?
The Iyanla quote above made me think: when we unabashedly set high expectations, we are exercising our power. And that is uncomfortable because women are socialized to hide it. We are victims of learned helplessness. Somewhere along the way, we allowed ourselves to be convinced that feminine softness, or the idea of Biblical submission, meant that we were obligated to be everything that men wanted and ask permission for our autonomy. No, not at all! The way I see it ,being a woman simply means that you don’t use a bludgeon where a stick will do. Countless studies have shown that women’s tendency to lead by consensus, and collaborate in the workplace, is just as effective when strategically deployed as more aggressive leadership techniques. And note that I said “strategically”: the nicest person in the room doesn’t usually win in business, but you can also look out for your own interests without trampling on others. And there is also power in putting yourself first. Women also absorb the idea that we need to be everything to everybody and end up putting themselves last. I rebuke that notion. As the youngest child in my family and a self-proclaimed princess, putting myself first isn’t as hard for me as it is for others. I know that if I’m not good to myself, I can’t be the best student/lover/friend/sister/worker that I can be. I feel no shame in asking for help when I need it, or letting myself be pampered because when I am happy and healthy and grounded, I have nothing but positive energy to put out into the world.
So what about you? Are you comfortable claiming your power?