Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I'm intimidating? That's your fault

At the ripe old age of 22, I started my career as a fundraiser at Rutgers University.  I looked very very young so  I donned a suit and heals each day and made sure to act as professional as possible.  I had the goal   of doing the absolute best job so that I could and bast through the glass ceiling in record time.  Boy was I in for a shock.   My boss told me I was too mature for my age...too professional.  People would meet me and they were stunned I was so young because I didn't act my age.  I was told my intelligence was intimidating. "You are too have too much confidence..."  One of my standard replies was "would you say those things to me if I was male?"  That usually shut people up, but also then they told me that was a snobbish comment, I couldn't win.

At that time I wondered, how does the average 22 year old act?  And why the heck should I care?  I'm I suppose to be me?  Should I be someone else?  This started 20 year avalanche of me not being myself.  Oi Vey...  I would sit in graduate classes thinking "am I acting correctly for a graduate student?"  I would sit at playgroups "is this the way a mom acts...should I be doing something else?"

Introspection on many levels over many years has gone into how I present to the rest of the world.  I can't say that I've developed a thick skin, what other people think does bother me a bit, but I have got a firm handle on why people find me intimidating.   I'm well-educated, insanely smart, a great mom, and out-out-this-world-happy.  Many times over in my life I've been told I'm outspoken, opinionated, and over the top. People tend to spin those negatives, simply because  they have yet to develop those same amazing qualities in themselves, or they don't see it in themselves, or they are unhappy.  They are capable of having everything they want, but they are scared...or lazy. And so they look at me and say "she's intimidating."

Here is the crux of the self-discovery - what others think of me actually has nothing to do with me.  When someone looks at me it is through their own filter system. They look at my star qualities, and if they don't have them, they are jealous and therefore they find reason to find fault with me - and ignore their own set of star qualities.    

This thought process was once again tested when someone recently told me,  "You are intimidating as hell to other women."  My first reaction was, why yes, yes I am and I'm going to stop apologizing for it.  And then I got to revisit torturing myself with self doubt as the devil on the other shoulder came out to play and I once again fell back into the world of self-doubt.  "Do I want clarification?  Do I care what others think? Should I tone it down? Do all people think I'm intimidating?"    And right then and there I made the decision for once and for all to stop caring.  Now, I have made this decision many times over, clearly it is a decision that needs to be renewed on a regular basis.

So what if I went to college, have a masters, am working on a PHD in statistics?  I'm a one woman band with the organizational skills to manage three amazing kids, an amazing boyfriend, a career, teaching responsibilities at Rutgers,  and my dissertation. Yes, I have an extensive vocabulary and superior analytic skills.  But I'm not perfect!!   I'm sure you have many amazing qualities that I don't have...I can't spell to save my life,  I only have 5 things I cook well (and one doesn't even require heat), my fashion sense is non-existent, and I can not grow my nails.  And if you happen to have those, well I applaud can proofread my dissertation and I will enjoy the food you cook.  We don't all need to be the same, one up each other, or be "better" than.  How do you even measure "better" anyway?  Why would you waste your time trying?

The moral of the story....I'm just me...and I'm awesome..and in case no one has told you - you are awesome as well.  If someone chooses to view me any other way well, I respect their right to do so.   But it isn't a particularly healthy way to think.  Instead,  going forward, let's just agree to this....I'm fabulously me...and you are fabulously you.  I respect all of your fab qualities and you respect mine.  

1 comment:

  1. Excellent! Thanks for this article! I really appreciate it. Never tried to put this in words. I also have had many women say that to me ALL my life. Just recently I spoke up about it in a class I was in, saying most women are so intimidated by me and judge me and I don't understand why. Someone without hesitating one single second, said "Yeah, its because you are too dam confident" !!!!!!!! Wow. Really? I was stunned into silence. First because she had to have thought about it before that conversation to have answered so quickly and second that is just me. What you see is what you get. Is it because I adore life and know myself and don't like "games"? That really threw me for a loop for a little while. Not that it hasn't happened before, but I talked with her often. I really wish more women would understand and really comprehend We don't all need to be the same, as you said. Embrace yourself with all your beauty and all your flaws. Everyone has both. EVERYONE. Love all you are, there is only one like you! So, for me, Love me or don't. I love me. I will not change myself for other people. Although, I will always have room for improvement. =)