I’ve been thinking and thinking about a meme I saw earlier this week. It’s one of those things that’s intended to empower and embolden women in the workplace and beyond. I used to take those things to heart and work hard to be my authentic self.
I grew up being told to be quiet, that children should be seen and not heard. I was labeled bossy, a lot, for being assertive. I asked way to many questions. When there was an elephant in a room, I pointed it out. These were not good. I was difficult.
Also, I was empathetic, tried to help others, and didn’t mind sharing credit. I asked things politely rather than barking out orders, and didn’t mind at all explaining why I wanted things done a certain way. I felt like that got buy-in and created cohesive teams. That was good, I think.
It can truly be exhausting to have to pretend you are someone you’re not in order to keep a job, keep the peace, keep your reputation, etc. And whoa, have I done a lot of all those things in the past few years. I’ve been constantly checking my Zoom camera to be sure I’m smiling and looking pleasant in meetings. I’ve deleted and rewritten so many emails, chat posts, Facebook statuses, and so on. I do pretty well most of the time.
But, damn, when you are suffering from anxiety and dealing with a lot of difficult family and work situations, you can let your real self leak out without meaning to. You can express an actual opinion, point out something that’s not right, ask if something is true or the best thing to do, use the wrong tone of voice (guilty as charged)…you know, all those things that get you labeled like the ones that are in that meme.
Can we, as women, who are expected to smooth things over, agree with what the leaders say, follow instructions rather than making rules, and all those frustrating unspoken expectations, ever, actually be ourselves? What if yourself is sarcastic? What if yourself gets tired of inefficiency? What if yourself gets irritated when told to just follow orders when you’re used to helping make decisions? (Or if you are my male spouse, your real self is tired of being told not to be so brusque. They have their own sets of expectations.)
Nope, we can’t be those selves. We have to spend years in therapy, reading self-help books, and getting sanctimonious “coaching” from our bosses, so we can meekly fit in, and only speak up when it’s time to do what we are asked to do.
So, no, I do not plan to act on the meme above. I give up. I think it’s just as stressful and unproductive to let my more prickly nature show as to try to smooth my nature out to meet expectations. I’ve thought about this a lot. I’m not going to make waves, express my opinions, or debate in work or public.
I’ll be me with my inner circle, and just do what I have to do to get by with others. I’ll make a bad impression to some and a good impression to others and it won’t matter at all, in the long run. The key is that I won’t be stressing myself out either trying to conform or trying to be my fierce self. No wonder both Lee and I are plumb tired. We’re tired of trying to matter.
I’m tired of being tired. The price of authenticity is just too high for me.