Pundits and others are jostling to be the first to get our eyes and ears to try to influence our minds. Though I'm a moderate Republican, I'll be voting for Biden-Harris. And even more so now that I know a bit more about her background.
For several days now I've been thinking about strong women who break stereotypical molds, who spent much of their early years trying to appease the patriarchy and others because it wasn't just men who were trying to keep them from spreading their wings. I've been thinking about women who have tied themselves in all kinds of knots trying to please all of their critics until they figured out they needed to be who they are, the way they are, and critics be damned.
Over the past few months I've read Michele Obama's Becoming, Melinda Gates's The Moment of Life: How Empowering Women Changes the World, and Alicia Keys's More Myself. What strikes me about each of these women is how they keep sight of where they came from and how they lived, grew, loved, lost, and learned, recognizing that all of that informs who they are and who they are still becoming because growth and learning don't stop, or shouldn't.
I'm currently reading, nearly simultaneously but not quite, Shauna Niequist's Present Over Perfect and Brené Brown's The Gift of Imperfection (I'm late to the BB club and following the recommendations posted on her web site). The titles themselves speak to what challenges women.
What keeps ricocheting in my brain is that women repeatedly, and in spite of everything we know about each other and ourselves, put ourselves in a corner. That's probably one of the reasons some of us still love that classic line from Dirty Dancing: "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." Or no one gets to deny someone else the opportunity to shine. And yet we do. To ourselves.
When people compliment us or want to celebrate us, we wave it off. We murmur something it being nothing, about it being a team effort, about whatever other nonsense comes to mind because we have been taught that humility, even false humility, is the way to play the game.
I think there is a difference between being humble and denying our successes rather than embracing them. We risk being called "ambitious," which seems perfectly fine for a man but not so much for a woman. We risk being called "confident," which is an attribute for men but seems to be something forbidden in women. We risk being called so much more when we don't fit into a prescriptive mold and stereotype.
As a Christian, I wrestle with this a lot. When I start to feel confident, I often choose to check myself to make sure I'm not bordering on over-confidence. There is a subtle difference for each of us and I think women feel this more profoundly than men. I don't know that most men feel confidence is ever an issue even though I think it's a very small step between confident and prideful behavior, and that isn't attractive in anyone.
Well, I don't want to get into theology here and for a lot of reasons, so I will refer to this 2016 article in Success about the attributes of healthy humility. I think the key word is "healthy." The 6 attributes are:
- They acknowledge they don't have it all together.
- They know the difference between self-confidence and pride.
- They seek to add value to others.
- They take responsibility for their actions.
- They understand the shadow side of success.
- They are filled with gratitude for what they have.