I once was told to make sure I was ‘always sweet’ or it could cause issues in my career. People who know the story have asked me how it made me feel and truthfully it made me angry. This ‘piece of advice’ came from someone in a leadership role and it felt more like someone trying to ‘put me in my place’ as a woman rather than a dumb thing someone would say without thinking. It made me question my straightforward personality and second guess myself as a professional, until I remembered one very important thing: I am DONE apologizing for who I am.
Here is my truth: I am not a yes person. I am not a toe the line person. I am 100% a team player and I am 100% a hard worker BUT when things don’t make sense I ask questions. When I feel that something or someone is being treated unfairly I do my best to stand up. I am NOT perfect and along those lines I have no doubt that my tactics haven’t always been either. But I don’t believe as a woman that to be heard or to excel in my career I have to be sweet all the time. Or that I need to start and end every email with niceties, or that I need to apologize for my assertiveness, or that I should avoid confrontation to make others comfortable. It isn’t how I am built AND more importantly if those traits are rewarded in a man I certainly do not believe they should be punished in a woman.
If you ever find yourself being told something similar to this, or being told to be someone you are not, then first and foremost you have to understand that there will be people you piss off, simply by being you. So you will just have to get over that, sorry no way around it. Then you have to realize that some people will have a hard time understanding that as a woman you don’t always have to be nice and there will be times that you will be told you need to be ‘likable’ or people won’t respect you. You will hear this stuff and so much more, especially as woman, and it is neither fair nor right, BUT here is what I want to tell you and I NEED you to hear me; you can be a well-rounded person, including being kind and gracious, AND still have the ability to know when it is time to tell someone to f’ all the way off. You can still be likable and be willing to go against the grain. You can still be nice and stand up against decisions that don’t make sense. And the truth is there will be people that cannot handle you. The truth is there will be people that you will rub the wrong way. But the most important truth is that you have to decide WHO YOU ARE, and what you stand for, and then be that person, without apology.
I for one was not put on this Earth to be a yes woman. I was given the voice that I have for a reason. I was given the ability to stand up for myself and others for a reason. And there will always be people that hate that about me or can’t understand it, but there will also be people who benefit from it, who may even be inspired by it. I know what I have to do to be able to look at myself in the mirror every day and that is to be the person I was meant to be, and if she isn’t sweet 24/7? Then so be it, she isn’t sweet. But she is a damn good person and I know you are too, so don’t let anyone make you feel like less by trying to make you someone else. We all need to learn and grow, and we gain a lot of insight from our mistakes and hopefully do better the next time, but we also have to refuse to change who we are at our core for anyone. Especially those who are simply made uncomfortable by our differences or by their preconceived ideas of who we should be. Whatever gifts and talents you were given you have them for a reason DO NOT waste them trying to please other people, those aren’t your people. There will only ever be one person looking back at us in the mirror every day and that is the person we have to stay true to, that is the person we cannot apologize for being…ever.
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