Glennon Doyle, in her bestselling book Untamed, examines her negative emotional reaction to a 12-year old girl who walked with her head held high and with a bit of swagger.
I sat with my feelings and I realized: The knee-jerk reaction I’m having to this girl is a direct result of my training. I have been conditioned to mistrust and dislike strong, confident, happy girls and women. We all have. Studies prove that the more powerful, successful, and happy a man becomes, the more people trust and like him. But the more powerful and happy a woman becomes, the less people like and trust her. So we proclaim: Women are entitled to take their rightful place! Then, when a woman does take her rightful place, our first reaction is: She’s so…entitled. We become people who say of confident women, “I don’t know, I can’t explain it–it’s just something about her. I just don’t like her. I can’t put my finger on why.”
I can put my finger on why: It’s because our training is kicking in through our subconscious. Strong, happy, confident girls and women are breaking our culture’s implicit rule that girls should be self-doubting, reserved, timid and apologetic. Girls who are bold enough to break those rules irk us. Their brazen defiance and refusal to follow directions make us want to put them back into their cage.
Girls and women sense this. We want to be liked. We want to be trusted. So, we downplay our strengths to avoid threatening anyone and invoking distanin. We do not mention our accomplishments. We do not accept compliments. We temper, qualify, and discount our opinions. We walk without swagger, and we yield incessantly. We step out of the way. We say, “I feel like” instead of “I know.” We ask if our ideas make sense instead of assuming they do. We apologize for…everything. Conversations among brilliant women often devolve into competitions for who wins the trophy for hottest mess. We want to be respected, but we want to be loved and accepted even more.
Well, that hit home. What to do with this? As Maya Angelou said, when you know better, you do better. We can do better by our friends, sisters, daughters and selves. Tomorrow’s leaders are busy building confidence, strength and self awareness. If we break the chain described above, they won’t have to choose between the future their skills could bring and being loved and accepted.
by Carrie Mapes