My husband came in as I was making this little graphic and gave me a quizzical look.”I decided this was a productive use of my time.” I said. He looked doubtful and left without another word. But I made it anyway, printed it out and pasted it where I’ll see it every day.
It comes down to this: Women are taught to be less aggressive from birth. And while I’m above average at grabbing the cow by the udders as it were or I wouldn’t have gotten this far, I’ve come to realize that I need to get up in life’s face even more to counteract a lifetime of suppressing the very thing most men are taught to embrace if I want to try to counter the systemic biases stacked against me.
I talked about taking more risks a while ago and, in doing research on why there’s such a gender divide in just about every career field, what I’m finding is that what I was raised as a girl to think of as “pushy” is actually what boys are specifically encouraged to do in their business and personal relationships. That all these little moments day to day where women are taught to step back while men are taught to push forward add up to a big gap over a lifetime. While it’s far from the only issue at play, it’s one of the only ones that I can absolutely control. I’ve made some changes in how I approach things on both side of the work/life divide and I can’t deny it’s had results big time.
But, boy howdee, is it completely out of my comfort zone. Do you know how weird it is to try to recondition something you’ve been taught since birth 3.5 decades out? Being more aggressive doesn’t feel natural to me at all. While I hope it will eventually become second nature, right now it’s something I have to consciously force myself to do and it’s very easy to fall back into my old mindset or plain old forget. I was actually a little disappointed when this strategy started really working because it would have been so much easier to be able to give it up and not have to fight against my own brain all the time.
I’ve been to a lot of basketball games over the course of my life (I’m the only person in my family who didn’t play at some point and my dad’s something of a local legend in the game) and I find myself thinking of the cheerleader standby: Be aggressive! B-e- aggressive! I started using it as my mantra, a way to remind myself to do what didn’t feel natural at all and to be, well, pushy whenever possible because it absolutely makes a difference.
I made this little silly graphic as a visual reminder to myself and I chose Minnie and Daisy mostly because it will please the 2 year old I live with. But now that it’s been hanging up for a while, I realize I’m glad those ladies are up there because it’s somehow nice to have other women, even fictional ones, cheering me on. It makes me feel much less alone to know I’m one of billions struggling with this very thing.
This doesn’t have to be a gender thing, though. Just about all of us are probably missing opportunities because it feels so awkward and even terrifying at times to step outside that comfort zone and maybe it’s time we did something about that. So my challenge to you, dear reader, is join me in doing what makes you uncomfortable if it means taking a step towards your goals. I promise, the results will be worth it.