This article is my first "pink post," that is, a post having to do with a woman's issue. However, as such, it's still a post that can be read by men. It's not so exclusively feminine that it will send a man out of the room screaming, like a post on the difference between mauve and hot pink curtains and how many lace doilies it takes to fully insulate a plate against chipping in the cabinet. Nor is it an article about female physical issues, which sometimes can make guys blush. So, male readers: you're safe here. Read on!
This is an article that I started initially because I was highly displeased with the way certain situations were handled this past week at work. Anger is either something that destroys you, or something that teaches you, depending on how it's handled. If it's worked through therapeutically with God, it can become a means by which one can learn about one's own strengths and areas where growth is needed.
This past week was the first week at a temporary place of work for me. (The name of the place will remain anonymous for the sake of professional ethics and honour). I was hired to work with two women in a certain department, one woman who was the head of the department and about ten years younger than me, and one young lady whom I was hired to assist in particular.
To make a long story short, my personality did not mesh with that of the young lady in question, nor entirely with the older woman. Both women are very talented in their field. However, these two women were not well-empowered to deal with this personality conflict they had with me, because they--like all women--were not comfortable speaking out directly about their issues. Perhaps they were afraid they would hurt my feelings. Who knows? In any case, I was left, in the interim, to try to figure out through my woman's intuition just what was wrong, because it was very evident by Wednesday, my third day on the job, that there was a problem. They finally addressed one of their concerns on Thursday, that I might not be able to do well in their very secular environment if I talked about religion or wore my prayer beads, which could be construed as a gang emblem in this particular venue (education). This was a legitimate concern, and I took it in stride. Then on Friday, I opened up the issue of our personality differences so that they could discuss it and we could come to some sort of understanding. The discussion turned into a situation wherein they were honest about the fact that they really struggled with who I am as a person, as well as my faith. But the way they put things left a negative impression on me and a bad taste in my mouth. It was supposed to be a way of freeing them up, but the energy still wasn't right when I left the school that afternoon.
Their struggle with who I am as a person was nothing I haven't encountered before from other people. As a person, I'm vibrant, loud, assertive, and have always been different in some way or other than the crowd at large. I've never really been part of the herd, so to speak. So, I wasn't surprised that they had some struggles with understanding me at first glance, especially since they aren't very talkative and I am. I also have the natural tendency to take command of situations, and sometimes that causes problems with certain personality types, especially in other women. This is particularly true if I meet an alpha woman. Being an alpha woman myself, I naturally butt heads with other alpha women. Are there two alpha women in one house? God help all bystanders! Everyone had better clear out!
The part about their problems with my religion kind of mystified me, because really, I strove very much not to reveal to them anything about my religion beyond whatever questions they asked of me. Orthodox Christianity is by its nature visible and open. The fact that I wear a Christian headcovering as an Orthodox Christian woman and wife of a Subdeacon is visible to all. My Orthodox cross or pendant is visible to all who bother to look. My beaded chotki (ring of prayer beads often mistaken for a Rosary--but they're not) was on my wrist as usual, and often off my wrist as I silently did my daily devotions and contemplative prayers while I worked (which is a custom and expectation of my faith: ceaseless prayer at every moment, even while working, especially while working). I tried to keep the chotki closed up in my hand as much as possible so that nobody could see, because I knew that I was in a secular environment, and my intuition told me that there might be questions if my chotki became visible to other people. My inclination towards doing my daily meditations while working was increased by the fact that I really was not given much work to do by these ladies. I basically sat and observed their work for the first two days. By Wednesday, I had a paperwork assignment to finish , on which I worked diligently.
I don't remember what I said to them specifically that made them think I was too religious for their comfort; maybe it was just the way I dressed, or the chotki. But I do know that I had a rather awkward week with them, especially the younger woman. Finally, by the time I left the "de-briefing" meeting that the older woman had with us on Friday, I wondered whether I was in a professional environment, or an episode of "Mean Girls." I understood where they were coming from in their honest answers to my question about how they were adjusting to working with me, but at the same time, I wondered if they might be using the opportunity I had given them, the opportunity to honestly discuss their concerns about people of differing personalities learning to work together, as an opportunity to throw darts at me personally in some way. Frankly, I also found some of the subtle emotional drama, hints and whatnot that were played out during the week, to be unprofessional. I'm not there to "fit in" or be popular with people at this workplace, even though social comraderie is certainly more pleasant and preferable in a working environment. I'm there to do a job, plain and simple. I'm there to help them in whatever way possible, and then go home at the end of the day. Period. End of sentence. Emotions and how people do or don't feel about each other should not be a part of the equation. Such things muddy the waters in getting work done, and they keep professionals, especially women, from being in command of themselves and their situations.
Basically, I tried to help them level with their struggles about me, but my effort to help them in this way backfired. I put myself in a vulnerable position, and then--big surprise--I got pooped on, because opening your emotions to strangers is a sure way to become a living commode. In the course of trying to meet their needs, I had forgotten about my own need to keep other people's emotions out of my space, not to mention the need to be certain that I dissemble with dignity at all times. I had not done this at all since I had first arrived at this job. This was a mistake that will not be repeated.
I've made some concessions to help them out with their own struggles, mainly not talking as much and making certain that religion doesn't come in up conversation even in the smallest way. However, I've also decided, from here on out, that my way of relating to them needs to be very business-like with much less emphasis on the social aspect. This doesn't mean that I plan to be unpleasant or cold towards them. It just means that I intend to keep things very professional so that no emotions--theirs or mine--can interfere with the effective performance of my job. I also will not open myself again to criticism of my personality or who I am as a person. Beyond the two concessions I mentioned, they are simply going to have to learn to work with me as I am. I am not spending the next seven weeks or so walking on eggs around them and worrying about fitting in, as if I were a bloody adolescent. I'm forty-four going on forty-five, and there comes a point when a woman must put aside such things, and just be who she is with courage, and without apology. First Corinthians 13:11: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
To that end, I've been reflecting on women and power. As women, we're socialised (British spelling) from almost Day One of our existence to try to placate and please everyone, to mediate conflicts, and to always be socially popular and successful. As I've learned certain very wise things from my husband, and as I've grown and reflected over the past year, I'm come to realise that the things we're taught to do and be as women are often not really very beneficial to us as human beings. We're taught on the one hand to deny and fail to admit our own needs, all for the sake of pleasing others. On the other hand, we're always expected to "share our feelings" with one another, which is also not a good idea because it makes us vulnerable before each other. Do men make themselves vulnerable like that, by sharing their emotions? Heck, no! If they did, another man would invariably use those "shared feelings" to kick their butts in some way.
The same is true of women, I'm sorry to say. If a woman goes into a new environment with new women whom she never has interacted with before, and she lets all of her emotions hang out, she's asking to have her posterior whipped by the others. This whalloping is not of the physical kind, but of a far worse kind. It's the subtle, almost unseen world of vicious female emotional manipulation, also known as cattiness, prissiness, female bullying, or the more simple way of putting it, being a flat-out b-- - well, never mind. You get the picture.
How does one deal with this sort of behaviour? Number 1: Don't open yourself up to it. That was my mistake when I first went to this job, and I'm not making that mistake again. Number 2: If it continues, stop the behaviour by whatever means necessary. Confront people and call them out on how they're acting. Shame them. If they give you the silent treatment, refuse to tolerate it. Either stop associating with them, confront them verbally about their behaviour, or, if it's a professional situation and the unprofessional behaviour continues over a prolonged period of time, document it on a daily basis and submit a report to the appropriate supervisor. In other words, kick butt! Being Christian doesn't mean being a doormat.
But there's also one thing that works better than all of these things put together: cease to even care about the whole situation. Waste no emotional energy on it whatsoever. People who are so insecure that they can't deal with differences are not worth my time, effort or energy.
So, the basic point of this article is that I came away from a negative first encounter with a couple of women I don't even know well enough to care about, as an empowered person with a plan of action, instead of a wuss with whiny, adolescent concerns not worthy of my status as a matron and clergy wife in the Church.
The next paragraph or so is something I've written as a result of my weekend reflections, and I've shared it with some of my friends. Being a
self-respecting Irish-descended Montenegrin baba (female elder), I'll share it on this blog so that
someone may benefit from it (or may not--whatever!).
There are two kinds
of women: princesses and queens. Many times, we (women) start life as
princesses and then, finally, as we get into our forties or maybe
slightly sooner, we make the decision to become queens instead of
princesses. Here are the differences between a queen and a princess
(and by this statement I don't mean to insult anyone who actually really
is, by blood and birth, a princess; rather, I speak of the fairy tale
stereotype of a princess):
1. A princess tries to please everyone.
A queen does what's best for the kingdom regardless of who may be
pleased or displeased.
2. A princess is ruled by her emotions. A queen rules over her emotions, indeed, masters them.
3. A princess has to be rescued from her enemies. A queen gathers an army, marches in and defeats her enemies.
4. A princess takes all kinds of excrement from people while she waits
to be rescued by the prince. A queen takes none of that from anyone!
5. A princess's life is on hold until a man comes along. A queen is in control of her life, with or without a man.
6. A princess lets the man solve all her problems. A queen solves
problems herself, with the input and counsel of the man, or she and her
husband solve the problems together as an equal partnership and team.
7. A princess sings, waits and weeps. A queen creates songs, sings, acts, and rules.
And that's the Iri-negrin Baba wisdom for tonight!
Good night, all!
---Gabrielle Bronzich, Augusta Domina
Queen Elizabeth I, one of my inspirations for strong female leadership: