Rock out with your cockiness out

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The first chapter of Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, made me cry. I haven’t spent much time thinking about myself as a woman in the world, and yet everything she wrote felt familiar. We are taught how to behave with many verbal and nonverbal cues throughout our lives, and it seeps into our psyche without conscious recognition. The passage that got me was the following:

The danger goes beyond authority figures silencing female voices. Young women internalize societal cues about what defines ‘appropriate’ behavior and, in turn, silence themselves.

I cried because I recognized that I silence myself, but I also cried for the loss of the person I was as a child. I was a swashbuckling, confident brat. I learned quickly and was among the best at everything I tried. I loved that about myself. I loved to be in charge. I had a lot of pride.

Around the time when I hit puberty, I started to get rejected by my peers. Sometimes the rejection was subtle, and sometimes it wasn’t, but clearly there was something awful about me. I remember listening to other people’s conversations about what they didn’t like about this person or that person, and filing that information away in a list of behaviors to avoid. My cockiness became a source of shame. I slowly inhibited myself, tried to fit, pretended to be someone lovable, and when that didn’t work, I hid myself and didn’t come out again until a few years into grad school. I still have not completely recovered from this, what I suspect is a typical experience during adolescence.

I have a particular affinity for confident, bordering on arrogant, people. I see in them the child I once was, and the self-assured adult I want to be. To the outside observer they seem unafraid and perhaps rude. They are unconcerned with the social conventions of politeness. To be clear, these people are not mean or selfish, but they are proud. Not surprisingly, most of the people I put in this category are men.

I am tired of being polite to the point where I have no voice. I miss the child I was and think it is time to reclaim my cockiness. I’ve gotta crow.

The take home message of the self-indulgent post is:

Don’t be a chicken, be a cock.

For mocking motivation, here is my favorite Arrested Development moment. See, women can be cocks too!

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