Arrogant or Confident?

I grew up as an “Army Brat.”  The biggest impact that had on my life was of having to change schools often.  As an introvert I don’t integrate easily into new surroundings or with new people.  It was not horribly difficult when I attended schools in the military dependent school system but when it was time for me to enter high school, my parents decided that my brother and I needed to be exposed to “normal” life.  What that meant was we were suddenly thrown into small community schools where students seldom experienced the welcoming of strangers.

Teenagers are cruel – well, not just teenagers – children are cruel.  For the most part they are not “other” concerned.  Their focus is on “self” and while a new student in class might be a curiosity to them, in actuality a new student, if smart or attractive, is instantly a threat.  They are perceived of as competition.  I know this because it happened over and over to me as the new kid in town in three out of four of my high school years.

It was hard for an introvert and so I would quietly attempt to find my niche in each new school.  It quickly became evident that I was a good student and, being a pretty new face, I was marked as a threat for the girls already competing for the popular boys.  I was, however, a backward adolescent, a late bloomer, and was put off not only by those ostracizing girls but also by the advances of the guys interested in my new face.

Somehow through my quietness, I was labeled as “arrogant.”  That was something that always confused me because feeling arrogant was not something I could identify with in my lonely world of isolation.  It was not until I was in my mid-thirties, in my first work situation as a supervisor that it suddenly clicked and I understood why I was labeled arrogant.  As a new supervisor I wanted to “manage” my department in a way that I wanted to be managed.  I wanted everyone in my department to be properly trained, to feel totally supported and able to achieve success in their jobs.  Many years later I learned to label this philosophy “servant leadership” but at that time (70’s) it was just my idea of how I wanted to lead my team.  I began having weekly meetings with my team and I quickly learned that these women’s sense of self had clearly been damaged by their patriarchal upbringings.  This was my first time to actually see and witness women thinking they were “less than” or unable to achieve things because of being female.  I know it existed, I just did not see it.  This was my awakening to my own feminist views on life. Prior to this I was simply unaware.

I was raised by very progressive parents.  I was born in the 40’s and graduated from high school in 1960. Clearly I should have been a product of the 50’s, but because of the forward thinking of my parents, I was instead raised to be self-assured, confident and able to stand on my own two feet.  They instilled within me a personal belief system that said “I can do anything I choose to when I set my mind to it!”  So the women in my small accounting department back in the 70’s became the first women I took on to mentor.  It became my job to help them find their own power, to learn that they were smart, beautiful and able to achieve anything they desired.

I also now understood why I was perceived of as arrogant by those girls back in the 50’s. I was self-assured and confident.  I was aware of my own abilities to achieve my desires during a time when girls thought all they were ever going to be able to achieve was to make babies and please some man who provided for them.

Here is one example of my parents in action. When I was in the fifth grade (age 10), my parents were called to school for a conference with my teacher.  I was in trouble for failure to say “yes, mam” to my teacher.  I was not born or raised in the South so saying “mam” was unfamiliar and foreign to me.  I was taught to say, “Yes, Mrs. Skinner” when replying to her.  So my parents had their conference and my father explained to her that I was not raised in the South nor were most of the children she was teaching in the Military Dependent School System and that she was going to have to allow for cultural differences if she were going to be successful with these children.  He told her that as long as I was polite he would not require me to learn “yes, Mam” as a way of replying.

When the conference was over, my father sat down with me and shared what he had discussed with my teacher.  He ended by saying “Certainly if you wish to say ‘yes, Mam’ you can.  However, I hope I never hear you say ‘yes, Sir.’  Never place yourself beneath a man!” This is just one example of a parent looking toward the future for his daughter.

And so, with my first supervisory experience, it became a life-long passion to assist women in finding and claiming their own power.  For ten years I did this work only in the work place but when I came into my own “Goddess Awareness” it became the focus of my spiritual life as well.

Now, seeing women blossom in their own sense of self-worth because they have found the divine within themselves brings me my greatest pleasure.  For a woman to know of her own sacredness, to know how powerful she is, to know that she can achieve her wildest dreams brings the greatest joy imaginable.