“You know, you’d be ideal for our client’s weight loss program.”
“You’re just too funny. No one takes funny women seriously.”
“I know you wrote this, but we’re going to put it under my name.”
“You’re just not the right kind of pretty.”
“Wow, you’re really butch. People don’t buy from butch.”
In a 20-year career, I’ve heard things. Really horrible, ignorant and cruel things. I would internalize these things, believing that it if someone said it, then on some level it must be true. Just like any infection, these things spread inside my soul and made me weaker and vulnerable to people looking to take advantage of someone, anyone, they could. I would stay at jobs where I was treated like crap way longer than any reasonable person would. Why? Because they had me convinced that I didn’t deserve better.
In the past few years, I’d had enough.
It started when I allowed myself to be angry.
I was told that nice Christian girls don’t get angry. They don’t care if someone abuses them because it’s not nice to stand up for yourself. What if you hurt someone else’s feelings? Who cares if it’s crippling you and making you so miserable that you want to kill yourself? Niceness is the most important thing.
That belief, which is totally unbiblical, caused me to stay with an emotionally abusive man, and work for people who took advantage of me. It also held back my career for about 15 years.My spirituality got messed up, but it’s on it’s way back to being a healthy view of myself and my relationship with my creator. That’s another story, though.
I realized that almost everything I was taught about how nice girls act was not a moral imperative. Rather, it was training from my parents, my schools, my churches and society that made their lives easier. Who wants to deal with a mouthy 7-year-old? It’s so much easier to tell her to shush and be a nice girl, then to listen to what’s causing the distress. The idea that most of us act under the permissions and rules we were given as children is not new. What most people don’t do, however, is act on ways to change their programming.
Life wasn’t getting better for me as an adult, no matter how hard I tried to be nice. Then, one day, I found myself getting mad about receiving a gift of weight -loss supplements as a present from an employer. I was burning inside- pissed off that I had spent so much time building that business, and this was the thanks I got, a reminder that I wasn’t good enough. This time, I wanted to do something. So, I started my own business and quit serving this person 3 months later.
Once I allowed myself to experience anger, I found that I had the energy to handle the problem. Internalized anger leads to depression, which saps your mental and physical resources, and keeps you stuck wherever it is your abuser wants. (Let’s not mince words- bosses, co-workers, friends, lovers, spouses, can all be abusers. The last they want is for you to be able to change. Whether they recognize it or not, they will treat you in the method that makes you most useful to them. They want you broken.)
How did I use this newfound energy? I took the chances that I never felt I was worthy of. I had a mental checklist of all the things people told me I couldn’t do, and I used that as my baseline for moving forward. Sometimes, it was planned out and, sometimes, it wasn’t.
I left bad situations, after people told me I would only be a clerk or an unhappy wife.
I started my own company, after people told me no one would take a funny, not-skinny woman seriously.
I got clients, after people told me that no one would ever want to work with a woman who’s not under the ideal BMI and possessed of really long blonde hair.
I made money, after I was told that people don’t give money to people like me.
I got published by national media, after I was told that my ideas were too good for someone who didn’t have a college degree.
I used my anger to blaze forward to all the things that I was told I shouldn’t believe I could have, with my middle fingers in the air.
Anger is a powerful force, perfect for destruction and for creation. Women are told our anger is bad, that we shouldn’t experience it, that we just need to be NICE and everything will fall into place. When women tap into their anger, it frightens people who aren’t used to seeing such power. Why do you think people use the phrase “angry black woman,” “angry feminist,” and other permutations as a way to belittle women who are expressing fury?
We all have a light to share with others. Sometimes, it’s gentle and allows others to discover themselves. Sometimes, it’s a raging inferno that creates new things while destroying the old. Today, chose to experience the inferno and make the world better.
Originally published at medium.com