I’ve been called a lot of things. Stubborn. Strong willed. Hard headed. Compassionate. Quiet. Gentle. But no one ever called me bossy. Never ever Bossy.
And it’s not because I shy away from leadership roles or never take initiative. I’ve done a lot of leading in roles at school, in the workplace, among friends. I try hard to step forward and be in charge when others won’t or can’t. But I have a different way of doing things, and my way is not assertive.
Here’s the truth of it. I don’t know how to put my foot down. Not at all. I shy away from confrontation or situations where I might look over bearing. I’m scared to set people off or make anyone uncomfortable because of imperious ways. Instead of being effective, I’m left feeling glossed over.
I never learned to be bossy because I always thought it was a bad thing.
But I wish I had bossy in me. I so wish someone had told me that it was okay to be bold, that sometimes you have to be strong and, yes, bossy to make an impact. Sometimes a forceful personality is a good balance for a “sweet and gentle way.”
Lately, I’ve been lamenting my lack of bossy-ness. I find myself in situations where I’d wish my voice were louder. I wish I could put my foot down and just be more assertive. But when I try, I end up red face and feeling conflicted and frustrated, and nothing gets resolved.
This is part of what makes my stomach churn about LeanIn.org’s campaign to ban bossy. I don’t think the word bossy is the enemy here. Bossy an attitude and a way to be. And it can be a good thing. Until we recognize that it’s attitudes that make our daughters meek and afraid to raise their hands in school, until we can change our expectations that make girls second in leadership, nothing will change.
Of course I want Julia to have a sweetness about her. And of course I want her to be kind and compassionate. But I want her to be strong too. I want her to know how to make her voice heard, her skills recognized, her lead followed. If calling her bossy is one way to recognize her inner strength, then I will teach her to be bossy. I wish someone had taught me.