Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Smart, Strong, Opinionated - and Unapologetically Bossy

I speak my mind.

I claim my place.

And I am proudly, without apology, bossy.

This week, I read with interest about the launch of the "Ban Bossy" movement.  Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of  "Lean In:  Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" has joined with other high profile women to encourage young girls to be leaders.  "Ban Bossy" says that the words girls are called, particularly "bossy," can discourage them from wanting to take leadership positions and have a negative impact on the self-esteem of girls and young women.

There is no doubt that there is validity to those notions.  I just don't think they go far enough.

The very society we live in, as girls, as young women, as females at any stage of our lives, discourages us from asserting ourselves, from standing out, from speaking up.

I was a shy kid with an extroverted streak (and despite my outspokenness, remain an introverted adult who is no one's doormat). I had ideas.  I was good at organizing anything. I love the arts and sometimes loved to "show off" - another term I embrace.

I was a rail-thin African American girl with a speech impediment.

And before I was twelve years old, I grew to just a click under six feet tall

"Bossy" was the least of my problems. I often joke that, had I been gay, I would have hit the trifecta of discrimination.

Of all the abuse a woman will endure during her life, I at least have the power to overcome what I am called, and even to pin it to a banner and fly it as my badge of honor.

I don't know what gave me confidence in myself, confidence I lacked as a child.  Perhaps it was being acknowledged for my intelligence and my talents.  Perhaps it was moving a bunch of times and having to make new friends everywhere I went.  Perhaps it was the rise of civil rights, women's rights and gay rights, and seeing other people who were not going to be defined or limited by bigotry, hatred or societal expectations.

When I began to respect myself, I knew that, in the end, it did not matter what strangers thought of me.  Ironically enough, that's when more and more people starting giving me the respect I deserved all along.

And what I accomplished!  I got into the college of my dreams and learned so much there, both in and out of the classroom.

I was one of 15 people, out of 2000 applicants, accepted into the Directors Guild/Producers Alliance Assistant Directors Training Program, based on testing and a series of interviews.  I have worked on films, in television on numerous series, a TV movie and a miniseries, and even on a commercial series by one of the quirkiest, most highly regarded directors of the day.

I travelled across the country and overseas, often by myself, meeting people, exploring cultures and seeing sights and  sites that opened my eyes to the wonders of this world.

I accomplished all of this despite being called names, having to overcome stereotypes and having to kick down the walls of exclusion that stood between me and my goals.

I would like to say to every little girl who has been called bossy, this is what it really means you are:

Self-assured.  Strong,  Confident.  Powerful.  Worthy.

It means that you are the one, irreplaceable, you.

So don't let anyone stop you.  Work hard to achieve your dreams.

Not everyone will like you.  It does not matter.

Sometimes people will call you names.  It is then that you know that they fear your power and your potential.  Their words do not define you.  Only you can define you.

And always remember:

It's not what you're called.  It's what you answer to.
                                                                                               - African proverb