A question for the ladies: How many of you are uncomfortable with your anger? If someone takes advantage of you, hurts you, shames you, dismisses you, do you sometimes suffer in silence rather than speak up? Do you agonize about how you might confront the individual that made you feel small in the first place? Do you worry about how you might be perceived, not just by this individual, but by other people, if you express yourself directly and honestly? Have you tried this before only to have it backfire? Are you more comfortable with swallowing your own discomfort than making other around you uncomfortable?
Welcome. I see you. I get it.
Years ago, I worked under someone that frequently made me feel less-than. They had a gift of garbling words, explaining things in such a way that I (and many others) would leave their office more confused than when I went in. This gift afforded this individual the ability to kind-of promise things without really promising them, to ask for things that were outside of the realm of one’s role, and to make things feel like they were one’s fault when they were decidedly NOT one’s fault. I wanted to give feedback about my experience with this person, and hopefully improve our working relationship. So of course, I did what any strong, competent young professional woman would do. I scheduled a meeting and addressed all of my concerns calmly and rationally.
I basically scurried by their office every day for several months, until I could high-tail it out of that position without making myself vulnerable. I feared being dismissed further; I feared being disliked; I feared being unable to express myself the way I wanted to in the moment. So, I chose avoidance.
I’m not proud of this story, but I also know that this is common experience, especially among women. I know countless strong and competent women with stories like this. I don’t think I’m breaking any new ground by suggesting that women have been socialized to repress our anger, to avoid conflict at all costs, and to smooth things over and make/keep the peace. The question is, once we know all of this, and we are aware that it’s not healthy for us to smoosh our angry feelings into ourselves, how do we just STOP doing it?
So. I’m not trying to be trite here or minimize this issue at all…believe me, I know how uncomfortable it is…but what if we just decided to? What if we decided to prioritize getting in touch with our anger and speaking up for it in healthy and appropriate ways, above keeping others happy with us and comfortable? What if we decided that it’s worth it to schedule the awkward meeting, or to demand to be treated with respect? What if we decided, together, to challenge the very ridiculous social norm that states that empowered women that don’t fear confrontation are cold, unrelatable, and any other number of rude terms, by always choosing to stand in solidarity with those women?
What if we decided that our anger energy deserves to be seen and heard, no matter what, always and unequivocally?
What might you be doing differently, if you prioritized healthily expressing your anger?