I used to love belting out this song when I was in high school. Mostly because I didn’t really swear out loud until college. True story.
In last week’s post, I wrote that my friend, Casey, called me a bitch. Well, she didn’t actually call me a bitch. We were on the beach chatting, and I mentioned that someone thought I was a bitch, and I didn’t understand why.
Casey responded matter-of-fact, “Yeah, I thought you were a bitch when I first met you too.” I’m blinked a few times. “REALLY?” I responded, totally confused by how we came to be laying on the beach together, sipping on fruity cocktails if she thought I were a bitch.
I knew she wasn’t trying to be mean. When she explained why, it made perfect sense, and she had obviously looked past it. But I had received that same feedback from several people, either directly after we had become friends, or indirectly through a mutual friend. It always surprised me and makes me kinda sad because I’m a total people pleaser. Well, in the process of becoming a reformed one.
My initial reaction to being called a “bitch” or the equally confusing “intimidating” is to figure out why, so that I can change their opinion. I’ve never been one that’s ok with not everyone liking me. It always hurts a bit, although I’m better at letting it not bother me as much. I also find being called a bitch kind of funny because I’m totally insecure and introverted when I meet new people. If you don’t know me well, you’d probably laugh in disbelief, but it’s true.
I was so shy growing up that I avoided answering the telephone whenever it rang. It was before we had caller ID, so the thought of having to make small talk with whoever was on the other end of the line was frightening. I would literally get as far away from the phone as possible, so that someone else would have to pick up the phone. This painful shyness continued until college when I thought that it would be a brilliant idea to take a job as a junior admissions counselor (a fancy name for cold calling high school students and answering their questions about the college). Rarely, did these kids want to say hi to me, let alone talk to me about their future goals. Many of their parents were equally annoyed and occasionally hung up on me mid-sentence. I had essentially signed up for my worst nightmare, but it paid well in comparison to other on campus jobs, and I didn’t have to work odd hours.
There were days when I was extremely uncomfortable and may have cried on my way back to my dorm, but it ended up being incredibly valuable experience. I kept that job all 4 years, and slowly emerged from my shell.
When I graduated from college and entered the working world, I quickly learned that I had to at least pretend to be confident, or else I would get passed over for certain opportunities – or worse – people would forget that I was even present.
So I learned to have a bigger voice, to offer my opinion even when I wasn’t certain that I had the right answer, and to speak up for myself. Slowly, but surely, a more confident Mae appeared that I’m still trying to nurture. I wouldn’t say that it’s a lie, but a confident image does run counter to what I feel naturally.
Ironically, a few years ago, I took one of those personality assessment tests at a leadership training course, and the results were that I can be intimidating, domineering, and a little too direct. In professional terms, a raging bitch. Ha! Apparently, I perfected this alternative Mae a little too well.
While I’m much more confident (or at least better at projecting confidence), I can still be awkward in new settings or when meeting new people. By nature, I usually want to sit back and stay awkwardly silent until someone approaches me.
I’m still incredibly insecure of who I am and what people think of me, especially when I think the other person “has it all together.” That’s when I unintentionally try to overcompensate by pretending to be super confident which comes off as not genuine and/or bitchy.
In settings where I am familiar, I’m outgoing, loud and not afraid to say exactly what I’m thinking. Unfortunately, this can have the opposite effect of being portrayed as intimidating.
My husband has also said that height doesn’t do me any favors either. Apparently, a 6-foot tall woman is like Sasquatch – both feared and revered.
After pinpointing some reasons why I may project a negative image, I wondered what to do with it? I like that I’ve grown into a more confident woman, but this little internal exercise has made me aware of the fact that there’s still lots of insecurity beneath.
I’ve decided that instead of overcompensating when I’m in new situations, I need to be ok with the fact that I don’t have it all together and relax a little. I have stuck my foot in my mouth more times than I can count, but rarely are those mistakes a big deal after the fact.
I also need to stop any judgment of the other person before I know them. They have their own list of insecurities, and I need to stop projecting whatever on them – even if it’s positive (they are SO perfect!) because it skews my perception and interaction with them from the beginning.
Lastly and most sad, not everyone is going to like me. I know. How can anyone not love this? Look how graceful and delicate that I am.
I wouldn’t trade the confidence and self-worth that I’ve built up for anything. It has opened me up to a world of possibilities. We’re all just trying to overcome our own insecurities and make a good impression. And if people still think I’m a bitch, well… I guess it’s better than not making an impression at all… unless it’s a job interview… then I just really need to get my shit together.
What misconceptions have others had about you? Have you done anything to try to change how you’re perceived?