There was some little snap inside me this week. I’m not sure what it is – could be that the heat has just gotten to me. (After this blistering summer heat, I truly can’t wait for sweater weather!) It might have to do with some shifting tides at work – all good and different. Brian would probably say that finally, finally, finally I am trusting my gut enough to let it have its own voice. Or he might say that the prana really loves me and therefore uses me every chance it gets. Whatever the reason, this week, for the first time in a long time, I was unmistakably me. My friend, Col, also realized this trend and wrote about it on her blog this week.
I have what some people have termed as a bold personality. Though for the past few months I’ve tempered that, particularly in public forums. My friend, Blair, gave me the nickname “Scrappy” (yes, as is “Scrappy Doo”) some years ago. Lately, I’ve lost a bit of that spiciness. This week it came shining through on several important occasions.
On Wednesday morning I had a meeting about a new initiative that I’m particularly passionate about. A lot of people gathered around a table to offer up feeble, same-old same-old opinions. So rather than tuning out and going to my happy place as I often do in meetings with people who have fancy titles and not much to support them, I spoke up. There were some arched eyebrows around the table, a few sheepish looks, and while I certainly remained professional and courteous, I pointed out that doing what we’ve always done just isn’t working and we should do x, y, and z instead. And then I produced the data to back up my opinions. I think a few people left the room at the end of the meeting saying, “and who was that woman and what part of the company does she work in?” in a positive way. I do like to encourage curiosity and push people’s boundaries.
The funny side to my boldness is that I’m also a pleaser. I do like people to like me. I like to be helpful, to strangers and friends alike. And I’m good at sharing, listening, and empathizing. I paid attention in kindergarten and got a good foundation of social skills. But pleasers have a rather dangerous lot in life – as pleasers, it’s easy to lose ourselves.
There’s a balance between boldness and pleasing, to be sure, and in the past I have often veered too far to one side of the spectrum or the other. This week, I got that balance right, dead on. While I did want some new audiences to like me, I also made it a point, without even trying, to also have some tough conversations with those parties, not for the sake of being tough but for the sake of really helping them and making our interaction a valuable use of their time. It was easier than I thought it would be, certainly easier than it’s been before. I cared less about being liked by them, and more about helping them think more clearly and contribute in a more meaningful way.
Brian told me that adolescence actually lasts into our early 30’s. Now at the start of my mid-30’s it’s no surprise to him that I’m beginning to rise up in every area of my life – personally and professionally. I do feel that after so much work of laying the foundations of my life, I’m now building castles in the air – exactly the opposite of the order that Thoreau discusses in his quote above. After this week I’m now wondering whether a good foundation naturally supports and builds a castle on its own simply because that’s what a foundation is meant to do. And by comparison, if we spend so much time working on who we are at our very core, all of a sudden do we step into the light just because that’s where we’re now ready to be?