I often say I was raised by a village of psychologists, and in the world where ‘it takes a village’—its true. My father, mother, godmother, and family friends were all at some point, if not currently, practicing ‘shrinks.’ This tribe of emotionally in-touch, highly educated individuals unequivocally shaped my young world. Any and all feelings were valid and explored –all personality traits were dissected and evolved. In our world you weren’t an interrupting kid, you were an ‘intrusive and violating child.’ Any failure was a journey to enlightenment. Any enemy, an opportunity to rise above. Success in life is driven by personal and interpersonal strategy.
All this analysis, and coding landed me with not only a pretty solid vocabulary at a young age, but also a clear view of my strengths at weaknesses. At the sparkly age of 8 years old my parents sat me down and lovingly said, “kid, you’re bossy and it’s not working for you.” They were right, I was alienating (#psychbuzzword) my schoolmates and speaking out in class. They went on, “But! The great news is that you can use this quality and craft it into being a strong leader.” And over the next weeks, months and years they helped me take my buffet of opinions and volume and source them to speaking strongly for what I believed in. They showed me how sparkle well placed, is charisma. They showed me that this ‘flaw’ of being bossy wasn’t a flaw at all, but rather, a tool to be a better version of me.
I was lucky, my parents were able to have the intuition, patience, love and indeed, the education, to take two seemingly disparate qualities like bossiness and sparkle, and show me how to use them together to become a likeable leader.
I’m thrilled to reflect that this country has done a lot of talking in recent years about girls and how we treat them. A couple years ago I worked on a marketing campaign for a large non-profit who’s primary mission is to lift girls into a higher orbit. From that experience and personal ones I’m drawn to two main conclusions about the ‘problem’ about girls: we must allow them to be anything they want (CFO or full-time mom); and we must support them from infancy through (successful) adulthood. Success shouldn’t be measured by the number of women we convince to want to be CEO – but rather the number of women who are encouraged to find their own path by honing their skills.
The national conversation issued and continued by Sheryl Sandberg is a vital one: it draws controversy that starts the conversation and makes way for change. I would simply submit that we teach girls not only to excel in school but excel in knowing themselves. Part of what makes navigating a career challenging is knowing what direction you would like to go; then having the tenacity to be impervious to naysayers and obstacles. Let’s teach all girls in our lives that they can be not only WHAT they want to be - but WHO. After all, as Booker T. Washington said, character is power.
Here’s to powerful girls!