A Blog About Not Blogging

So I didn’t blog last week. Who noticed? After seven consecutive weeks of sharing my thoughts and opinions, I didn’t post. So today I give you a blog about not blogging.

Starting this project has been a whirlwind for me. And as an over-thinker, I ran myself through the gamut of devil’s advocate questions: why are you doing this? Do you think that you’re this important? Are people going to think you just want attention? Will people talk about what you’re doing behind your back?

I think we often ask ourselves questions like these when faced with pursing something that we are passionate about. There is a fear that our level of excitement and interest might actually become something to be embarrassed about. Truthfully, how many times have we heard people poking fun at someone for being “too into” something? How many times have we done so ourselves?

I didn’t post for a couple of reasons. One was that I couldn’t choose between a number of topics. Another was that I didn’t have any accompanying photos to use. Now both of these were silly reasons because what I was really worried about was what people would be most interested in me posting about, and that I needed some trendy picture that I liked of myself (since I had exhausted all my faux-fur coat pics).

I think in the back of my head I decided that if it wasn’t going to be up to my standards, and to some degree of perfection, it wasn’t worth posting. Reflecting on this I know that I wasn’t thinking rationally.

The Confidence Gap

Several pieces of research have shown that as compared to men, women don’t consider themselves ready for promotions, qualified enough for new jobs, think that they will perform worse on tests, and in general they underestimate their abilities.

This can have very real consequences for women. More and more studies show that confidence correlates to success just as closely as competence. For example, research conducted by Hewlett-Packard showed that women applying for promotions will only do so if they believe that they fit 100% of the job qualifications. Conversely, men feel confident to apply if they fit at least 60% of the qualifications.

As one article states, “Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect. Or practically perfect.”

The confidence gap is formed very early in life. The Girls’ Index, published by Ruling our Experiences, is the largest national study of young girls in the United States. The report found the following:

  • Confidence declines sharply between 5th and 9th grade (over 20% drop in girls who say that they are confident)
  • 46% of high school girls do not believe they are smart enough for their dream career
  • 1 in 2 girls don’t disagree with others nor say what they are thinking because they want to be liked
  • 1 in 3 girls with a GPA above 4.0 do not think they are smart enough for their dream career

No wonder women like myself struggle today with lack of confidence and belief in their abilities. Starting in just 5th grade our confidence declines – and confidence is a huge determinant of success later in life.

Imposter Syndrome

Another concept that comes into play is imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is a deep-seated feeling of insecurity or self-doubt that makes one feel like they are a fake, despite there being substantial evidence to the contrary. These feelings are frequently activated after some sort of accomplishment.

Psychologists have shown that those who experience imposter syndrome often convince themselves that they don’t deserve their successes – and that they instead arose from luck or from other’s believing that they are better at something than they really are. This usually manifests through someone not wanting to talk about their successes, or not wanting to claim that they are an “expert.” It makes it hard to own titles like “artist,” “musician,” “scientist,” etc.

For example, I don’t really feel like I can say that I’m a blogger. This is only my eighth post, and I don’t have a substantial following. I could come up with a plethora of reasons to disqualify myself. A lot of times I feel like people probably think I’m trying to be an “influencer,” when in reality I’m just trying to be true to myself and learn something new. And for this I feel like a fraud. What authority to I have to put my ideas and opinions out there in the world?

Questions Answered

So I return to the questions that I posed to myself.

Why are you doing this? I’m doing this for me. For the little girl that made-believe that she was a magazine editor and who wrote chapters of books that she never finished. I’m doing this to learn and to find my voice. And finally, I’m doing this because I have seen time and time again that the things that I do give voice to, resonate with people. For me life is about human connection, and finding ways to relate with others based upon our shared humanity. So if I can connect with someone in even a small way, I feel that both of us see benefit.

Do you think that you’re this important? No, I don’t. Which I need to work on. But I do know that I need to remind myself that I am worthy, and that my voice matters.

Are people going to think you just want attention? Yes and no. I’ve had people who have expressed support, or thanked me for what I am trying to do. But I also do know people, even some that are close to me, that believe that I share too much for no reason. But what those people don’t realize, is that it isn’t about me. It’s about giving a voice to those who may not feel as empowered to speak up.

Will people talk about what you’re doing behind your back? Yes. Ironically, I’ve seen time and time again that as an individual comes into their own, and starts to feel comfortable in their own skin, someone has something to say about it. People will make fun of you because you make them uncomfortable in some way.

I think that’s just another test of faith in yourself. You gotta just keep doing you through the shade, because being true to yourself will always pay off in the long run. And if anything, at least I’m giving people something to talk about, and connect over, instead of staring at their phones.

Should I say “you’re welcome?”

Body Positive Movement

The body positive movement is starting to catch steam in the retail industry. This week I got really excited, and a tad emotional when the retail company I work for released their new arrivals online. There were two new “plus sized” models. And by “plus sized” I mean around size 8 / 10. Which, yes I’m going to out myself, is my size at the moment.

It was a bit comical to suddenly become aware of the fact that I was smiling from ear to ear at my computer screen in our work café. I definitely got a couple looks like “why is this girl so happy to be working right now?” But that’s the reality. I haven’t seen many girls that look like me at most of the brands that I like to shop.

I do think that it’s a bit crazy to be regarded as “plus size” – as of June 2018, 68% of American women wear a size 14 or above. At a size 8, or a size ten after I’ve ate too many tacos, I think to myself, “I’m still am a medium goddamnit.”  

I’ve heard both sides of the sentiment surrounding the body positive campaigns out there. For one, there is the perspective that they celebrate people who are unhealthy and encourage those individuals to maintain their current lifestyle. And in contrast, the view that retail companies are becoming more inclusive of the diversity of body types that really exist in the world. That just because you are a higher number in sizing doesn’t mean that you’re unhealthy.

Positive or Negative?

Someone close to me who has struggled with an eating disorder for a large part of their life recently asked my opinion on body positivity. She wondered why it was okay for bigger women to be body positive, but not girls who are extremely thin.

In my perspective, we live in a double bind. You can’t be “too small,” or “too big.” There is one body type that has prevailed as being “beautiful,” and therefore that body type is featured in marketing, popular media, and film. And that body type “sells.” People buy products and services that are advertised with women who fit the beauty ideal.

The problem that I see deals with visibility. Disproportionately, we are making bigger women invisible. We don’t celebrate their body type, and we don’t tell their stories. We are making 68% of our American population invisible. Hence my excitement of finally seeing myself reflected in the plus sized model at a brand that I work for, and like to shop.

I had never felt like I have the right to label myself as beautiful. And I often find myself feeling that I am invisible because of my size. Invisible to potential male suitors and therefore impossible to love. It was hard not to think that my size contributed to a partner cheating on me in the past once I knew who they had been with.

I placed my worth on my size, because that is what I have been taught to do. Girls my size play the “fat friend,” or the “fat girl” that gets ridiculed, laughed at, and left out in movies. I still struggle with this. It often feels like if you aren’t in the stereotypical version of being, “in shape,” then you can’t be successful in your life. Feeling invisible, I start to impose that on myself. I don’t order the dessert that I want, because I feel like I can’t be seen eating it.

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter… oh my!

This is further emphasized in social media. Women report that social media, followed by TV and movies are the most impactful factors in how they view their bodies. And we can’t forget that this is starting at a very young age. The more time that young girls spend on social media, they are up to 24% more likely to want to change their appearance. They don’t think that they’re good enough or beautiful enough. And 27% will delete an Instagram post if they feel like it didn’t get enough likes.

Similarly, new research this past year revealed that 88% of women report comparing their bodies to images in the media, and 51% of those individuals think that they compare unfavorably. At this doesn’t just affect women. Sixty-five percent of males report the same behavior. And in general, overtime both men and women become less confident about their bodies.

Being Body Positive

Back to those who believe that the body positive movement is contradicting. Yes – obesity is the leading risk factor for disease and death in the U.S. But the body positive movement is not about “denying science.” We’ve been trained to think of “fat,” as “bad.” And we often either pity those of a larger size, or think of them as “lazy.” We think that they could, “try a little harder,” even while we may simultaneously applaud their confidence.

What the body positive movement is about is loving the body that you have, and treating it with love and respect. Outside of that, it isn’t preaching that weight loss is the answer to someone’s presumed unhappiness. People can be overweight and healthy. People can be overweight and happy. And people can be body positive and want to lose weight. None of these things are mutually exclusive.

But if we continue to make this group of individuals invisible, and “bad,” their self-worth will dwindle. And with it their motivation – their motivation to treat their bodies with respect and love.

Be Bossy

boss·y1, adjective. Fond of giving people orders; domineering. “She was headlong, bossy, scared of nobody, and full of vinegar.” Synonyms: pushy, overhearing, imperious, officious, high-handed, authoritarian, dictatorial, controlling; high and mighty. “we’re hiding from his bossy sister.” Antonyms: submissive.”

This is the result when the word “bossy” is googled. Notice anything about the examples? What about the antonym? I heard this more than once as a kid. But I didn’t notice that when a boy asserted himself, he was called a “leader.” 

I was a bit of an odd kid. In a blog post for the Columbus women’s group, Creative Babes, I told the following story: 

“Well, I was pretty ambitious. And I honestly don’t know where I even learned what it was or what it meant, but I would tell people that I wanted to be a CEO. I actually used to make PowerPoint presentations for fun, and kept school papers in file folders. My favorite make-believe game was pretending that I was the owner and editor of my own magazine, and my two younger cousins were my assistants. (I promise I have a very horizontal approach to leadership now.)  But it wasn’t all make-believe. I actually created, “Diana’s Magazine,” where I sold services like car-washes and cleaning dishes, wrote poems, and promoted upcoming “shows” that I would put on for my family.”

Creative Babes, Meet Diana Muzina

Where did calling little girls bossy even come from? Little Miss Bossy by Roger Hargreaves was published in 1981. In it, Little Miss Bossy tells everyone what to do, until Wilfred the Wizard casts a spell on her, and she “learns her lesson.”But the pejorative use of “bossy” definitely existed before perms and neon leg-warmers. 

What bossy is about, is tied to sociopolitical issues of social hierarchy; specifically, power. Power that is often associated with high status. And, because of privilege, white men hold the majority of power and status. This is tied to a concept called hegemonic masculinity, or, standards against which all men are judged. In our world, hegemonic masculinity involves largely being white, middle class, young, and heterosexual. Those that do not have all of those things, have different access to opportunities – different access to power. And as women, we are automatically precluded from that access. Due to the fact that manhood is measured in this way, most of men’s lives are spent avoiding emasculation. The theory of hegemonic masculinity says that “women, men or color, working-class men, and gay men are the groups against which men act out their definitions of manhood – the other, “nonmen,”against whom their masculinity is defined.” (Questioning Gender, Robyn Ryle)

Gender roles are ascribed to us even before we’re born. Think of all the “gender reveal,”parties that have been trending. Pink for girls, and blue for boys. Frilly outfits for female babies, and building blocks for the males. In a study conducted by Seavey et al. in 1975, participants were prompted to describe the same exact infant using adjectives. Groups were told that the infant was either a girl, a boy, or without gender. The labeling of gender led to a stark contrast in perceived differences between the children. The perceived boy was described as strong, while the perceived girl was described as soft. (Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, Stephanie L. Meredith)

What countless research has shown is that when you violate your attributed gender role and step outside of your gender transgression zone you will be considered taboo, unnatural, or abnormal. This gender polarization is used to reinforce traditional gender roles – and describes “the ways in which behaviors and attitudes that are viewed as appropriate for men are viewed as inappropriate for women, and vice versa.” (Questioning Gender, Robyn Ryle)

Hence, when a little girl takes charge and exhibits strong, powerful behavior she is called bossy. 

Now, I just fell into a bit of an academic black hole, as there are countless gender and power theories to explore. But what I really want to assert is the effects that being called “bossy,”can affect. 

I had been an outspoken, gung-ho little leader, but quickly turned to bottling emotions, opinions, and my perspectives because I didn’t want to come off as bossy. I would raise my hand in class, but made sure to not be the first hand to raise. Further, I didn’t stand up for myself. I didn’t say anything to being made fun of for my crooked teeth in third-grade, and I didn’t say anything when I was eighteen, won the popular vote for student class president, but was told that the school needed to “see a boy”in a leadership position. (Ironically, my senior superlative was “most likely to be president.” Good one, guys!)

I was told bossy was a bad thing. But if I had continued to be bossy, maybe I would have righted some wrongs, or obtained some of the opportunities I deserved. 

In the Creative Babes blog post, I went on to say the following:

“Now it didn’t end there. I made the tickets and the environmental branding to go along with it. A couple weeks ago I was telling my older sister about this project, and we started reminiscing. She told me that I always had a business plan, “I would want the glam experience of selling lemonade, and you would ask me what our ‘target audience,’ was.” Yeah, I was weird. I definitely got that I was bossy, but now I proudly boast a “girl boss,” placard at my desk at work and recognize that was just something people say to little girls who are strong leaders.”

Creative Babes, Meet Diana Muzina

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There has been so much talk of not calling little girls bossy anymore. But what I think we really need to do, is change the connotation. What we really need to do is push the boundaries of that gender transgression zone. What we really need to do is make it okay for women to be and be seen as, powerful. We need to Be Bossy.