It happens every time I’m at a meeting, usually surrounded by people I need to build a mutually respectful relationship with. I’m calm and collected, ready to wow them with my instant credibility, subject matter expertise and subtle wit; they are going to love me! But wait, what’s that? NO – some bastard is suggesting a round-the-table type introduction thingy… whhhyyyyyy?!??!! I can’t explain it, but this situation always fills me with a ridiculous degree of fear.
Panic sets in and I can feel all the moisture retreat from my mouth – for some reason it’s trying to escape from my eyes – great! Do I look like I’m crying? Am I going to cry? Should I fake a yawn as an attempt to hide it or is appearing bored worse than looking like…whatever the hell I look like?
In my head I’m frantically going over my name, job title and purpose like these are newly introduced concepts to me– but shit – I don’t think I can actually remember how to pronounce my name. I’m just going to have to freestyle it and hope for the best. Keep smiling and nodding…pretend you’re absorbing what ‘whatever she said her name was’ is saying, as she looks important. Two more people and it’s my turn. I’ve got this, I’m credible and smart and my place here is valid. I’m confidant enough to just be me – my go, deep breath, calm and credible… *shouting like a child* “Hi I’m Yo-ghee, I’m *repeats what last person said even though I have no idea who they are*, I’m happy being here”. Nailed it!
Despite having close to 20 years corporate experience, I have never mastered the art of group introductions. Past scenarios have seen me mindlessly repeat, word-for-word, what the person before me said. I’ve given myself promotions, demotions, a company change, name change, sex change – the horrifying list goes on. Worst of all, I have no idea why this simple task reduces me to such jittering wreck.
I want to be that lady over there…
I was sat on the tube a few weeks back and a lady sat opposite me. She must have been late fifties – early sixties; she had short white hair that had been scattered with pastel pink and purple highlights. Her lips were a vibrant shade of red and she sported a lime green puffa-jacket. Despite how it sounds when written down, she looked sensational! I couldn’t stop looking at her; she exuded a quiet confidence and self-assuredness that was magnetic. She looked so damn ‘together’ and I wanted to be her. Right then I promised myself that when I’m her age, I’ll be unashamedly me too!
I read a social media post recently that described how the menopause can act as a pivotal moment in a woman’s life – it’s like a kick up the arse, a sweaty sleepless reminder that life is short, and time isn’t infinite; if you’re not going to live authentically as you now, then when?
Excellent, only another 20 or so years to go before I can embrace my true self and feel an inner confidence that has been so lacking until now. And yes, I’m rolling my eyes because I know it’s so ridiculous. Why on earth do I need to waste another moment, let alone 20 years, on self-doubt and introduction-related anxiety – and what exactly do I expect to happen between now and 55 that’s going to make me acquire such a zero-fucks attitude?
It’s a question I’ve tried to bulldoze my way over many times in the past. To help me put my most ‘authentic’ face forward I’ve played with the exterior – done things which will help make being the real me unavoidable; tattoos, piercings, change of clothes, hair etc etc. You get the picture, and you probably won’t be shocked to hear that no amount of exterior change has ever given me the confidence I dreamed it would (and if I’m honest, despite feeling that I am being true to myself, such public proclamations of self, have actually just given me something else to feel self-conscious about).
So – this is the lightning bolt moment – maybe what I can surmise is that the issue isn’t with the outside and more about what’s going on in my brain (shocker, right?!)?
Definition – Conformity: is a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behaviour in order to fit in with a group.
There is always going to be pressure to conform no matter who you are, but I can only write about how I experience the world as a woman, and I’m sure most will agree that it’s bloody hard to keep up with what’s expected.
How many times have I seen the ‘get yourself a woman who can do both’ memes – it seems we’re required to be professional and kick-arse at work, yet gentle and loving at home. Intelligent and lady-like at dinner, but sexy and insatiable in the bedroom. Curvy and feminine, yet fit and strong. Emotionally available, yet aloof and independent. Free spirited and ethereal, but contoured and polished – the list goes on and it’s exhausting! And that’s before we throw in the ‘chop off all your hair’, ‘nope grow it back’ and the demands of keeping up with fashions and trends. WHY CAN’T I JUST BE ME???
And maybe that’s it! Maybe you find confidence with age because you’re genuinely just exhausted by the bullshit! You’ve experienced enough trends and fads and fazes that you’ve grown weary and disinterested in being what others expect you to be, and what’s left when the layers of expectation are scraped away is… you. Beautiful, authentic, confident – you!
So maybe that’s the way I move forwards; instead of feeding the inertia of ‘the more I try to be accepted, the less I accept myself’ and I find peace by submitting to my growing disillusionment with keeping up. For once I have a sneaking suspicion that embracing this exhaustion might be the most transformational thing I can do.
“Hello, my name is Jodie. I’m doing some blogging and trying to figure stuff out. Thanks for reading!” 🙂
“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.” – Aunt Frances”
― Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic