I wasn't a "bossy" child, I was a quiet child. I happily tagged along with my older brothers and waited on the sidelines for when I could be part of the game. Our favorite game growing up was "Fire Department". My dad was a volunteer firefighter in our town and we of course thought that was the coolest thing on the planet. We had this big old garage at home where my mother would sometimes store the antiques she had picked up, and there was this huge office desk in there with a big leather wingback chair which we made into our "fire department office". An old black rotary phone was dug up from somewhere and the phone would "ring" and someone would answer the phone, relay the "fire emergency" they had just pretended to hear to the fire fighters, who would then jump on their bikes and rush off to pretend to fight the fire, usually at the "first berry tree" on the end of our road. The firefighters were usually made up of my older brother and his friends, and me? I was the receptionist. Yes, I was the fire department receptionist. Not a firefighter. I didn't get to suit up in the raincoats and boots they wore (their fire gear, naturally), I didn't get to ride my bike down as fast as I could to the first berry tree, I didn't get to pretend to hose down the flaming tree and report back how successful the fire fighting was. I was the one who answered the phone, told the boys where to go, then sat around and picked clovers to make crowns and necklaces from while I waited for them to get back from their adventures. Did I mind? Sort of. I mean, on the one hand I was just thrilled to be included in the games that my older brother played with his friends, but on the other hand I did want to be a firefighter too, of course I did. I wanted to wear my hand me down yellow rain coat and join in on what seemed like the most exciting part of the entire game, but I didn't complain. Neither of my brothers, nor anyone else in my family, really ever excluded me based on me being a girl, and I'm not sure how I wound up as the receptionist. Maybe it was because there were no female firefighters in the volunteer fire department in my town? I don't know, but I do know that I just accepted it. Making clover chains was also my specialty in my position as the first girl on the Little League team. I wasn't particularly good at baseball when I was younger (okay or ever), so they plunked me down in the outfield (way way out) and I would make clover necklaces for all of the boys on the team. No one taught me the rules, and when I would actually make contact with the ball that was seen as a very surprising minor victory.
In a lot of ways, growing up, I just accepted it. Rather than insist on figuring out what my real problems were with math I accepted that I was just "bad" at it and instead focused on writing (which, truth be told, is my real passion, but I would have appreciated not feeling like a total moron in math for most of high school). The other thing I was good at was being nice. All the time. I just wanted to be nice and have people like me. Even when something wasn't my fault, I went into nice mode. Apologetic mode. I was afraid of being seen as bossy or aggressive, and I didn't feel entirely comfortable in a leadership role because of it. Instead of standing up for myself I was better at smoothing things over, making everything nice again, even if it was at my expense.
That changed when I started running my own business. Especially when that business got hijacked for a little bit. That morning when I woke up and saw my name missing from where it belonged on the masthead a switch was flipped, BIG TIME. This was MY business, I started it, and if I wasn't the one that was going to speak up on how it was going to go it would be taken along for a ride and I wouldn't have anyone else but myself to blame in the long run. So I did speak up. And it felt horrible and awesome at the same time. Inside I just wanted to pretend like it was all fine even though it wasn't all in an attempt to not have a confrontation, but I knew deep down that would be a bad move. Allowing my hard work to be changed without my input, to be used, would have been the beginning of the end. I needed to trust myself to know that I could do it on my own, and I could do it better.
I was afraid as being seen as "Bitchy", or "Pushy". I was afraid of being told I didn't know what I was talking about, but the thing is, I DID know what I was talking about. And it was time I said it.
And now, looking back on it, it truly was a turning point. Rather than second guess myself immediately when someone disagrees with me or says no, I check my facts, check my reasoning, polish up my argument and prepare myself to do things the way I think they should be done. I am the one that runs this show, and I don't let anyone else tell me how I should be doing it, no way, no how. I may make mistakes, but I sure as hell would rather make my own mistakes and fix them myself than let someone else make them for me while I sit by and let them do it.
When I work on Mamatoga, I think of my daughter the most, because I want her to know that she can grow up to be the one creating, the one in control, the one calling the shots. You can be nice and still stand up for yourself as a girl, and if someone doesn't like that you are sticking up for yourself? Maybe that's a clue to speak up even louder. I want her to know that she deserves to get paid fairly, she deserves the same opportunities, but you know what? She's going to have to work for it no matter what, and while she is doing that I will support her but also teach her to support herself, to find her own confidence. My advice for her will be: You want to build it Levy? Figure out how to do it yourself. You want to create it? Get started and work hard. You have a passion? Follow it and don't let anyone hold you back or take that away from you.
"If you look at the world, women do 66 percent of the work in the world. Woman produce 50 percent of the food. Women make 10 percent of the income and women own 1 percent of the property. We are 50 percent of the population. We are 5 percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs. We are 17 percent of the board seats. We are 19 percent in Congress. That's not enough for 50 percent of the population. We live in a world that is overwhelming run and owned by men." Sheryl Sandberg
I think the Ban Bossy Campaign is obviously more than banning a word, it's about banning the idea that our girls can't be leaders. As mothers, we all know that this isn't true. We all have little girls in our lives that we think can change the world, and they can. Let's just help make that path clearer for them to do so.