KNOWLEDGE SPEAKS, BUT WISDOM LISTENS ~Jimi Hendrix
Ani Di Franco extolled the virtues of having more flavors than Baskin Robbins, and Meredith Brooks made “Bitch” the theme song of every lady trying to do her thang in the late 90’s, much to the chagrin of those unable to move beyond the title of the song itself and really listen to the lyrics. Man, people do get hung up on words, don’t they?
What these two fine ladies were trying to say was “I am more than what you see,” or perhaps more importantly, “how you have labeled me.”
I’m going to show the men a little love here as well. Have you ever seen that picture of Bill Gates and friends, circa 1970-something with a caption asking “would you have invested?” It’s meant as a joke, but I have to chuckle a little bit because anyone who had a chance to invest in Microsoft and didn’t because Bill Gates looked like a complete spazatron to them, well, joke’s on you buster. That’s what you get for judging a book by its cover.
We all carry labels, whether we want to or not. Some are inescapable. However I think that the assumptions that go along with the labels are the dangerous part. Sometimes these assumptions lead to stereotypes which can limit opportunities and cause people to make judgements about your capabilities. Allow me to share a personal story….
I once worked for a man who would put Narcissus to shame. Please do not take my word for this. There is a litany of former employees who can attest to this. The idea of a book has been thrown around quite a few times, and would include stories ranging from the humorous to the horrifying. The chapters would include themes about being a sexist pig, a hypocrite and a crook…..just nowhere near as swanky as Mad Men. Sorry, Draper fans….
Oh, and stories about his hair. Lots and lots of stories about his hair.
This individual is a self described creative genius….just ask him, he will tell you. He is also an incredibly insecure mad man. A man with such an immeasurable high level of OCD that once when I mistakenly used blue ink pen instead of black, the fallout was similar to the wire hanger scene from Mommy Dearest. Imagine Joan Crawford pelting you with blue ink pens whilst screaming “I told you!!!! NO BLUE INK!!!!”
Another time during a performance review I was told “you don’t wear enough makeup,” to which I calmly replied that when he could provide me with solid scientific data proving that wearing lipstick improved job performance, I would consider it. An accompanying bar graph or pie chart would have been helpful as well. I’m still waiting.
What does either of these things have to do with limitations placed on individuals based upon labels? Not a damn thing. Unless there is a stereotype going around about non lipstick wearing gals being really bad at their jobs that I’m completely unaware of, they’re just funny stories (in retrospect of course).
I am getting to a point despite what you might be thinking right now. Thank you for hanging in there thus far….
This individual is in my “Hall of Monsters” not only because of the barrage of blue ink pens or the insinuation that if I spackled my face I would be way better at my job, but also because he held me back creatively. I was hired in an administrative capacity, and that’s pretty much where I stayed. I was continually told that I was “one of the least creative people he had ever met,” along with comments like “you can’t write the copy for this ad…remember, you’re only an office manager/account rep/media buyer/insert left brain job function here.”
Basically he was the playground bully, just all grown up….and he signed the paychecks. And, like a hostage who eventually sympathizes with her captor, I started to believe what he had to say. Even worse I started seeking approval that could never possibly come.
Granted, it wasn’t his job to nurture my creativity but it wasn’t his place to squash me either. Is this completely his fault? Not at all….me with my low self worth/esteem + he with his insecurities and delusions of grandeur were a toxic cocktail to my creative self.
And now that I’ve relived that professional trauma, I need a cocktail.
That was a long time ago and fortunately I no longer feel the need for others to validate me or my talents. I have come to accept the fact that the way people treat you has more to do with them than it does with you. It’s called projection, in case you are unfamiliar with the term.
Sadly most of us have at some point allowed the outside world to dictate who we are, how we should act or even tell us what we may or may not be good at doing. This leads to a lot of unhappy and unfulfilled folks, as they are carrying around this inner desire to just be who they really feel they are. Maybe some of your talents are lying dormant from childhood, or maybe you have talents you didn’t even know you had. This was recently brought to my consciousness by a former coworker (set to be a contributing writer to aforementioned book) who suggested that…gasp!!! I might actually be a halfway decent writer.
According to Julia Cameron, the author of “The Artist’s Way,” voracious readers may actually be writers in hiding. I am a voracious reader. But reading is easy. Writing is scary.
So here I am, trying to figure out if I might be some kind of writer. Well of course I’m SOME kind of writer, I’m writing, aren’t I? And then I’m trying to figure out if I care if I think I’m a writer, because I don’t know if I want to “labeled” as one. Lol.
Like any other skill, practice makes perfect….so I will continue to write and hopefully over time my skills will improve. Or maybe they won’t. And that’s ok too. I’m trying, and just like making jewelry, it is bringing me both joy and creative fulfillment. It will be interesting to look back some time from now and see how things have changed, because they will. Everything always does.
All of this…coming to terms with negativity from the past, moving through it, moving forward, being my authentic self and trying despite the fact that failure may come and mistakes will be made makes me feel like some type of wisdom has been bestowed upon me….it is interesting all the things I am learning as I listen with my heart.
Do I consider myself wise? I’m certainly not an oracle, but I’m headed in the right direction.
The hardest part was just getting started.
Peace, love and blessings to all….
PS…this entire post was first written longhand in blue ink pen. Just thought you’d like to know 😉