That's what my cousins called me growing up. It's now family lore and my nickname - pulled out whenever I'm little too opinionated or assertive or dominant.
As I became an adult, bossy became abrasive or loud or just plain old bitchy but the underlying message was always the same.
“How you are is not ok. You need to change."
For a very long time, I internalized that message. My parents still recall my all-consuming insecurity throughout elementary school, middle school, and much of high school. I looked different with my red hair and glasses. I acted different with my “loud mouth” and opinions. And I felt different. I longed to be the pretty quiet girl who everyone described as “sweet” and “nice” but NEVER bossy.
Looking back, I know I backed away from leadership opportunities or moments to shine because I received enough criticism in my everyday life, why would I put myself out there for more? Why would I put myself out there to be called bossy again?
It wasn't until I got to college that I began to realize that I wasn't the only one being called bossy. Suddenly, I was surrounded my smart,assertive women who showed me we were all being called bossy but that our male counterparts weren't. The men weren't being told to sit down, shut up, and conform.
I wish I could adequately express what's it is like to realize that your personality isn't fundamentally flawed. I wish I could tell you the relief I felt when I realized I was not the problem.
Now, realizing that society has expectations for how women should behave and swift and strict consequences when they do not conform is crazy-making in its own way. However, it is still empowering to realize that who you are is valid and there are a huge army of women who know exactly how you feel.
Even better? Realizing there are woman who believe that we need to BAN BOSSY!
Today, on the one-year anniversary of Lean In, LeanIn.Org and the Girl Scouts are launching a public service campaign to Ban Bossy – and encourage all girls to lead.
When little boys lead, we call them “leaders”. But when little girls lead, they risk being labeled “bossy”. These negative messages have a real impact; by middle school, girls are less interested in leadership roles than boys – a trend that continues into adulthood. - Sheryl Sandberg
So, join LeanIn.Org, the Girl Scouts, and ME to BAN BOSSY! Let's stop telling little girls, especially assertive ones, that they aren't ok just the way they are.
There are a million positive words to describe the little faces in our lives.
Bossy shouldn't be one of them.