I’m 5 foot 2. 107 pounds. Probably can’t do a pull up. Not that I would be one to try. One thing I’ve never been described as in my life is strong.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told to speak louder, be more authoritarian, stop being so nice. I’ve been told to lean in, stand up, take up more space, take charge, say no.
The older I get and in the more competitive environments I find myself and at the higher level I succeed; the more frequent the comments have become. I am told to be a good leader, I need to stop being “weak”. While much of that advice was well-meaning, it is disempowering. And it is false.
When they say weak, they’re talking about the moments that I listen instead of speak, think instead of raise my hand, process instead of stand up, acknowledge instead of interrupt. Again and again and again.
And for once, my introverted and introspective character breaks and I actually just want to scream at all of them: they are wrong.
My interest in hearing others out is absolutely not a lack of confidence in my own ability. My tolerance is not passiveness. Do not confuse my kindness for submission.
Do not confuse my true strengths for “weakness”.
It takes strength to shut up. To observe. To forgive. To trust. To choose the war over the battle. To serve.
For so long, power has looked like man. Loud, big, competitive. A man painted by men. Just because it’s our history, that does not mean it should be our future.
We need to speak and we need to listen. Stand up and lean down to lift other. Join in in harmony and stay silent for someone else’s solo. Give opinions and receive feedback. There is a time for speaking up and standing out and taking up all of the space and interrupting when you haven’t had the chance to be heard. But let’s not confuse all of these things for inherent strength just because they’re loud.
Stop telling leaders who don’t look or sound exactly like the ones that you’ve always been used to, that they are doing it wrong. Stop telling boys to stop crying and girls to speak louder. Maybe we wouldn’t need to speak so damn loud if anyone else stopped talking long enough to listen.
There is so much strength in listening, understanding, silence, crying, feeling, apologizing. These are not female or male characteristics, these are human.
Stop calling all of my strength, weakness.