The internet has a lot of things to say about how women should stop speaking in ways that betray our strength. We shouldn’t say “just” or “sorry” or use up-talk or vocal fry. Growing up in the South, I was always socialized to believe that women should always be polite and sweet, full of compliments and pet names, and God forbid that you should ever snap back at someone who is rude to you. No, ma’am. You just blush and back out of the room like any well-bred lady.
All of it–and I repeat ALL of it–is hogwash. Malarkey. Drivel.
Unfortunately, as much as I know that intellectually, I do see how it’s true that most people expect certain behaviors, appearances, and customs to be observed for them to consider you respectable in whatever way. As a young woman, I’ve struggled with tossing all that aside to be myself, especially in the workplace. Even in a field as progressive as libraries, there are far too many people ready and eager to judge. The older I get and the more experience I gain, though, I’m finding it easier to cast off what’s expected or what would be pleasing to people (even people I love) to be myself.
This year, I want to step fully into that.
This year, ladies and gents, I resolve to OWN MY POWER.
1. I will speak in a kind and caring way when I’m working, using whatever intonation or diction I wish. The words I choose and my vocal patterns are not a reliable reflection of my self-confidence and strength. What I do, the work that I create, the people I help and the communities that I build–those are reflections of me and of what I’m capable of doing. So, sir, do not read too much into whether or not I say sorry when bumping into you with my book cart.
2. I will be more direct. For a long time, I worried about voicing my opinions in a way that would make co-workers think I’m too cocky. I’m a young woman, and I’m aware that some (maybe even lots of) people have feelings about relative youth that make them doubt my skills. (What I love about this is that it can be both a reason to condemn me and an excuse for why an older person can’t match me. “Well, I guess you young people just do things differently.” “You’ll feel differently when you’ve been around longer.” “Sure, you can get all this done. You’re young and have energy.” Sometimes being young means that people will doubt you and then write you off even when you do amaze them.) I’m not going to waste time on that kind of side-stepping anymore. I just want to say what I know and what I think is best without worrying if everyone will still like me for it.
3. I’m going to stop thinking that everyone else’s opinions or experiences are better than mine. I’m still relatively new to the profession. I’ve been a librarian for two years and was a paraprofessional a little before that. I’ve done some things I’m really proud of, largely because of my PLN and how they’ve inspired me. Still, if I’m being honest, I’m always looking at the way other people do things because I’ve always wanted someone to turn up like some kind of fairy godmother to tell me everything I need to do to “make it.” I didn’t really have a mentor in any of my workplaces, and I’ve always felt a little bit insecure because I’m only going off my own guesswork. When I became a librarian in charge of two branches, I felt so lonely because there was no one who could really help me figure out the best way to do things. I think that’s common in libraries because our work is fluid and constantly evolving. Everything depends on your community and how you understand and relate to them. What works for one library will not work for another. It’s not an easy profession to rise up in the ranks, I think, because there’s no one way. If you’re like me and you crave a Yoda in your life, libraries might be tough going for you. This year, I want to stop waiting for Yoda, though. The longer I go and the more I succeed by winging it, the more certain I am that I will always be my own hero. I will figure it out and overcome any obstacle on pure force of will and resourcefulness. Also, I have joint chief sisters. So…
4. I’m going to let myself take some credit. I mean, let’s be real. I’m pretty legit as a librarian. I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve also more than earned my stripes. I ask hard questions, push myself beyond my comfort zone, make the impossible work, bring visions to life, blaze new trails, and juggle about a million things. I need to stop myself from saying things like, “Oh, no, I’ll never be as great as [insert other librarian I really admire].” It’s true, though. I’ll only ever be as great as me, and that’s still pretty great.
So in short, this is my resolution: