Connecting with self

We must make connecting with our self and how we see our self image a priority if we want to make authentic connections to those around us.

For me this has meant being an advocate – that I had a voice to speak up when others felt they could not. Over the years my career has mostly focused on child development, and women’s issues. Most of the time I work almost entirely with women. Early in my career, I generally found – whether in a setting where my colleagues were predominantly women or not – was that as soon as I was around a table of mostly men, I felt I needed to justify my existence at that table.

Gender and age inequity

When I started my career, I was younger than most of my colleagues. I graduated a year younger than most, then qualified for a 3 year degree (due to taking honours level courses in high school). And I looked even younger than I actually was.

Not only was I one of the few women in the room at decision-making levels, but I was also seen as being too young to have anything valuable to contribute to conversations.

Being heard

Before I started qualifying myself at meetings, I was often dismissed. My opinions, or even simple statements of observations, were often ignored.

What did this look like for me? It looked like, not being called on to share insights while others with less experience and/or less relevant education were heard. Being interrupted or spoken over while sharing was a common occurrence. And it meant my input was not taken into consideration and decisions were made without my agreement.

Making connections with those around me was a struggle until I, connecting better with my self image, defined my self for others.

connecting with self to be heard

Connecting my self image for those around me

Once I became fully aware of what was happening, I began to contribute to meetings by first starting with a little synapsis of my experience and education. That background gave me the justification to speak – in many cases – as the authority on the topic. My counterparts who were men, rarely justified their opinions. Yet they were almost always given the time, attention, and respect of the rest of the men at the table.

This isn’t always the same experience for me today. There certainly has been progress for women in some settings, but not all.

connecting with self image in meetings

Appear capable and confident

As a result of these experiences, I approach meetings and presentations with the appearance of confidence. Trying not to let any opportunity to be heard pass me by. By connecting with my self image it became easier to speak up. It’s not always well receive. I’m sure I’ve made a few enemies along the way.

I was recently told after a meeting with decision-makers that my bluntness was appreciated. Was that actually a compliment? I responded that I am always direct. But I realize that sometimes my directness has likely been my downfall. It’s important to me to be a voice for those who feel they do not have one.

Inaction supports the status quo

Losing a few allies along the way is still better to me than the alternative. I have always believed that inaction, or not choosing a side, really means supporting status quo. Women with less power and privilege than myself continue to be discriminated against, and victimized. I cannot sit by without making my voice heard. I only hope that I help provide a platform for them to be heard too.

Acting as a catalyst for change and an advocate for others is how I connect with my authentic self, even if it can be uncomfortable. Are there places that you find it difficult to be yourself? How do you think things would change for you if that was different? Would connecting with your self and portraying an image that is more authentic change anything for you? What’s one step you can make in that direction?

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Homework hell

This will come as a surprise to many who know me (but not to those who know me REALLY WELL), but I’ve had to work really hard to gain back my self-esteem. Granted, it’s been a long time since I’ve become my former confident self, once again.

So it really burns me when something happens that takes me back to a place of doubting myself. How is it that a teacher who has known my child less than a month can bring me there, with one short phone call? I know it’s not her intention, but it’s truly where my head goes.

I don’t even want to get into the homework discussion right now, that’s a topic I am determined to write a poignant well-researched and targeted article about. But what’s burning me is that if homework is an issue for my 9 year old, it’s my fault. She doesn’t get it done because I don’t make it our priority. Sure, it’s her work, but how many 9 year olds will choose homework over biking? Homework over playing with the neighborhood kids? Homework over gymnastics club? Homework over Harry Potter? Homework over time with her mom? Homework over… well, anything?

If homework is going to get done, it will be because I, “the parent”, am disciplined enough to ask my child upon walking in the door (at whatever time of day that might be, but that’s another discussion for another day about today’s family obligations) “what’s for homework”? And it will get done because I, “the parent”, establish an expectation of her getting it done over doing anything else.

I’ll save my opinion of what takes priority in my house for another article. This one is about me, and my self-esteem. When my child feels bad about herself for not getting her homework done when the teacher does her rounds, it’s a reflection on me and what a poor mother I am.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not taking this to heart. I don’t hold myself up to some standard set by the teacher of the day (or year, in this case). But I resent the expectation that this is somehow my responsibility. So, if the only real purpose to these exercises are to form “good habits”, if my daughter is too young to form this habit completely independently, then is she really learning anything from it? Well, yes she is. She’s learning that her teacher and her mom are in cahoots and that if she wants to feel good about herself, her mom needs to make her sit down and do pointless repetitive exercises so that she can go to school and say “yes’M I got my homework done!”

Just whose self-esteem are we really talking about here?