Sunday, August 28, 2011

Coming to Terms with Being Different

I am the oldest of two girls (my sister is 4.5 years younger). The research on the effects of birth order on personality is pretty mixed, but if it does have an effect, older children are supposed to be bossier than younger ones (especially if they are both the same sex, perhaps). In the realm of pseudo-science, I am a Cancer (which is a cardinal=leadership sign, meaning I like to be the boss) and a Horse (notoriously a very headstrong sign, sometimes referred to as a man-eater).

Probably more relevantly, I come from a family full of strong, dominant women. While my mother would never do anything important without consulting with my father, she is also very bossy. She has an opinion on what one should do in every circumstance (she is usually right, being smart and savvy), and is not shy about giving it. She never met a situation that she couldn't handle. My grandmother, someone who left home at 16 to go work in a munitions factory in Wyoming, where she knew no one, a former "Rosie the Riveter" and a formidable raconteur was even more tough, domineering and opinionated. My grandfather liked this about her, perhaps because his mother was exactly the same. The family joke about her was that one day, she kept giving so many directions to her husband on how he should drive the car that my grandfather finally said, "Mom, why don't you just let Dad alone?" She turned around in her seat and asked him, "Who's driving this car, anyway?"

As a little girl, when I pretended to be a princess, this meant I went on many adventures: saving the world, fighting evildoers, and rescuing the prince. It never occurred to me that princesses are typically supposed to spend their time dressing up and waiting to be rescued. Girls seemed so obviously superior that it was only natural boys needed their assistance. I was also a leader among my friends, deciding what games to play and how to play them, and an enthusiastic student in the classroom, the first to volunteer an answer or for a task.

However, as I grew older my natural enjoyment in being in charge disappeared. I discovered that virtually everyone thought girls should be pretty, demure, and submissive, and that acting differently led to criticism and disapproval. I wanted other people to like me, and the way to do this seemed to be to toe the societal line. But doing so, and denying my natural tendencies and personality, contributed to my falling into a deep depression at about age 12 or 13. I felt as if who I was was unacceptable, and yet I was not very good at pretending to be someone else. I lost the early confidence I had enjoyed in myself and my abilities, and became afraid to express my true self.

Now that I am in my early thirties, I am only starting to come to terms with my real personality and try to accept myself for who I am. I have strong opinions, enjoy being in control, and dislike being told what to do. I am not demure, enjoy reading about history and not celebrities or fashion, and am not particularly domestic (I don't like cooking, decorating, giving parties or any kind of crafts). I have to remind myself that it is okay for me to be different. I just hope that I can regain the confidence I used to have in myself.

I like this quote:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

----from A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson.


  1. You go girl! Hold on to that strength - and we will conquer the world. that is a good different to be.

  2. We sound awfully similar in personality! It took me forever to be ok with who I am and realize being assertive isn't always a bad thing.