Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Oh to be a Man

The thing that chaps my hide the most about being a woman is the social and cultural expectation of self-deprecation. It's as if the more we loathe ourselves or downplay our strengths or brush aside compliments, the more normal we are. It is so pervasive that I barely even stop to think about it much. Except when my dear husband reminds me, usually by relaying something he said that leaves me slack-jawed when I consider how people would respond if I were the one saying it.

Take yesterday, for example. We've all been sick, and Bob walked into his office spry and healthy, even though just a day before he was hacking up a lung. One of the secretaries mentioned how surprised she was to see him rebound so quickly and without breaking stride Bob just smiled and said, "Excellent genes, people. Excellent genes."

He wasn't kidding. He's a great guy, really, but he is also quite aware of it. He would never think otherwise. He can't stand the way I take compliments, and I have tried to explain to him that this is just how women are.

I don't know the last time I ever accepted a compliment with a simple thank you. I really don't. Typically I berate the complimenter for not seeing my elaborate system of smoke and mirrors, or point out how inadequate I am when compared to so and so. It's nauseating.

In the Air Force, officers are expected to write their own OPRs for their commander to sign off on. An OPR is a progress report that evaluates how you are doing and whether you should be considered for promotion.

My BFF's (Sarah of playground mafia fame) husband is in the process of writing his right now. Bob had to write many for himself. Trust me when I say these OPRs are so glowing they're practically floating about the room on a cloud of pixie dust. It is so easy for these men to highlight their strengths and brag away, practically canonizing themselves, and it is all completely accepted.

I joked that if Sarah had to write hers she'd never get promoted. She would only point out all the areas she knew she could have done a little better in. She would have even recommended someone else for promotion instead, and offered to wait it out a year so that she could really work to her full potential. Likely, she would have even recommended demotion, with a reinstatement to current rank only after she met all of her goals and got back into a size four. Lots of us are this way. I joke, but only a little bit.

Anyone else tired of this?

I've written about this before, as has Bob, and I just wish there could be a sea change right now where we could hold our heads high with confidence and know how wonderful we are without fear that whispers of showoff or full of herself followed. I feel an enormous sense of pride in all the roles I carry out, but in order to share how I feel it's more, "We are all wonderful and do an amazing job juggling the many loads we carry in life as women." I don't want to only be able to accept compliments when hidden behind the solidarity of such collective statements. Yes, we rock as women. We're amazing and we do so much, blah blah blah. That is all true. But the atmosphere certainly changes when we hear a woman say "I rock. I am good at what I do."

Join me, don't join me, whatever. As for me, I am not letting another year of life slip by with me denigrating my strengths and gifts. I wouldn't let my kids get away with that.

I rock. How about you?


BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

I have a very difficult time talking about what I do or accomplishments I've had or "tooting my own horn", that sort of thing, without turning it into some sort of joke or downplaying it greatly. My husband, God bless him, pointed this out to me after my company Christmas party. I don't know why it's so damn hard for women to acknowledge their accomplishments. I'm working on accepting compliments and being able to talk about accomplishments without feeling almost ashamed or something.

Seriously, I so often need a shot of self-esteem.

Hey I rock AND so do you! ;)

Marie said...

I could definitely rock more. I sit here in my "this old thing?" eating my "needs salt" relating but not feeling I'm up to the task. Talk about inadequacy!

Mary Alice said...

I rock.

During fiscal year 2007 Mary Alice single handedly saved her squadron twenty three million dollars by careful budget analysis and procurement of only necessary supplies. Mary Alice preformed logistical miracles as she balanced the needs and schedules of five people without a date book in her head. Promote Mary Alice to the rank of General of the War Department Immediately.

Jen M. said...

Yes - you guys DO rock.

Katrina said...

I like this!

I rock every day I don't stab my husband in the eye with a fork.

I rock every basket of laundry I wash, dry and fold.

I rock the dishes.

I rock the diaper changes.


Family Adventure said...

My husband and I were in an investment officer's office, making a substantial investment. The money came from my company, which I run, and my husband is a 'secretary' of (so to speak). The investment officer was female. She began filling in information. Every single time she had to add names, she added his first. Every.Single.Time. I was steaming. Finally, Mike sensing my fury, said "Eh, maybe you should write the President's name first?" She looked at me, smiled, and said "It's OK, Sir, we women like to be modest, don't we, ma'm?" I couldn't flipping believe it. We took our money, so to speak, and left...

Women are the best at putting themselves down, that is so true ... but we are equally good at putting down other *women*. And we are brilliant at putting the man up on a frigging pedestal.


Sorry for venting - you hit a sore point. You rock, I rock, we all rock. Men and women. Why is that so hard to understand?!


Nancy said...

I think we know we rock, but by downplaying it, we are really reaching out for affirmation in what we already know.

Anonymous said...

SOmeone called my attention to this habit years ago, and I try to be more conscious of it now. But, I do tend to downplay my CHILDREN'S accomplishments so as not to seem boastful. How odd is that?

Don Mills Diva said...

What a great post. I have been meaning to write about this for a while. I find I am unusual among my friends because I believe if you don't toot your own horn who the hell will. I hate that women, especially moms, seem to be programmed for self-deprecation!

Rima said...

Yes! I rock!

(But you rock more, for writing this awesome post.)

Circus Kelli said...

THIS is one of those "things I am working on"...


And I'm working on recognizing that more often, to myself, if not out loud to everyone else.

Elizabeth F. said...

I totally agree. I have found myself doing the same thing and even get embarrassed when someone compliments me. So, I've decided a simple thank you is enough. I always hate it when someone else can't take the compliment I give as well. Good post!

painted maypole said...

for years I have tried very hard to always accept a compliment with a thank you (and if it's on something I also love, like clothes I picked out, I might even add "I love this skirt, too!") I usually succeed at this, but confess to making the occasional confused face as I say it. But accpeting compliments is gracefully has long been a goal of mine.

But tooting my own horn I could definately use some more work on. I do rock. and roll. and sometimes jive.


painted maypole said...

oh, right as i hit post i read mary alice's comment. what a fun meme/post to write our own promotion recommendation. maybe for a monday mission in february!

Missy said...

I do rock!
My house is semi-clean, most of the laundry is done, the kids are still alive... :)
It is difficult for me to accept compliments when I still see so much more that could be better. I constantly am comparing myself to others. But overall, I know that I am a great mother, wife, and friend, and I know my family appreciates me more than I could ever know.

Candy said...

Gad, we're all neurotic aren't we? I totally agree with you on this.

Today, my boss commended me for something I did yesterday, and I spent the next 5 minutes telling him how I SHOULD have done it, and how I could have done it better. Now he probably thinks I totally suck. And it's my own fault, because I clearly think I do. ALthough to be honest, I totally rocked that task!

What's wrong with us??

Magpie said...

I frequently say to my husband: "I am very good at what I do" and "I am full of good ideas".

Just Seeking said...

This is why some women don't like Hillary, I swear. It's like she's not self-deprecating enough. She has confidence and we can't get over it. She doesn't stand up there and say "Oh no, I'm not that good at this. Obama would do a much better job. You should really be voting for him." Ugh! It's infuriating!!
By the way, YOU DO ROCK!

Kimmykay said...

It is hard. I've worked on it but it is difficult to say "I'm great".

One thing that has made me think and change are my 4 girls. I want them to think they have set the world on fire with their greatness! LOL.

So.... I ROCK!

Mrs. G. said...

I'm in the process of rocking. But it's just a matter of time...

Amy said...

You Go Girl! You Rock

Jan said...

I rock, always have, always will. But get this, it was my Dad who gave me the confidence to rock.

Audubon Ron said...

I dun-know, shower me with compliments and let me hear what’s it’s like to have to humble myself.

jakelliesmom said...

When I met my darling husband, I was totally full of myself in the best possible way. I was rocking.

There are other times, it feels like more lately, that I'm just rolling. Not quite living up to what I expect of myself or what I feel I owe my family, my job or the world around me.

I do try to accept compliments without filling in all the details of how I'm not deserving, blah blah blah.

Now I sound like a mess.

New plan for '08 - more rocking, less rolling.

Queen to my 3 Boys said...

Found you somewhere in blogville and liked your post.You're right, I rock too! I really have to think to myself, "Smile and say thank you" when I get a compliment or I will immediately start babbling and blundering. Go figure.

Jenn said...

What a great post! You ROCK!!

I suffered through a bout of PPD, where I thought I did everything BUT rock, but coming out the other side, I can say with confidence that I TOTALLY rock! My house may not be the cleanest, and the laundry may be staging a protest in the laundry room for sitting there so long, but my kid is the happiest kid on the block, and my husband loves me even when I'm...well...less than loveable! And at the end of the day, that's all that really matters!

Rock on!

Anonymous said...

Oh good - this means next time I say something nice to you, you won't tell me to shut up!

I rock because I didn't smack the little naked chicken ass of my 2 year old even though he stripped off all clothes and diaper more than 5 times today. Yay me!

Life As I Know It said...

Oh, this is SO true. Why do we do this to ourselves? I am terrible at accepting a compliment.
But, you know what? I DO rock. We all do!

Jessica @ A Bushel and a Peck said...

I am terrible at accepting compliments, but have been working on it recently. Sometimes I am able to just say thanks and not qualify that by pointing out what is wrong with me.

And you know what? I should just say thanks. Because I rock, too.

Anonymous said...

I rock. You rock. She rocks. We rock. Those other ladies rock. We all rock. There, I've conjugated "to rock," v., f.

I write my self evaluations as if I were writing them for my best friend. It always helps to literally step outside myself in making a fair assessment of myself.

And because it bears repeating, you rock!

slouching mom said...

Spot on, Jen.

OK, hmm.

I rock? ;)

Crystal said...

Rock on sister friend! Great post.

Little Miss Sunshine State said...

Until I turned 50, I thought all the other women rocked and I sucked. I have spent the last year accepting compliments. And started believing that I did a great job of parenting and I've been really good at almost every job I've ever had. I DO ROCK!
I spent way too many years thinking I didn't rock and never would.
I have so much admiration for women who get this at a younger age and don't waste years kicking themselves at every opportunity.

Anonymous said...

I love how you can go from hysterically funny to serious and so spot-on. That's right, I just complimented you. Hope it doesn't make you uncomfortable. :)

And I've tried for the last little while to say "thanks" when I get a compliment and try not to feel weird about it (but I still do sometimes).

I hate it when women (and we are our own worst enemy) say things about other women like they are "so full of themselves", just because they are self-confident. I really admire women who hold their head high.


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I rock! I don't sleep much, but I do rock.

Anna said...

Oh, so hard. When I got tagged for one of those great things about me memes, I sweated it. The man who tagged me? no problem doing it.

but it felt good to do it, so I will post it here. Because I rock.


Anna said...

Oh, that was pretty. Guess I forgot to rock at HMTL.


And, of course, the real title was
"Mike said this was easy, he obviously doesn't need a therapist."

Anonymous said...

You rock and so do I!

I wasn't always able to say that so easily but similar to the military I have been required to create a list of career goals and provide input for my review every year. When you know that your bonus depends on what you write down it gets a little easier to go on and on about your strengths and sweep those weaknesses under the carpet.

mek said...

Funny - in my house we have the opposite situation. I learned early on to just smile and thank someone who compliments me - to be accepting without being smarmy, I guess. Meanwhile, I have struggled for years to get my husband to be able to do the same. I suppose sometimes family socialization overrides societal socialization.

seven said...

I rock! You rock too... it's like you read my mind, sort of. My last blog post: This is What Beautiful Looks Like
I was talking more about beauty, but I think that thinking we aren't beautiful is just part of the whole "we aren't _____ enough" obsession that's so hard to crawl out of. Your post is like the other half of mine, the peanut butter to my jelly. :)

myminivanisfasterthanyours said...

This is one of those posts that I'm going to be thinking about a lot in the coming days, because I am the Queen of Self-Deprecation. Oh eff it. I'M THE KING!!

Here's the catch. I used to take myself sooo seriously. I was one frustrated, bitter, confused girl throughout the teen years and early twenties. But then I learned to myself. Regardless of how anyone else saw me, I becaue a much, much happier person.

As a result, most people who come into contact with me probably think my kids ain't too bright, since I'm always goofing on them, and they certainly know my clothes are from Old Navy, because I told them when they complimented my outfit, but at the end of the day I know who I am and I admire people who truly gain nothing from others knowing about their kids high SAT scores or their own personal accomplishments. They know. And that rocks!


The engraving inside my husband's wedding band is "You're so lucky." And when it comes to him and me I've know that truer words were never etched into gold.

The only thing that has come close to making me forget how freakin' awesome I am is becoming a stay-at-home mom. (That would explain half my entries in my blog, and my astronomical therapy bills.)

Sexy Housewife said...


I used to be so bad when people would complement me.
"SHW, you are so organized."
"No, not really."

"SHW, this meal is awesome."
"Oh, I hope it is okay."

Not only was I discounting myself, I was telling people they were not being sincere towards me. I try so hard now just to say "thank you".

Great post!