Women have been apologizing too hard, and too long. Am I too strong? (I'm sorry!) Too pretty? (I'm so sorry!) Not pretty enough? (Ditto!) Too threatening? (Oh, dear!) Too smart? (Gasp!) Too loud? (Oops!)
And on it goes: Too boisterous? Too confident? Too bossy? Too ballsy? Too tough? Too confrontational? Or just plain too-too!
Enough! Let's stop apologizing.
When I was working on The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match: How Today's Strong Women Can Find Love and Happiness Without Settling, I was urged by friends, colleagues, and people in publishing not to use the "Alpha" word in the title. Yes, you got it -- it was too provocative! Said one of my best friends, who, ironically, is an Alpha woman writer,"Too controversial. You will be killed by the critics."
Maybe, but headstrong and irreverent by disposition, I decided that "controversial" was exactly the point. Let's blow the whole thing out, I thought. We have got to stop trying to soft-peddle women's strengths and confidence and, yes, ballsiness. I liked "Alpha," because it is provocative and has been traditionally loaded down with negative connotations. "Alpha bitch" is the label we've given strong women in the past to keep women in their place. I am tired of this negative sterotyping. Aren't you?
Why Do We Apologize?
Traditionally, women had to master a tricky balancing act. Be smart, but not too smart. Be strong, but don't be threatening (God forbid!) Be sexy, but don't be slutty. Be assertive, but not pushy. Be ambitious, but don't come across as driven. The fact is, we are strong by nature, and there is no reason in the world to apologize for what comes naturally.
Kim Keating, founder and managing director of Keating Advisors, reports on a recent study by the Simmons School of Management that women who are making more money than their partners stay mum about it with friends and family. Why? Because they don't want to embarrass their husbands. But keeping quiet is a way of apologizing for your accomplishments, and aren't we all tired of protecting male egos?
So here are a few resolutions for Alpha Women.
1. Own your Alpha. Educated and on the rise in your profession, you're self-reliant and make your own life choices. The fear: That you're too strong and will overwhelm men and will end up alone. The reality: Strong, educated women are MORE likely to marry than other women and LESS likely to divorce.
2. Lead on. You are who you are: You're confident in your leadership abilities and you like to take charge. If a man's ego is threatened, he is not the man for you!
3. Embrace your bossiness. Don't bend over backward not to be a take-charge woman. Tell yourself "bossy is back" -- and thank goodness for that!
4. Don't try to "prove" your "femininity" by doing more housework. (Does this hit home?) Never feel that you have to tailor your behavior to meet outdated expectations.
5. Speaking of outdated stereotypes, never dumb yourself down. You'll hurt yourself and your relationship.
6. Trust your instincts. If you aren't ready to be in a long-term relationship, ignore "advice" that says if you don't marry young, you won't marry at all. This isn't supported by the facts!
7. Enjoy being the breadwinner. Revel in your accomplishments. Making more money than a man does not make you a ballbuster, it just makes you good at what you do.
8. If you take up a lot of space and like to be the center of attention, revel in your charismatic qualities. Don't let anyone tell you that you are too loud, too boisterous, or too dominant.
9. Take a seat at the head of the table at home and at work. How does that feel?
10. Stop saying "I am sorry"! You have nothing to apologize for. There's never been a better time for Alpha women.
Sonya Rhodes, PhD is a co-author with Susan Schneider of The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match: How Today's Strong Women Can Find Love and Happiness Without Settling, April, 2014.