I think I’m good looking. I’m not drop dead gorgeous or tall and leggy, and I don’t ooze sex appeal. But, I’m good looking and I’m small – two components the world has harmfully prescribed to females for a long time. A friendly disposition and blonde hair complete the walls of my societal pigeon hole.
By college, I knew how to use these features to my benefit (or so I thought). I could smile and laugh and play along with nearly anyone. It makes schmoozing, elbow rubbing, and social events a walk in the park.
Want to be liked? Keep thought and opinion to yourself. Be agreeable. Smile. Laugh. Be happy, because a cute little thing isn’t supposed to be grumpy. Heaven forbid we confuse the people with (gasp!) unhappy emotion!
That’s how to play the cute card. But be warned, doing so has its risks: People can easily discredit you, talk down to you, and treat you like a pushover. Because you’re small. Because you’re cute. And certainly because you’re female. Dumb blonde anyone?
I first observed this downside in college. It pissed me off when a pharmacist spoke to me like I was stupid. I don’t recall any details of the exchange other than the location and my rage. I couldn’t help that I looked like a high schooler at best. Plus, I knew if my dad had been with me, the conversation would’ve gone differently.
That scenario, and countless others like it, got me thinking that being known for looks alone was a discredit to self. I also learned that being talked down to was nothing compared to being laughed at.
I once used the word “lighted” in a sentence in front of my then-boyfriend’s family. They all laughed at me, including him. His mom paused long enough to say, “You mean lit.”
I was hurt, confused, and angry. Lighted IS a word. How do they not know that? And how is it that I’m the one being made fun of?
I had no words for them, only for myself.
Be quiet Jamie. Smile. Play the dumb blonde. Laugh it off, even if it means laughing at yourself so they feel better.
Up to that point I had been willing to play dumb if it benefited me, but I hated being considered dumb when used against me. I decided this notion was a double standard. Arsenal is arsenal. So long as it was on the table, it was usable, both to my benefit and detriment.
I needed to learn to live outside of the pigeon hole I’d subconsciously stepped into years prior. I needed to learn the real me instead of this default me. But how?
What I didn’t know at the time – what’s taken me years of self-reflection and talks with intuitives – is that my Achilles heel is wanting to be liked. I had been willing to play the part if it meant others “liking” me.
Shifting from default, society-prescribed Jamie to real Jamie required shifting my approach. I implemented a simple, yet revolutionary gauge:
I put being nice to myself above being being nice to others.
If your reaction to that sentence is “selfish”, you’re in good company; that was my initial reaction too.
Did you know it’s possible to glance at a stranger in the store and not smile? I used to smile no matter what because I wanted to be perceived as nice.
Did you know if you need to schedule something, it’s okay to say that a time doesn’t work for you? I used to be more worried about inconveniencing others than being honest about my own timeline.
Did you know you can say no to joining boards, committees, and fundraisers if you have no interest in them? (Yes you, stay at home wives, I mean you too.) Not only is it impossible – and admittedly dumb – to live up to whatever expectations others have of you, it’s not recommended for living a healthy, authentic life.
I started noticing my feelings instead of attempting to predict another’s feelings.
This includes noticing when I’m uncomfortable, annoyed, or a little down instead of worrying about what someone else might be feeling.
I stopped covering up confusion, disagreement, or hurt with a smile.
At the end of a summer job with a bunch of kids my age, I was once “awarded” with being the best at hiding my true feelings. Yikes.
In order to have honest interactions with the world, I practice being completely honest with myself.
This doesn’t mean I’ve given myself permission to be a carte blanche asshole. It means when interacting with others, I engage with my own feelings and with the other person.
I don’t show up and shut up. I contribute to the dialogue.
I no longer agree automatically. I listen. If I do agree, I’ll say so, otherwise I tend to ask more questions to understand the others’ point of view. (This one is still difficult for me.)
I no longer add light laughter just because. If I laugh, it’s authentic (insert loud cackle here).
I still default smile when I see someone I know, because it really is my wiring. But I no longer continue smiling during conversation if I’m not feeling it.
Looks are subjective and often fleeting. I used to let them define me. Nowadays I’m as likely to brush my teeth with coffee and shower with a wet wipe before going out as I am to get gussied (or even cleaned) up.
I’ve traded in caring about things that could make me liked for one of my most favorite qualities: Authenticity.
Do I have my share of dumb moments? Duh. But this blonde is not-so-dumb after all.