I was a young and naive 16 years old when my mother's friend, Dilly (short for Millard), gave me one day of work at his film company.
It was 1973 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and life was far simpler. But for me, I was primed to approach this mission of living up to parental and parental friend's expectations like a soldier going to war. I had to prove that I was good, and good enough, and that I would be approved of and that I could do what was essentially my very first day of my very first job, short-lived though it would be.
I knew how to type faster than the wind, but I didn't know how to send an overnight package. I had never had to do so. But this shocked Dilly. I don't know if he thought I was supposed to come in genetically predisposed to know how to be a secretary, but his shock felt frightening to me. I couldn't just look at him and say, "No, I don't. Why don't you show me?" I felt like a failure. Hard on myself? You bet! WAY too hard on myself. Insanely so.
After I had finished the day - literally sweating while sitting at the typewriter (yes, children, there WERE no personal computers) - Dilly called my mother and, understandably perplexed, asked her why I was so nervous!
All of these years later, I look back at that day, and at the 30 years that followed - years spent in Corporate America and in University offices working in so many administrative capacities, and having so much trouble with that environment and its lockdown on self-expression - and I am grateful for what I learned about business, and about communication, and about...
...The Rules. (Dilly was very kind, and I was very nervous, but I wonder if I shouldn't have taken that day as a sign regarding working in business environments: Lori - Don't Do It!) I think that somewhere in me I knew that I was entering a battlefield when I went into an environment that had a highly rigidified structure, and that I wanted to master it. But between my warm, communicative personality, and the cold plug-in structure of Corporate America and its "hidden" Social Rules, we were never going to get along, and I was never going to win.
I'll get to The Rules in a second. But first, let me tell you what my spiritual teacher, Ammachi, once said: "Environment is stronger than will." It took a long time for me to understand that, and to understand that it depends on what type of environments support or hinder you. But you and I, my dear fellow woman (and man), are living in an environment that is so complete, we don't even see it. And I want you to see it, because once you do, you may just stop blaming yourself for challenges that are not your personal doing, and that are actually a breaking of rules that have nothing whatsoever to do with you personally. Which makes that rule breaking exponentially easier.
That is where The Rules come in.
With apologies to those who actually live in prisons, I am going to use a prison analogy to describe our shared, malforming environment. You see, back when I was 16 and a someone who carried an emotional sign of Will-Be-Perfect-For-Approval, there were personal, emotional reasons for that sweaty day, and there were societal, emotional reasons.
What we don't realize is just how much we have embodied and imbibed The Rules and judged ourselves by them. And that is our Environment. So, learning to see the prison and prison yard in its entirety gives us the information we need to make prison breaks.
What is this environment? It is the one that has for centuries been dominated by The Power White Male Rules.
The Rules for women include these horrific few:
So, this environment we live in conditions us, and because we live with the effects, we take on the warden's edicts and mete out our punishments for him. Like this:
The benefit of seeing it, as I said, is being able to then take the step of making a run for it. Of saying Goodbye to the Good Girl.
Want to learn more? Ready for your breakout? Contact Lori at Support@GoodbyeGoodGirl.com.
Women's Leadership Coach and Speaker Lori is the author of Call Center Crazy and The Human Solution: Human Solutions to Every "Unsolvable" Business Problem,
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