The article was food for thought on many fronts so I strongly encourage you to grab a copy if you can. The title itself, “Own Who You Are”, sounded bit new-age to me and it did me think deeper when I was done reading the entire piece. I thought back to med school days when we, the women in class, quickly found out that our blossoming professional lives could be a liability when dating. It became a joke around class about "dropping the M-bomb" i.e saying we were in medical school. I don't have statistics on it but I can tell you that the majority of the time the men in our class "dropped the M-bomb" they continued on with whatever flirtatious interaction they had going at the time, whereas when the women in class acknowledged being in med school we had more love-interest men fade away than not. Some of us were fine with that, me included(why the heck would I want to be dating a guy who was so insecure he could not deal with my being in medical school? Give me a break), but there was a subset of women in our class who decided they would just keep it quiet.They instead pretended to be in another field of study that was somehow perceived to be "less threatening" to these potential love interests.It made me annoyed then and it still does now...
Mellody Hobson talks at some point in the previously mentioned article about stepping back from her more usual stance of pushing forward during a negotiation because she felt the male client was not responding to her approach. Later she questioned if that was the right move to make given it really was not "her", but she came to accept that this was not a failure at all. Most successful negotiations, by men and women, do require some adjustment in your techniques depending on the client, and she had seen male colleagues step back from their usual more aggressive stances as well when a client failed to respond positively. I think that coming to this realization, that staying true to your own approach is ideal but also accepting that it may need to change at times, is the mark of self assurance that we all aim to have in our lives. Changing her game now and then did not detract from her, not one bit, because she stayed true to herself in every other way. This unfortunately does not extend to my M-bomb illustration because I assure you that NONE of the men in our class needed to pretend they were not in medical school but, in my opinion, the women in my class who did so took away a significant part of their new identity.
I have a close friend (we’ll call her B) whom I have admired from the time we were in medical school. She is unapologetically quirky, super smart, and walks to the beat of her own drum. She is beautiful, kind and warm, but she also does not shrink from confrontation and will speak her mind without blinking. She is an expert within a super-specialized field of gastroenterology and I am sure she has thrown many people off their mark more than once when she walks into a room as the expert because she fits absolutely no preconceived notion of what this specialist doctor would be, none, except for those smarts. Many of my female doctor friends in various fields certainly do not “fit” whatever the expected image is, especially since it usually includes being male. Some have altered their work-image in various ways and some have not. Interestingly I have noticed that by the time we passed the age of 35, many of them have drifted back towards their real selves so perhaps some of this road to "owning who you are" includes maturity and self-confidence in your own field. In my mind this makes my friend B so much more remarkable as she had this down from the get go and never stopped being herself, right from the very start.
Happy Birthday B! To you and all my sisters working against the stereotypes and being your awesome selves everyday, you are wickedly wonderful.