I’m bossy. I was told I was pretty much shaking my finger at the doctor at my birth. I was hungry and he happened to be the first person I saw. And so it has continued. Do I like being called bossy? I don’t know.
I understand that there is currently a campaign started by Sheryl Sandberg, Founder and Board Chair of Lean In and Chief Operating Officer of Facebook to ban the word bossy. She has several credible well-known people behind her; Beyonce, Condoleezza Rice, fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg, and CNN Foreign Correspondent Christiane Amanpour to name a few. Even the Girl Scouts are on board.
Ms. Sandberg says that the term bossy is too frequently associated with words such as overbearing, annoying, abrasive and/or pushy. This ‘label’ continues on through a female’s adulthood. She hopes the campaign will open a dialogue with parents and teachers to eliminate the use of the word “bossy”, though she concedes this is not really as simple as banning one word.
Thus my mixed emotions. As a little girl I have to say I enjoyed being called bossy. It gave me authority. And the encouragement needed to push my limits. Rebel a little. It taught me audacity. I happen to like that.
As a teenager being bossy meant bitchy. I either had very good male friends that appreciated my bossiness or scared guys away because of it. But I still used it to my advantage.
As a young mother being bossy came in very handy. With two daughters I translated “no” into a new language with my stern finger wagging and tone of voice. They didn’t dare cross me very often. And in turn, they learned to be quite bossy themselves.
But as I grew older I realized that being bossy involved something more. Daughters, friends, relatives all understood my demeanor. Even uncles, nephews, my brother, neighbors’ teen-age sons, and our male pastor/friend appreciated my authoritative ways. They respected my ideas and me. Many other professional grown men didn’t.
As I grew older and became a part of the business world things changed. In several ways my acumen and initiative were accepted I deeply respect and admire several fellow male business associates that I dealt with on a day to day basis. I know that I likewise respect and admire my husband for his wisdom and fantastic confidence in himself which enables him to live with and share a life with a woman that can be bossy more than once in a while.
But I do feel that many people (not only men) do not appreciate a woman that speaks her mind. One that takes the reins and doesn’t look back. There are all kinds of obstacles in the way when you are a woman surrounded by people that will not take instructions or suggestions from you, for no other reason than that you are bossy.
Thus, the mixed emotions. I enjoy being called bossy but I don’t like the aftermath that the adjective throws my way. If there were another mindset that the term bossy would project I don’t believe the outcome would be as detrimental as it often can be.
At a point when people automatically admire bossy women (and yes I do think bossy is almost exclusively used referencing a woman) and understand that the term stands for direction, objectivity, guidance, and focus, then and only then maybe the word bossy won’t necessarily have to be banned. Maybe being bossy will be recognized for what it truly means; leadership.