I was a boss as a kid. I admit it. Telling people what to do (especially my younger brothers and sister) and expressing my feelings – good or bad – was just part and parcel of my personality. I was always being told “stop being bossy” and stubborn and even at one point earned the nickname “Big Mama” from my mother, because I suppose in her view I was behaving like a bossy mama? I don’t know. Needless to say, eventually I learned to curb that “negative” “bossy” personality of mine. At least to the best of my 5-year-old ability. I was a girl, I was told, and girls aren’t supposed to be bossy.
As a mother now, with daughters, I can’t stand to hear anyone tell a little girl “stop being bossy.” It irritates me and perhaps it is in part because I was told that so often growing up. Or perhaps it’s because that is not something I have ever heard ANYONE tell a little boy. Boys can tell girls what to do. Boys can tell other boys what to do. Why? Why is it that a boy can be a BOSS, but a girl is “bossy.” Can we not understand the difference in meaning and the negative connotations that single word has? Do we not see (especially as women) how that word can stifle the being of a little girl…change her innately and force her to conform in a way that is not necessarily in her best interest? Being told not to be bossy certainly changed me. It made me feel bad about myself and ashamed for expressing my feelings to the people around me. It made me believe that there was something wrong with me. Telling me I was bossy did not change the way I communicated with others in a positive way (as I am sure, in some back-handed way, it was meant to). It stifled me. I quit communicating altogether.
This is why I so happy to find banbossy.com – a website formed through the partnership of Girl Scouts of America and LeanIn.org. I understand as an adult how words like “bossy”, “stubborn”, “obstinate” and “difficult” can effect a little girl. I was a little girl who was labeled. These labels changed me. I think it’s time to move away from labels that diminish a girl’s opinions and feelings, and start moving toward language that empowers. I had the opportunity to do that live and in person recently, when I overheard a family member telling one of my daughters to stop being “bossy.” I intervened immediately by saying that being a boss and expressing your feelings isn’t a bad thing. Bosses become CEO’s, they lead organizations. Bosses build nations and change the world.
I don’t want my daughters to stifle their feelings. I don’t want them to grow up believing that it is wrong to express their opinions and beliefs. I want them to say what they feel without fear, to be exactly the blossoming individuals they are. I pledge to ban bossy. Do you?