By: Victoria Santoro, Guest Blogger
I was called intimidating more times in my life than I care to recount. And while I may be tall, I don’t consider myself particularly intimidating. I have certainly never endeavored to be intentionally intimidating, especially when I was 12-years-old and outside at recess (where that term was so frequently tossed about). So what prompted this special type of name calling? Confidence? Intelligence? Self esteem? Maybe all three? Yes, people who have all three of these incredibly qualities are often intimidating.
At some point in my late teens and early twenties, I frequently began to hear this term “intimidating” from crushes and dates, and even from male friends when they were trying to explain my single status to me. I’m here to tell you that anyone who uses your accomplishments against you is not worth your time.
Women will continue to hear these terms tossed about until it is no longer a surprise to see a woman in a boardroom or a courtroom, or when the playroom gets just as much respect as the conference room. When it doesn’t matter at all what type of room we’re standing in, so long as we have equality no matter what we choose.
There are so many other words. Brace yourselves, ladies, because you will hear them all.
When I write this it is Gloria Steinem’s 80th birthday. Ms. Steinem was and is revolutionary and groundbreaking and was called more names than I can probably even conjure up in my imagination. But she persevered and instead suggested: “Once we give up searching for approval we often find it easier to earn respect.” Searching for approval is draining in many respects and finding universal approval is impossible. It’s time to be comfortable with that and focus on Ms. Steinem’s message, to do the most important thing, to earn respect.
I am a lawyer, and by definition that means I represent the interests of one client. My client. I cannot be a people pleaser. I know of many female attorneys who say, “people don’t really like me,” simply because they behave exactly the same way as male attorneys do--either with bravado, or possibly dismissiveness. Or maybe because they call out opposing counsel on their inappropriate antics.
The best way to fight back against these damaging stereotypes and preconceived notions is to, quite simply, keep showing up. And if you are called intimidating? Embrace your intimidating fearlessness. Embrace your intimidating inability to be mistreated by a romantic partner. Embrace your intimidating drive to succeed. Embrace your intimidating pursuit of contentment and joy.
Because you are only intimidating to those who are easily intimidated. And you will earn the respect of those who aren’t.
Victoria Santoro is a trial attorney who practices law in Boston. She is also a teacher, speaker, and writer, maintaining her personal blog The Limber Lawyer, and contributing to various legal publications. Victoria is passionate about helping young girls and women not only succeed but also find contentment and purpose. In her free time, she can often be found training or competing for half-marathons and triathlons.
Image via wisewomenrules.com