One of the pitfalls of discovering self esteem or self worth or self respect at a very young age is not understanding that it is not a license to be rude, disrespectful, obnoxious, arrogant or precocious etc.The fact that you have decided at 5 years old that you are not going to allow yourself to be belittled or made to feel stupid can be a fine line to walk.
Changes in your vocabulary and attitude can lead to a new definition of “mouthwash” and I do not mean Listerine. I remember very clearly the first time I experienced the “mouthwash” that happens with a soapy washcloth in your mouth held by your Mom or Dad. AAAUUUGGGHH it is so bad, so so bad that I can taste the soap and feel the gag reflex as I write this. I apologize for the graphic description but it was one of life’s lessons that I had a hard time comprehending…if I was rude ,used forbidden words or talked back to an adult the soapy washcloth was the antidote and it worked for about a week until I forgot and I opened my mouth again without thinking about the consequences…
My parents wanted their daughters to be very polite and respectful. I think we all want our children to be polite and respectful but I think daughters get an extra dose or two of polite while our sons get by with the “boys will be boys” pass. The over emphasis on girls being polite can stay with us throughout our life. In family or friend situations we might go last in a line to an event, take the worst seat so others can have the best and never take the last or biggest piece of anything! So now the question becomes - is this a polite issue or a self esteem issue or a little bit of both.
How does all this polite training effect our daughters and sisters?
I think it drives a certain part of the discrimination that occurs in the home and the workplace. Women often feel the need to explain themselves in copious details about how or why they reached a conclusion, how thoroughly they researched it etc… and they get interrupted by their male colleagues who understand that interrupting is not always impolite but just part of the process of life … and then the woman feels thwarted and just sits and sulks or fumes because now all her work is being credited to someone who interrupted and its not polite to interrupt!
As I followed the recent Kleiner Perkins /Ellen Pao lawsuit it was clear Ellen did not suffer from the need to be polite or respectful at all times. Her colleagues found her difficult and rude ,and perhaps she was, but for me she was smashing the barrier of polite for women and proving that mouth washing can be harmful to your career!
I know as a successful woman and now a member of the Invisible Brain Trust (IBT) I learned that being polite was not always possible or even required. I think being respectful is the real behavior that should be encouraged. Help me build this IBT Club or Tribe or whatever we call it, to help young women learn these lessons and all their nuances!!!!