On Having Attitude
Ever since I was a little girl living in New England, I imagined myself living in New York City. Every time I visited as a child, I had this immediate feeling that this was where I belonged.
Before I could even understand the frenetic nature of New York, I felt its energy. I loved the crowds of Midtown, the staidness of the Upper East Side, and the chaotic cool below 14th Street. Maybe it was too many episodes of Sex and The City in the late '90s, but I always felt like the attitude that got me in so much trouble at my small private lower school and conservative Connecticut boarding school would not only be appreciated in New York but maybe even take me places. I mean this both literally and figuratively, because from the earliest I can remember, I thought the true sign of being a successful and sassy woman was the ability to hail a cab. I'm not sure why hailing a cab in New York City was emblematic of being a powerful adult female, but it was. And I knew it was something accomplished better when one employed a little attitude.
Fast forward almost two decades (which is a frightening thought in and of itself) and I found myself living in the heart of downtown Manhattan, still full of sass and attitude, but with my confidence wavering slightly that my ambitions were going to be achieved if I continued to speak my mind and strut through the streets with confidence.
That's what a brutal job, with long hours and an misogynistic and verbally abusive boss will do to a girl in her young 20s. The confidence and self assuredness that had been such an asset to me in the early stages of my career, even landed that job in the first place, was suddenly being called into question. My entirely male group of colleagues used that confidence that won me some of the firm's biggest clients to date, against me. Though they claimed after the fact it was in jest, they used to call me things like "slut" and "whore" in daily conversation, sometimes they would call me things far worse - all to my face.
Their defense was that because they were saying it to my face, they weren't serious. They said it was merely 'banter'. But it made me question that feminine pride, that high-heeled confidence and I began to wonder if, perhaps, I just kept to myself, didn't engage with my coworkers and didn't stand up for myself, I would be better off in my career.
Since that leaving that job and then leaving finance altogether, I have returned back to my roots as the sassiest girl on the block. I have always known that sass doesn't mean you are rude, inconsiderate or unpleasant to be around. It means you don't put up with anyone's bullshit.
Since starting my own business, I've gotten my attitude back. Attitude doesn't have to be a bad thing. Channeled correctly, it can take you places. It can give you confidence when you are walking into a meeting that you wouldn't otherwise have. It can help you keep chin your chin up after one of life's inevitable road bumps.
Having the right kind of attitude doesn't mean you have to be a bitch, either. It means you aren't afraid to take action. It means you can stand up for other people who might not have as much confidence. And above all, it reminds you that no man has the right to call you a "slut," "whore" or "bitch" (or worse) because they're intimidated by your strength and success.
Yesterday, on International Women's Day, a few things happened that reminded me how important having confidence, being fearless and standing up for your own best interest really is. The first was that State Street Global Advisors (proudly one of the large clients that I landed for my company at aforementioned job), installed a bronze statue of a little girl, standing tall and fierce against the iconic Charging Bull statue in the Financial District. I used to walk by the Charging Bull statue every day on my way to work when I worked on Wall Street. The installation of the "Fearless Girl" made me incredibly proud to be both a woman who believes in other women and a woman in business. I couldn't be more excited that a global firm in a male-dominated industry is standing up for confident women, who have every right to a seat at the table and every right for their voice to be heard, without being ridiculed for it.
And then, after reaching out blindly to a very successful woman for advice yesterday, I got such a lovely response back. It reminded me that being fearless sometimes just means going out on a limb and asking for help. You're not always going to get it but it's worth a shot. Being fearless isn't always about standing up to the evil boss or some kind of powerful entity. It means having confidence in yourself and raising your worth to the self worth that most men possess by simply by waking up in the morning. It means being able to realize that the right kind of attitude, when used effectively, shouldn't get you in trouble.
Move over, boys, and make room for us fearless women. It's been long enough.
And, girls, hail that cab (or call that uber) with confidence. Dress in leather and studs like a sassy bitch. Or wear lace and pink like the queen that you are. Wear bows and buy flowers. Or get a bad ass tattoo. Wear and do what gives you attitude. Don't let anyone tell you who to be, how to dress or what to do. Don't think you have to be one thing. Be all the things you admire in other women and aspire to whatever it is you want to achieve.
And above all, stay sassy.