Today, there was this:
I think that what our society teaches young girls, and I think it's also something that's quite difficult for even older women and self-professed feminists to shrug off, is that idea that likability is an essential part of you, of the space you occupy in the world... [and] that you're supposed to hold back sometimes, pull back, don't quite say, don't be too pushy, because you have to be likable...
What I want to say to young girls is forget about likability. If you start thinking about being likable you are not going to tell your story honestly, because you are going to be so concerned with not offending, and that's going to ruin your story... The world is such a wonderful, diverse, and multifaceted place that there's somebody who's going to like you; you don't need to twist yourself into shapes.
It bears repeating a bit, though, this talk of resisting the urge to shrink. That quote just sticks with me... "The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in." This quote hits me because I have had a man (who was asking me out) tell me he was intimidated by me.
Frankly, it was one of the worst things he could have said. Ph.D. student, goal-oriented, type A personality... I can't really change those things about myself. If someone desired me to be something more than what I am, if I wanted to, I can attempt that... but I can't be less than who I am. I can strive, but I can't shrink. I'm sure that all sounds very humble-braggish... but this is a thing. Articles have been written about this stuff. Higher degrees for women aren't looked at kindly in the dating world! Craziness! (Especially since, as a reminder... Scientists are people, too.)
In reality, there's also a lot of self-consciousness that goes along with being told something like this. In addition to showing his own insecurities, his comment played on some of my biggest insecurities. Also, complete turn-off. The quote is right-- and that date never wound up happening. (Being told that my brain is sexy, by the way, total opposite effect...)
And for fairness-- it doesn't have to be a man or a romantic relationship at all for this intimidation thing to be problematic. It's just as problematic if a woman was intimidated by me, or I was intimidated by her, or by a man.
Have I ever been intimidated by someone? Of course. Maybe even with some good reason. Some people are just so smart/confident/gorgeous/whatever. But every time I have found myself intimidated by someone-- it was my loss. I have tons of friends who are smart, confident, gorgeous, and amazing in all kinds of ways. But I'm friends with them because I don't feel intimidated by their greatness. Impressed, yes. Impressed is cool. Intimidated is not.
But I don't feel or not feel intimidated because of the degree of their greatness-- I feel intimidated when I feel I don't measure up. Everyone has some awesome quality that you could feel intimidated by. Their own special brand of smart and talented. But that's not it. It's that lack of confidence in myself-- and I lose. I lose the ability to develop that relationship, to learn and celebrate what that person could bring to my life. I lose the ability to share myself with that person. To grow. To interact. To communicate. Allowing those feelings of intimidation robs me of the chance to do all of these most basic human things.
So, this is a reminder to be yourself. Whoever that is. And don't "twist yourself into shapes." The truth is, you can't do much about people who are intimidated by you, other than try not to let it bother you... but you can focus on keeping yourself open and brave when you start to feel intimidated by others. Celebrate you. And when you celebrate you, you'll find you can celebrate other people's strengths. And let them celebrate yours, too.
You will meet people in this life who are smarter than you, make more money than you, or are more well-traveled than you. Who have had different opportunities and experiences. Who have made different choices. Some of them will be men. Some of them will be women. Don't read too much into it. Talk. Have lunch. Maybe fall in love. Make a friend. Share. Grow. Let go of your fear. Nothing good comes of it anyway.