THE ALPHA FEMALE
It’s been a little while since my last posting – I hope you have all had a wonderful summer – let’s get right back into the swing of things. Starting with The Alpha Female:
You’ve seen her at the grocery store… she gracefully navigates the aisles in 4-inch heals while closing a deal on her Blackberry. You see her again, dropping her kids off at school, toned biceps carrying a jumbo tray of homemade cupcakes for her third grader’s bake sale, sleek, elegant, gliding through the school halls while speaking to her husband about her weekend plans… She is the alpha female: a powerful, perfectly put together mixture, multi-tasking machine who thrives at being at the top of her game at every moment. Does this sound familiar?
These alpha females— in all honesty, Super Women— span time, geography and age. The super woman of today doesn’t just want to have fun. She also wants to work her tail off to exceed others’ expectations of her, as well as her own. She has a social calendar, like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. She has the ambitions of Hillary Clinton. She’s pretty, smart, fearless, always in control, and at first people find her— the word that I loathe— PERFECT. This may sound appealing but we should be honest with ourselves and ask, “Is it really me?” and, “How invested am I in maintaining this image?” And then most importantly, “Am I prepared to be less than perfect?”
As women – as we get older – we seem to take care of more people; we are wives, mothers, daughters and friends; we try to achieve more in our personal and professional lives; but how many of you ask yourself, “If I don’t take care, if I don’t take charge, it won’t get done.” Or, “What will happen if I stop being so meticulous?” “Will I look incompetent at work?” “Will my family or home life suffer?” But the question you should really ask yourself is, “What will happen if I don’t stop?”
In all honesty, this is something that I still struggle with; how to be grateful for the simplicity of each day, while still desiring to maintain the higher standard for myself as a woman, as a friend, as a mother, as a wife and as a professional.
It starts with changing how we view things. While we may know how to change our perspective, we may find ourselves running into paradoxes. To quote Gretchen Rubin, on one hand, we want to change ourselves, but on the other hand, we want to accept ourselves… I want to take myself less seriously, but also more seriously. I want to use my time well, but I also want to play, and read, and be whimsical. I want to think about myself so I can forget about myself. I want to let go of anxiety about the future, but keep my energy and ambition. We want it all.
Step 1: change the way we view things
If you’re willing to make this change, you’ll discover that some issues aren’t as pressing as you might have thought. For instance, “Will taking care of the laundry on a specific day and in a specific way REALLY enrich my life?” Really?
When I first got married, I remember having a daily to-do list of like 50 things… Bear in mind that I would only check off 10 or 15 and then I’d re-write the list. I would look at my husband’s to-do list, and he only had three. The difference was his were three major goals – he just had to write a word down – that was it. He would look at my list, he would see me flitting about and for him it was a bit absurd. He’d say, “Do you really need to do all the things on this list?” to which I’d say, “Yes it’s important. If I don’t do it, no one’s going do it.”
It took me a good four years into the marriage to realize that these were self-imposed rules that I had made. My self-imposed rules were all about maintaining control in my life, instead of doing the important things that I needed to become the person and attain certain achievements in my life.
I have to confess… There are days when I still find myself writing a detailed list for my husband on how dinner should be prepared for our kids if I’m not going to be home in time to prepare dinner – to ensure they eat a balanced meal with all three food groups. I’m not just an outside observer of the alpha female conundrum. Although I’m working very hard to modify my behavior, I am one of them, too. But… people teach what they need to learn.
It is important to remember that the idea of being a strong woman is not a single dimension. At times, it means having confidence and courage to take a risk, and at times it means having a calm presence.
In my young adult life, I would have described a strong woman (akin to being a live action super figure) with the likes of Rosa Parks, Jane Goodall or Madeleine Albright. I remember a few years ago I was reading a book about Madeleine Albright, a very big book for a woman who has lived a very big life.
She was an immigrant to this country. She went to Wellesley College and received a grade-A education. She went through a whole process of meeting this amazing man and his family. She had President Clinton call her and ask her to be his Secretary of State, not a call most women get. The book was full of pictures of her with dignitaries and strong men – she being the only woman in the room. Her story is impressive. But, the more I read it, the more paralyzed I felt. I was overwhelmed, I kept thinking Oh my God, what am I ever going to do compared to that? According to my definition of what a strong woman is, I felt as if I wasn’t even in the running for strong womanhood.
Then I realized my mistake. I’m not supposed to compare myself to her accomplishments and use them to freeze me. It’s to take pride in whatever it is that I can accomplish, whatever that may be. It doesn’t mean that I have to be— and quite honestly, I don’t want be Secretary of State, so why was I getting so scared of what I was reading?
I stopped myself. I knew what I had to do. Instead of measuring myself to other standards, I stopped and I started to measure myself, and those around me, by more humane standards. I was finally able to take pride in my own accomplishments, instead of the could-haves and would-haves. Instead I let her efforts and accomplishments inspire me… because we all have our own unique path to walk in this life.
In the great words of Judy Garland (we don’t always have to quote Great Kabbalists)… “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
- Is there someone you look up to?
- What is it specifically that you admire about them?
- Are you stopping your progress because you’re overwhelmed by their accomplishments?