I gave a brief review of The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhomes in the Books I Loved, Liked and Loathed in March, but I wanted to go a bit deeper on this very special book. Full and fair disclosure: I don’t watch any of her shows. Zip. Zero. Nada. In other words, I’m a not diehard fan who thinks she farts lollipops and gumdrops and can do no wrong. I do, however, have mad respect for her accomplishments, which is why I read her book. What I didn’t expect was how relatable she would be. Like Shonda, I was a child who lived in her head, dreaming up an imaginary world. And today is someone who needs to start saying “yes” to living.
Overall I really loved her book, so I was a bit surprised to learn there was definitely a block of people who felt she was too boastful, spending too much time on Grey’s Anatomy and her achievements.
What may be considered too boastful is subjective and differs from person to person, which I respect. However, I personally did not think she was. She was clearly very proud of her achievements — as she should be — and wasn’t afraid to be open about her pride.
I am not lucky.
You know what I am?
I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard.
Don’t call me lucky.
Call me a badass.
But I also understand why some took offense. Not too long ago, I would have too. Females are often raised to play down their accomplishments, to not make a fuss. We smile graciously and say it’s no big deal.
But it is a big effing deal.
Owning Your Badassery
It’s actually a bit ironic that people were perturbed by her supposed boastfulness, given that she actually devotes an entire section in her book on how to own your badassery. As Shonda noted, too often we deflect and demur when complimented on our achievements because we were taught this was gracious, lady-like behavior. This needs to change.
When we play down our achievements, it allows others (often times men) to either take credit for our hard work or become dismissive of our talents. And why wouldn’t they? If we can’t respect our talents and abilities, why should they?
Note: I know this isn’t every woman. Thank God. Stay a good role model for the rest of us.
How many times have you bowed your head and waved off attention? We don’t know how to embrace our accomplishments with both humility and pride. Even a simple compliment can cause us to freak out. Shonda turned into a babbling fool when some guy told her that he liked her blue dress. Just like I struggled to respond to a compliment on a post I wrote.
A few weeks ago, I woke up to a very nice comment from my friend, Jana, on my post Happiness Is. She also tweeted her praise so, of course, I tweeted my thanks. This was her response.
@MindfulMigrate You're welcome, and thanks for writing such a great post!
— Jana (@saysjana) March 14, 2016
Here is what Jana doesn’t know. I spent a good ten minutes trying to respond. My thoughts went something like this: should I acknowledge what she said? Maybe she was just being nice. It was a good post, but I don’t know if it was anything exceptional. Maybe she hadn’t read any other posts. Maybe she has already found another post she likes better and is regretting her comment. Maybe I’ll come off as a smug jerk, fishing for more compliments and blah, blah, glurg, bleech, ack.
In other words, most Seinfeld characters would have been in awe of my neurotic state. But at the core was my inability to accept a simple compliment. Nothing more, nothing less.
@saysjana Tx for your kind words! You'll appreciate this – I spent 2 hours pouring over my reading list and reserving books yesterday. 🙂
— A Mindful Migration (@MindfulMigrate) March 14, 2016
I eventually responded and even managed to say thanks. But then immediately jumped to another topic because I was uncomfortable with her praise.
This makes me sad.
Thank You and Smile
I have always worked extremely hard and been proud of my achievements but privately, on the down low. Publicly, it is the old demur, deflect and “who me?” routine that I suspect many of you are intimately familiar with yourself. But I want to own my badassery, just like Shonda taught herself and us to do in her book.
And it’s simple, folks.
Thank you. Smile.
You don’t have to deflect your badassery or explain how it really wasn’t all you. Just say “thank you” and smile. Period.
You’re not being cocky, arrogant or boastful. You are accepting their acknowledgement of you and your achievement, contribution, great blue dress or post — that’s all.
Badassery is Not Acting Like a Jerk
It may feel awkward at first. You may feel like you’re getting too big for your britches, but don’t worry. The very fact that you’re uncomfortable is a good indicator that you haven’t accidentally strayed into jerk-behavior. Because real jerks don’t worry about offending others. They are the ones who actually scream “in your face” in your face or go on and on about how great their life is to someone they know is struggling.
That’s not owning your badassery.
That’s being a douche.
Don’t be a douche. Be a badass woman.
Phenomenal Woman — That’s You
Back in college I discovered Maya Angelou’s amazing poem, Phenomenal Woman. I love its triumphant refrain and it’s a poem I turn too whenever I’m feeling less than phenomenal.
Phenomenal woman (and man because you are phenomenal too) that’s you and you and you and you and and you and you and me. You are phenomenal.
Now say it with me —
Thank you. Smile.