The Women’s March on Washington (and in cities nationwide) was a powerful event this last week that harnessed the energy of women, men and children taking a standing together in solidarity for the protection of rights, safety, health and families. It was a recognition of our vibrant and diverse communities that are the strength of our country.
That’s a beautiful thing.
And yet, there still seemed to be some confusion about why women were gathering and too many comments overheard, from conference rooms to brew pubs, by men suggesting that in general, women could be really “scary.”
I hear it frequently in my coaching practice when I begin working with a man whose relationship has been challenging for a while. In the process of trying to figure out where the emotional connection has been breaking down, I’ll hear something like “She just scares the hell out of me when she gets angry and all I can do is shut down.” Or, “Man, I know I’m not supposed to use this word, but she can be really bitchy on a regular basis and half the time I have no idea what she’s pissed about.”
Last night while I was out at a restaurant dining alone, I overhead one of the guys next to me say to his buddy, “I think it’s great that all these women put together a powerful march, but I sure hope my girlfriend doesn’t start becoming this angry activist. She already scares me when she goes off on a rant and can’t seem to calm down.”
Can we talk here?
This is a conversation I’ve been wanting to have for several months now and the recent events have put a spotlight on it, so let’s jump in.
It takes a good level of emotional maturity to be able to self-reflect, acknowledge how you show up, own the places where you need to keep “growing yourself up” and not confuse poor behavior with being “passionate.” One of the most important aspects of my Coaching is that I take every client through an “integrity” check and help them build a stronger “personal foundation” in the areas in which they are weak so that they can begin to be proud of who they are and how they are “being” in the world.
Sadly, there still seems to be genuine confusion around what is “scary” behavior from a woman and what is an example of a woman standing in her power, speaking her truth and asking for what she wants.
On both sides.
I have men who are completely off-base and women who can’t see what they are doing.
Here are some things I know to be true of many strong, emotionally mature, loving woman:
1. She’s authentic, speaks with passion and tells hard truths without shaming or cutting someone off at the knees and leaving them bleeding
2. She cries. Tears streaming down her face along with big, heart-wrenching sobs that leave a guy wishing he knew how to do something about pain she is in.
3. She gets angry. May stomp, rant about injustices, swear, yell things like “This has to f-ing change so things can be better!”
4. She’s quiet. Really quiet. Journaling or staring out a window or taking a bath with the door closed for longer than you could ever imagine someone being in a tub.
5. She leaves. Not you, but everything she can leave to try and find a tiny bit of internal peace. She takes off for the day, wants to be alone, doesn’t want to be called or check in, sits alone at any place she can find in the hopes that her heart will begin to connect with humanity again.
Men, this is not a woman you need to be scared of.
This is a woman who is trying her hardest to be fully present, attentive to the needs of our world and is willing to bravely feel and face the emotions she is feelings. If this scares you, it’s time to take a good hard look at what you consider to be a truly intimate, authentic relationship and up your own game so you don’t take any of this personally or try to shame her into being “nice” or calming down. The man she longs for stays connected, open hearted, listens deeply and simply lets her know, “I’ve got you. We’re in this together.”
Women? Time for a little “Come to Jesus.”
If you’ve heard more than once in your relationships that you’re “scary”, I’m challenging you to not blow it off. There could be something very important here for you to look at and shift. Too many times a woman allows herself to show up in a way that is not only unflattering, but downright mean-spirited and disrespectful. Trust me, this is not being a brave, bold woman. This is a reflection of a scared, hurting woman who has confused acting out in anger with strength.
Here are some ways a scared, angry woman shows up:
1. She verbally “blasts” a man (her partner or anyone) with hurtful words, accusations and a toxic venting of emotion, then tries to downplay the intensity or throws out something like “you know that’s just how I am when I’m upset.”
2. She uses the “death stare” on her partner, quietly sending the “I think you’re an ass” message but won’t actually talk or clear anything up.
3. She withholds. All kinds of things. Loving gestures. Kindness. The full truth about what she’s bought, who she’s talked to, where she’s been.
4. She breaks confidences. Nothing is private or sacred in her intimate relationship. Her girlfriends know every detail of her private life with her man.
5. She holds onto resentments and brings them up every chance she gets, moving swiftly into blame, criticism and finger-pointing until a man feels compelled to defend himself.
6. She uses a tone and body language (which by the way, she SWEARS is not happening!) when upset, that conveys distain and lack of respect for her partner. Sarcasm is her sword and combined with number 2, it welds deadly force.
Scary? Yes, this woman is feared and not in a good way. She’s not stunning men because she is living her magnificence out-loud and speaking her truth regardless of the perceived consequences, which by the way, is amazing and bold and sexy beyond measure. This woman is feared because she need to grow up, take responsibility for her reactive behavior and be vulnerable enough to lay her weapons and old coping skills down. Waking up requires telling hard truths to ourselves about where we hold walls of protection close and lash out when we’re hurt or scared. Anger is a poor substitute for clear, direct, truthful conversations and in intimate relationships, it will break down the safety and trust in an instant. And when that’s gone, the relationship is sunk.
We’re at a point in our lives where we must take very seriously how we personally are showing up in the world so that every bit of energy is channeled into creating more awareness, more compassion, deeper connection and actions that create positive change. This starts with you and me. It begins in with our intimate partners and inner circles. It expands out to our tribe and community. It’s the way we change our world.
Living with integrity. Leading with kindness. Speaking your truth boldly. You’ve got this.