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#SorryImNotSorry: Asserting Yourself Where You Rightfully Belong

Girls are molded into gender roles from birth. Little girls get bows and tutus, boys get superheroes. Sure, culture is changing (*cough cough CAPTAIN MARVEL*). We see more depictions of strong women in media, more women are being elected to political offices and we all know anyone can rock millennial pink. We may know better and try harder, but there are many deeply engraved aspects of our personalities and others behaviors that need to be addressed.Via Giphy

When I was in primary school, I loved being in charge of things. I was always the “Teacher’s Assistant.” I given extra tasks such as taking things to the office, helping a classmate, or getting everyone to sit on the carpet for reading time. I was happy doing these things, and my teachers loved me. In high school, I still was the student with extra tasks – getting to leave class to run errands, grading paperwork, or being that one student that has to tell the sub what to do because they had no clue. However, I was quieter about it. I was never first to raise my hand. I only said the answer if no one else was getting it. I even sat in the front row so I could whisper it to my teacher.

What caused me to be more reserved about my leadership skills?

I’m not “bossy.” I’m assertive. I’m not “controlling.” I’m a natural born leader.

Does this give me an excuse to be degrading to my colleagues and subordinates? Am I the terrifying boss everyone warns you about the first day because I’m bitchy, an anal perfectionist and just generally hate life? Of course not! Because that’s not what a leader is.

Think about it this way: a BOSS is in charge of you. Boss (adj.) literally means to “give orders in a domineering manner.” They want the best for themselves or the company they work for. A LEADER, however, is more like a guide. They are nurturing (though not always sweet), and they hope for you to become your best self. As an employee, you can still be a leader without holding manager status. Assertive means “having or showing a confident and forceful personality. That’s entirely possible, no matter what professional title you have in your office. Follow the tips below for embodying the traits of a leader and the professional woman you want to become.

Related : My Thoughts for Women Wondering about Wonder Woman

Power poses

Even if you’ve been speaking for years, you may still be a little anxious before a meeting, interview, or presentation. Your preparation while standing outside of that terrifying room is just as important as your years of resume building and time spent creating your PowerPoint. Amy Cuddy, Harvard University researcher, studied the difference of “low power” and “high power” poses. Her study shows that after 2 minutes of a high power pose, testosterone in males and females increased 20%, and cortisol (the stress hormone) decreased by 15%. Try standing with your hands on your hips and chest pushed out, or with your hands crossed behind your head while leaning back in a chair. 120 seconds later, you’ll be relaxed and in control.

Email etiquette

The submissiveness of women can be found in almost every aspects of our lives – even our emails. Try removing words such as “I think,” “maybe,” “just” and as always, “sorry.”  You don’t have to be flirty or sweet, you need to get your information across. Remove any emojis, excessive exclamation marks, or excessive “thank you’s.”

Introducing yourself

Women are often made to feel as if they should be dainty and fragile. Meanwhile, men are taught to take up space, to be dominating, to command the attention of the room. My first year of JROTC, the first thing our (male) instructor taught me was a proper handshake. He told me that young girls too often shake lightly, while not making eye contact. If you want to make a good impression, shake their hand firmly while making eye contact. Introduce yourself the way you want to be referred to. If you prefer to be called “Miss __,” or “Doctor,” then don’t say “Hi my name’s {first name}!” If they change it to your first name, or a nickname, correct them.

Maintain your grip

Both men and women have a tendency to get frustrated with new people and do things for them, rather than teach them. It’s something we’ve probably all done – rolled our eyes and taken the object out of the other’s hands. Whether it be your little brother’s rubik’s cube, paperwork in the workplace, or a group project in school; this behavior is unacceptable. While we all should consciously work on our own behaviour, you have a certain responsibility to demand respect for yourself. If someone takes what you’re working on out of your hands, hold on tighter. If you’re new, say “I learn better by doing, rather than you showing me.”

Stay fit

Hear me out on this one: you have to be able to keep up, literally and figuratively. How many times have you had to speed walk to stay beside a guy friend? Men tend to take longer strides, and they’ll subconsciously see you as slower – lesser – because you’re trailing behind them. Make sure you’re doing cardio and endurance with your workouts, so you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with the guys. If you can speed walk in heels, then all power to you – otherwise stick to flats that stay on your feet and keep your peers on their toes.

Make a name for yourselves, collegiettes. Never be afraid to stand up and assert yourself when the situation calls for it.


Alyssa Cole

George Mason University '22

Aly is in her second year at George Mason University. She is a proud vegan and enjoys hiking, working out, and cooking. She is studying Government and International Politics, with hopes of becoming a Foreign Service Officer alongside starting her own business.
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