“Bodacious” means to be bold, outstanding, and remarkable. Take those attributes to work and you’re on your way to building a fulfilling, bodacious career. Does having a bodacious career sound exciting to you? It is! After starting as an $8 an hour customer service rep, I rose through the ranks of AOL, accepting four promotions and surviving over six layoffs to become the head of corporate training for 12,000 employees. Along the way I learned I needed to be bodacious to achieve the career I wanted. Out of that experience I created my “cheat sheet” of ten essential Bodacious Career Builders. Here’s number five: Know How You Want to Be Treated.
Are you clear about how you want people to treat you? Have you experienced your boundaries being crossed or violated? One lesson women typically have a difficult time with is establishing boundaries. As little girls, most of us are never taught how to say, “This is what I want”” If we’re particular about anything, say from the shade of our lipstick to how we want our CDs organized, we’re criticized for being picky, selfish or spoiled.
Think, for example, how Meg Ryan’s character in the movie When Harry Met Sally was treated when she asked for her salad or her pie a la mode just so. If people love you, that sort of behavior is endearing or cute, so long as it doesn’t embarrass anyone or cause them pain or inconvenience. Everyone else finds it really annoying.
The only time teenage American girls are overtly encouraged to lay down the law is on dates with teenage boys. Heaven forbid if we take up too much room or interrupt someone. We’re taught to get out of the way, serve everyone before ourselves, and to be mindful of other people’s feelings. Furthermore, we’re taught to treat others the way we want to be treated and they’ll notice and return the favor. No muss. No fuss. No risk. Right? In a perfect world, that may be true. But who lives in a perfect world?
As a woman steps fully into her personal bodaciousness, she’s going to start taking up more space. Boundaries are going to start expanding and she’s going to have to protect those boundaries and establish new rules of standards for how she’s going to be treated.
Yet, some of us don’t have the language or skills to stick up for ourselves. As teenagers, we may have been able to say no in the back of a car, but as adults it’s hard to take a stand in our careers or in our personal relationships. We’re just not comfortable setting boundaries.
If this were the 1970s, I suppose this would have been advice on assertiveness. If you look up the word in the dictionary, its definition includes aggressiveness. But most American girls know there’s a big difference. To be assertive is somehow okay, but heaven forbid we should cross the line into aggressiveness. That would be terrible because it would make other people feel bad (or so we assumed). Because of the women’s movement, we gained responsibility for getting what we wanted, but we also had to do it in such a way that no one would object to our behavior. We had to do it according to a very precise code that no one really knew the key to.
If we acted in a manner less than lady-like, we still risked being marked as manipulative, conniving or the other b-word. Not many women have actually been called those things out loud, but we all worry about it. We are so afraid to risk a negative reaction that we choose not to take any action at all. And that’s where we lose our bodacious power!
Get control over what you can control. Fundamental to building your Bodacious Career is to know how you want to be treated and to believe that you’re worth being treated that way. As you act on this belief, it’s amazing how much respect you garner from others because of how much respect you have for yourself.
BODACIOUS CAREER BUILDER #5: Be clear about your emotional, psychological, and physical boundaries. Write them down.
Copyright (c) 2007 Mary Foley