Okay it’s not actually an ode. I don’t know how to write odes. This is part love letter, part open letter, part call to action.
To give you some background, some of my best friends and colleagues are considered intimidating women. They’re highly educated, ambitious, talented, well travelled and well read. To someone who doesn’t know them, they’re goddesses, possibly arrogant, maybe mean.
This letter is for them, for you, my beloved intimidating woman.
When I first met you, I could only admire you from afar, hoping that maybe one day I would be like you — traveling the world, defying the glass ceiling, being in a healthy, long term relationship. I envied so much about you and still do. But for the most part I felt like I was in the audience watching your successful life play out.
Until you reached out and pulled me in. You broke the fourth wall and allowed me to join you. I watched and I learned hoping that one day I would have something to add to the conversations you were having. Years later I still feel like I can’t. Sure, I can make you laugh but the few times that I actually contribute to the discussion still surprise me.
Over time I discovered that you too, were mortal. That you had your own moments of weakness, needed words of encouragement, or a hug on a bad day. You succeeded in spite of those bad days and not because you never had them. I realized that contrary to popular belief, it’s not always “maternal instinct” that makes one nurturing and thoughtful. I realized that you are deliberately kind and inclusive because you know the struggles you’ve been through. You are deliberately trying to break the cycle for me and those who come after me. Either you are grateful for the mentors you’ve had or want to be the mentor you didn’t have. Either way, you’re breaking the cycle.
What I love the most about you is that you make room for others. It’s the one thing all the successful people I know have in common. You’re not threatened by someone else’s success. You know there’s enough room in the spotlight for those who are willing to work to get there. At the same time you’re not patronizing to newcomers. You answer questions patiently, offer feedback with love and acknowledge growth.
So thank you and thanks to all the intimidating women I know. Thank you for letting me listen while you talk, observe you as you grow, learn from you and lean on you. Thank you for breaking the stereotype that successful, smart, beautiful women must be arrogant or unapproachable.
Please keep doing what you do, your words and actions are changing the narrative. I hope I can do the same.
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