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How to Manage the Experience of Being a Difficult Woman

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Written By: Lauren Howard

The initial response is usually shock, if we’re being honest. I mean, of course it is. You were likely making a good-faith effort to improve your work environment in some capacity, and the result was to label you as a problem rather than actually address whatever the issue was.

The trajectory from there is usually pretty clear. Initially, it’s shock. Then, it’s followed by anger and maybe even some hurt feelings that your colleagues or leadership would give you so little consideration. All of those feelings are valid with enormous implications, and you can ride them out as long as you need to.

Once you’re on the other side of those feelings though, you have a choice to make. You can continue to do good work without letting that affect you, or you can dim your light to fit into whatever box they have given you.

That is stated much more plainly than the reality of the situation permits, but the outcome is the same.

There are plenty of proactive things you can do to try to overcome the situation. You can talk to your colleagues to get to the bottom of what was said, address that you’re all on one team and you want to be part of that team. You can discuss with your leadership that it happened and see if they can work with you to create a strategy to overcome it.

You also need to prepare yourself for the reality that speaking up might not change anything. I hope that’s not the case for you. I hope you work with compassionate, equity-minded individuals who would recognize that they were being unfair and correct the situation. It does happen, and it probably happens more often than my cynical mind accepts.

What happens if you don’t get the feedback and resolution that you were hoping for, though?

That’s when you take back control.

Most people can’t just walk away from their jobs without notice, but you can decide how much emotional energy you’re going to give them and what consequences you’re comfortable with as a result.

Maybe you don’t need to give 150 percent and weekends to finish a project that should not have been tossed onto your lap?

Maybe you don’t need to stay late and they can find time in your contract hours.

Maybe overtime isn’t on the agenda.

Maybe you do your work as spectacularly as you always did without worrying about approval or permission to speak, and if they don’t like it, that’s their problem.

Telling a woman to be quiet speaks to their discomfort with your message, not your need to shrink to fit.

And maybe, maybe, now that you have your control back, it’s time to take your sweet time finding the next thing that will give you exactly the environment you thrive in.

It starts by taking back emotional control. It’s not easy, but you can do it.

This post is part of the monthly themed writing topic: Difficult Women for our Weekly Bullsh!t newsletter. Want to join for exclusive content, giveaways, and events? Click here to subscribe!

Photos by Ospan Ali on Unsplash


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