In 1985 I was a kindergartner. My mom went for a parent teacher conference for me with my (very sweet) teacher. After this conference, my mom cried because the teacher had told her that I was “bossy.” I laugh at the fact that my mom was surprised that I was bossy. She was, and is, quite assertive herself and was baffled at where I got this from. To this day, she calls my sister “Type A” and she calls me “Type A Extreme.” Well, the apple(s) didn’t fall far from the tree! But, anyway, there has always been something inside me that knows what I want to do or where I want to go or how I want to answer or how to direct others to reach a goal. And for this, I was labeled as “bossy?!?!”
It didn’t take me long, even as a child, to see that bossy girl=bad and bossy boy=good. If a boy told another boy what to do it was “boys will be boys,” if a girl told a boy what to do it was “she’s bossy.” I saw it then and I see it happening now as we (myself included) coach and teach our kids differently. I have a boy and a girl. My girl is (shocker) extremely bossy. But, I want to teach her how to take that assertive nature and harness it into something amazing. I want the same for my son. But, I see that it comes more naturally. Here’s a prime example: the 2nd grade girls’ Sunday school group at our church vs. the 2nd grade boys group. If I tell the girls to keep it down (which I RARELY have to do), they are already programmed to be more reserved — it’s the “lady-like” thing to do. If I tell the boys the same thing, it’s like a personal challenge has been issued and they are going to push me to my limit. They are programmed to push boundaries under the umbrella of “boys will be boys.” This might be a weak example, but, you get the point. It started for me young and it still appears to be the norm . . . at least from where I’m standing.
I also grew up in a Christian home (and am trying my best to raise my family in a Christian home). When I came across Proverbs 31, which is an entire passage about an AMAZING woman, I was blown away. Even by today’s standards, this woman is more amazing than Wonder Woman! She takes care of her kids and her husband, BUT she also works to support them financially and is better and more well-respected for it! Now this is my kind of woman! She’s the real deal. Although, sometimes I wish there was a Proverbs 32 that described one of her bad days just so I could feel better when I do hit a wall myself! But, the real message here??? She didn’t waste the toolbox she’d been given by God. She used every piece of her personality and her gifts to be the person God designed her to be. She didn’t just use some of her skills. She used all of them.
Now, I view being bossy or assertive as a GREAT thing. But, it has taken years of reprogramming to get there. You see, where I grew up women became farmers’ wives or teachers or stay-at-home-moms. There is NOTHING wrong with any of these professions. My mom was all three at one point or another! While I LOVED where I grew up and still love going back there to visit, I wanted something different . . . not better or worse . . . just different. So, I entered into corporate America out of college and started climbing ladder after ladder (after ladder after ladder!). I was going to be the woman that had it all!
I worked at some places where no one showed me how to harness my direct nature. Instead, I saw how others used their assertiveness to hurt others and that’s how you got ahead. In my mind, the definition of “bossy” is being a harsh dictator that doesn’t care for others. While I was terribly successful, I did not like the me I was becoming or the me they expected me to be. I didn’t like being bossy. Life had to be about more than this ladder with imaginary rungs just inches above my current reach!?!?
I was also fortunate enough to work three other companies under some amazing women that were smart, strategic, and had a way of gently mentoring me. Some of of their pure goodness rubbed off on me. It was in these moments that I began to learn how to own my assertive nature and to stop thinking of it as being “bossy” and start thinking of it as being a LEADER.
Corporate America is great at making their employees take personality tests and Strengths Finders courses (which are AMAZING, if you ask me!). When I started taking those tests I started to really understand how my negative label of “bossy” was really a positive gift from God just waiting to be fully unwrapped and used. I always scored insanely high in the areas of responsibility, analytical thinking, inclusivity, empathy, organization/planning, and intuitiveness. Not sure how empathy got in there??? But, I sure am glad it did!
So, when you’re fast-thinking, want everyone’s input, understand others’ points of view, can organize a project, can intuitively forecast every possible outcome, you’re not bossy, you’re a LEADER. You, or I, in this case, have been given a toolbox full of goodies that allow me to guide people, nurture people, and administer constructive feedback if it’s necessary. How did I let myself believe the lie that I was anything other than what I was designed to be?!?!?
You see, I allowed someone to label me and I felt trapped by that label for a long time. I believed the lie that little girls that are bossy grow up to be women that nag and grate on people instead of empowered women that can really make a difference in other peoples’ lives. Shame on me! I’m so glad that I had examples in my life to show me how to use my personality and gifts. Women who took the time to show me that tempering what could be perceived as an abrasive approach with a softer edge and teaching me that just because I have direction in my life doesn’t mean that I’m unapproachable or that I’m super-woman. That’s right . . . even us “Extreme Type A’s” have NOT got ALL of our stuff together and we need grace shown to us too sometimes.
I started selling real estate almost five years ago while still working in corporate America full-time, being a mom and wife, and actively participating in other church groups and organizations. I was never content to be just “X” or just “Y”. I love my kids . . . I really do. But, I can’t talk about them for hours and structure my life around them only. I have to have me time to be creative and think and plan and dream and work. That’s not me being selfish, that’s me figuring out what God has for me next. And recently, God said “jump” careers and go into real estate full time. So, now, I’m taking all the years of leadership skills I’ve built up and I’m applying them every single day as I work with clients, meet new people, network, and grow. I’m evolving as a leader in so many other areas of my life and I’m SO excited about it!
The growing and the changing is never going to end. That is what life is about. But, I just decided a long time ago, that I could sit back and let life happen TO me or I could be myself, dream big, and use my gifts to the best of my abilities. I can follow or I can lead. But, I will never be labeled “bossy” again. So, why am I writing all of this? I want other women to feel good about wanting things for themselves, having a direction, and going after it. Be the LEADER you were called to be! It might mean that you’re the leader of your home or the leader of a multi-million dollar business. You might be the leader of a Bible study that others desperately need or the leader of your daughters’ Girl Scout group sent there to show those girls how awesome it is to be a woman.
Whatever your goals are, just remember that God put those desires in your heart and gave you the tools to go after them. So, even if you don’t view yourself as a leader, somebody is looking up to you and waiting for you to lead them. So, don’t let labels hold you back and don’t tuck parts of you away. Be everything God designed you to be!
Alecia Godfrey resides in Westerville, OH. She is a wife of 16 years to Justin Godfrey, mother of two rambunctious children, and Realtor with Baker Realty Group. When she’s not selling homes, she enjoys spending time with her family or investing in other women and families. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find her on YouTube (Alecia Godfrey Realtor), Facebook (alecia.godfrey.18) or Instagram (@aleciagodfrey).