Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
I’m about 5’3″, petite, cute and young looking for my age. I know that none of this seems like a liability, but I’d just like to say a few things to the rest of the world.
Because I am little and cute, it doesn’t mean I’m some airhead. I’m well-educated, street-smart, and have a keen sense of logic.
Because I am little and cute, it does not mean that I am fair game for your sexual advances. It does not mean you should play crossing guard when I stand on a corner. You don’t have to compliment me on my appearance or smile indulgently at me when I speak up during a business meeting. You needn’t pat me on the head like a dog.
Yes, I know that being small and cute has advantages in this world. But I don’t think that others realize how much anger a small cute woman can accumulate when she has ambitions and skills like anyone else and everyone keeps dismissing her as a small presence. I’ve had to confront a lot of unpleasant situations to make my way, just like everyone else.
Not you’re Poodle
Dear not Poodle,
Any asset we are born with comes with no instructions; we have to learn how to use it. We may not even be aware that the asset exists in the first place. If we’ve always had something we don’t see it the way that someone else would.
Once an asset is discovered, in order to do anything with it you have to remove assumptions. Small, cute – they carry preconceived ideas that may have nothing to do with you. You have to play with the trait to see what it can do; then you have to take responsibility for what it can do. What anyone else thinks is entirely irrelevant. Confidence overrides prejudgment. Only when you learn not to define yourself by how others see you is it possible to influence how others see you. By this I don’t mean that you should ignore everyone; just realize it’s not personal. People see what they expect to see. You are a teacher, a teacher about yourself. A good teacher is neutral to everything but the message they wish to teach- “Listen up, this is what I need from you. This is who I am.” Ignore other’s assumptions and use non-submissive language. Studies show that learning to speak decisively decreases communication errors and misinterpretations. Submissive language is often misinterpreted. I would say it’s not that you’re little and cute that’s the problem but the body language and communication style you have developed around it. The person with the strongest reality always wins. This is entirely unrelated to physical looks. Napoleon was short!
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: I don’t really see being short and cute as an asset one needs to learn to use. A physical asset would be something more along the lines of “photogenic and of model proportions” or perhaps “a really fast runner.” Short and cute is only good for something like getting dates with guys you will probably never want to see again if you actually have a brain.
I understand your pain, Not Poodle. Most people, including Dr. Brilliant, seem to assume that because you look appealing, you have a usable asset. But for someone who wants to be a neurosurgeon, looks are basically meaningless. It doesn’t sound as if your looks are anything you want to make a living off of. People will also assume that you never had to work for anything…at least not once you learned to use your “assets.” You can be as tough as you want, and be as smart as Einstein. The initial assumption will still be made. But let’s face it- we all have to deal with initial assumptions.
I disagree with Dr. Brilliant on this point too- what others assume about us is not irrelevant at all, because it determines the challenges we face and the prejudices we have to overcome. It is our social starting point. And let’s look at the facts – women can be as confident as they want and they will still overall earn less than men do and have to work twice as hard to get promoted. This has been statistically proven over and over again and it is still true today.
However, what we are capable of is still up to us. The smart person learns that the assumptions people make can hang them in the end. People make assumptions about ugly girls, about black men, about priests, about the Ku Klux Klan. They are all just assumptions. Sometimes they are right, often they are wrong.
You seem to be capable of handling what the world assumes but the anger that has accumulated can take on a life of it’s own. Anger can become a monster that eats us from the inside out. It’s good that you know yours is there, but my advice is to let it go. The negative emotions we keep inside poison us more than they hurt the people we blame for them.