I am as goose-pimply about the Star Spangled Banner as the next apple-pie-eating woman, however, according to the World Economic Forum study, if you let a man define you in the United States you are placing yourself just below the stature of a woman in Barundi. Don’t get me wrong. I did not say this. The study said this. I am simply repeating the study results and I think most American women would be intrigued by the ranking of US gender equality, which is largely based on perceptions of women within our society.
And, although a study by Pew Social Trends shows that the US is closing the gap on gender parity in the workplace, this is only good news because the gender gap had been more like a canyon before now. Furthermore, men (and women) still tend to describe the characteristics of men as those closer to a manager’s optimal traits of leadership. These perceptions help shape corporate structures.
All of the above being said and, furthermore, good to know, these are not the reasons I would give for a woman never letting a man define who she is.
These are mine:
1. A man sees through testosterone and ego-colored glasses. When I was a part of my ex-husband’s life, he tended to see me in terms more flattering to himself. I did not see this as clearly at the time, but now I see that if I am in “his golden circle,” as my cousin calls it, I have wonderful traits that reflect back onto him. Now that I am outside the circle, I need not have such admirable traits. My ex wanted to mold me into someone who reflected well upon him, not someone who was happy and satisfied for my own sake.
2. When a man is unhappy, hungry or tired (actually if anyone is unhappy, hungry or tired), he will see a woman in a very different light than when, say, the woman has just brought him breakfast in bed on a Sunday morning. This is pure conjecture, of course, because I am not sure I have ever brought a man breakfast in bed on a Sunday morning. But I think this could be true. I want to be seen in the same light regardless of whether he is hungry, tired or unhappy. So far, I’ve not had that experience with a man.
As for the unhappy man in your life, never, ever, ever listen to this person’s version of you. It will never be accurate and it is likely to be just as toxic as their unhappy view of the world. Same goes for addicts and codependents. The issues that make a person dysfunctional also color their perceptions. Don’t listen.
Last but not least, some men, not all but some, can define you based on how you do or don’t fulfill their immediate needs or agendas. You are not a walking wish list made out solely for them. You are not a genie in a bottle (although that would be so cool). You are a person, complete with your own needs, who is not defined by anyone else’s needs.
3. A man just isn’t that descriptive unless he is a writer or artist. Unless you attach yourself to an artist or writer you’d be stuck with defining statements like, “You’re fine,” “You look nice,” or “Your cooking hasn’t killed me yet.” Although maybe this last one is specific to me.
You could probably do much better describing yourself. Who are you? Get a notebook and go to town writing down descriptive words or statements (positive ones) you believe about yourself.
To clarify, we are not looking for your self-describing list to include words like plain, drab, unexciting, fat, stupid, etc. We are looking for positive words like hip, chic, fun, exciting, brilliant, healthy and sexy.
4. If a man wants to have sex with you, he will glorify you to the heavens. Of course, this isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’m just saying that the higher the pedestal, the further the fall. If that man disappears, then what? Once again, it’s better to develop a healthy relationship with yourself so you can build a healthier and more substantial self-image based on knowing yourself… your whole life.
5. A person, man or woman, can see in others the things he doesn’t want to see in himself. In other words, a man’s definition of you may well be laced with substantial elements of those things within himself he fears or dislikes.
I once heard a man say, “My hair stylist asked me out the other day. How could she think I would ever go out with a hair stylist?” Clearly, this man fears he could lose some kind of status any second now.
6. A person, man or a woman, can project a “type” onto you based on someone he once knew (or, worse, his mom).
Sometimes when my ex was on a verbal rampage, I would disassociate and think, “Who is he talking to? I don’t know what he is even talking about.” More and more, I realized he was talking to some version of his mother in his head. I was just the stand in.
7. No one, not even another character in your head, who maybe resembles your horrible first grade teacher who had a hairy mole on her chin, should define who you are except you. And when you do define yourself, do it as though you were your own best friend and staunchest advocate.