I invite you to try this with someone you know: Give them a quarter, a dime and a nickel. Ask them to compare the coins, then listen to whether they first say how the coins are different, or, alike, or, some combination of both. You may notice some interesting masculine versus feminine aspects.
There is no correct answer, only evidence that as individuals we make different initial judgments about the same information. I once thrived on people’s differences by rejecting people who believed differently than me–sometimes on a single issue.
An old Webster’s College Dictionary defines unreasonable feelings, emotions, and opinions of a hostile nature regarding national, racial or religious groups as “prejudice.” These days prejudice seems quite fashionable. It certainly was for me when I was young.
The trendy refusal to ignore other people’s similarities is like not noticing that those coins in the above comparison are all money, all round and made of metal, and all marked with “The United States of America,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” “Liberty” and “In God We Trust.”
In the introduction to So Dad, What Makes a Man? I say some of the country’s male political leaders disappoint me, right before admitting I spent the first half of my so-far life following the footsteps of my father, who was very comfortable with polarization. He always said that the path to leadership is complicated, but he and I were convinced of the rightness of our opinions.
Differences were important then because they manifested competition–by differentiating my college classmates by grade point, my sorority peers with clothes, my short corporate status by looks, and my company’s products by performance. In all of those, from college beginning in 2007 through my short corporate life ending in 2017, my only competitors were men.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons I wanted out of the corporate world and back into college to get my master’s. Isn’t it weird that right now, I’m checking out if the world of a librarian and the internet might be my cup of tea… We’ll see how it turns out. I’ll keep you informed!
To be successful among men, my father taught me to be competitive, aggressive, logical, cool-headed and ambitious… pretty much the opposite of how he viewed women: emotional, accepting, caregivers, submissive, and nurturing. Well, maybe it fine to just let it go at times. It’s not just for grieve anymore and those days are behind me as I became well aware of last New Years Eve. But in my college years, I still had to learn all of that.
Yet when my college life crisis arrived, what I most desired was to know who I was, where I wanted to go, have better relationships, and spiritual life. I have worked on that since by exploring the qualities within me that Dad had assigned only to women. My accomplishments differentiate me from men while sharing a common emotion unites us. For example, revealing our grief following the many senseless murders across America.
The more I explore my inner life the more its complexity fascinates me–from learning my preference of similarities in initial comparisons from the coin game to finding that others don’t cause my anger and I don’t cause theirs. My mind is the most intriguing, where thought processes take place among billions of neurons that have trillions of connections. Possibly herein lies the reason that if becoming a librarian will not be good for me, the road to self-employment may be the option of my choice!
My father used to warn me not to listen to other people’s opinions because they would “mess with my mind.” Dr. Lee Roy Beach in The Psychology of Narrative Thought: How the Stories We Tell Ourselves Shape Our Lives, (2010) says as a social creature, I listen to those around me, and from what I hear, whether a political ad or my best friend, I constantly revise how the world works, what has happened, and what might happen. Either I accept what I hear unquestioningly, or reject it, or accept it provisionally or in part. My reality is my truth. That is how I make sense of things.
So my challenge to relate better to others and to get to know myself is to better understand my memories, perceptions, imagination, and decision making without procrastination. Decisions that I make involve my feelings and emotions and are value judgments, i.e., choices that reveal more about my values, fears, and memories than about the reality of what is.
My spiritual growth also depends on awareness and knowledge of my emotions. That’s actually one of the lessons Steve Jobs has taught us. Without these, I cannot practice for my exams that I need to deal with before this semester’s end. I thought it would be easier to earn my Master’s part-time…
Some women I know who are crossing over from their “traditional” characteristics give me the courage to do likewise, by exploring characteristics within me. Just like my father found feminine traits.