A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Monday, February 17, 2014

Genial in a Bottle

One of my friends posted a thing to Facebook today about which U.S. President would win in a knife fight (Teddy Roosevelt was the article's answer). I've recently been reading "Bully Pulpit" about Teddy and Bill Taft.  I have to say I do love Teddy, but I'm surprised how much I really like Taft.  I can't say I remember much about him from history class, but he seems like a fundamentally decent guy, who was well liked by everybody. So I think Taft would talk everyone down from the knife fight, and build bridges of understanding through his genial temperament.  I wish we could bottle that and give it to today's politicians!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Today's the Day

Recently, my favorite satirical newspaper, The Onion, had an article titled "Today The Day They Find Out You're a Fraud." Around the same time, my friend made a comment that struck me - she said I appeared very confident. The comment struck me particularly because that day I had felt particularly UN-confident and incapable of doing anything right. In fact, I had felt that at any moment people would discover what a fraud and sham I was.

This correlates with a passage in Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In," where she describes a talk she heard while in college. The speaker stated that "...many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can't seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for they really are - impostors with limited skills or abilities."

Sandberg describes her feelings: "every time I was called on in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself. Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn't embarrass myself-or even excelled-I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day the jig would be up."

I lack confidence, and totally identify with Sandberg's experience. But it also reminds me of what "confidence" is, which I learned by reading "This is How" by Augusten Burroughs. He states that "if you want to be more confident, you do not need to add anything to your personality or skill level. In fact, you already have too much of something. Because confidence is not the presence of anything at all. Confidence is a reduction of your own interest in whether others are thinking about you and if so, what they're thinking...Confidence is not something you feel or possess; it's something others use to describe what they see when the look at you" (This is How, pages 63-64).

That description was a revelation to me - confidence is about not worrying what people think. I have a really hard time doing that, because I want to be the person that everyone thinks well of. Sometimes I think I want to be thought of as X (generous, kind, loving, cheerful, etc.) more than I actually want to BE X. The problem with that is that I waste so much time and energy worrying about what other people think instead of actually developing X qualities. I need to STOP IT.

A scene from a Julia Roberts movie illustrates this. She's an indecisive bride who likes her eggs the way that the other people around her like them. It's emblematic of her lack of knowledge of what she wants.

From "Runaway Bride," With Richard Gere and Julia Roberts

So, get out there and decide what kind of eggs you want! Don't worry about people thinking you're a fraud, because that's just a waste of worry.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Expounding and Exhorting

Note: January has apparently been the month for me to take a break from any New Year's resolutions or re-commitment to blogging...I'm going to try to start blogging every Monday again.

At my last work training event, part of the first day was devoted to a large group meeting of everyone in my practice group in my firm - hundreds of people. The first part of this meeting was the leader of my group talking about financial metrics. He then turned in over to one of his colleagues in the leadership group to lead a discussion of some tax technical issues. She brought two other tax partners up on stage and they had a discussion about these issues and the services our firm provides related to the issues.

Not really a remarkable discussion, except for the fact that all three participants in the conversation were women. On the flight to training, I had started reading "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg, and so I noticed this particular moment and marked it in my mind. These women were articulate, poised, and confident. I don't know all of them, but the woman leading the discussion has a few happy, well-adjusted children, whom I've met, as she works in an office near mine. Later on, this same woman would field some very demanding questions knowledgeably, and she held her ground under some tough demands by men in the audience who perhaps had more years in the firm (she was right, by the way).

I don't share this because I was surprised that women could be articulate, rather I was reminded of some of the things I learned while reading Sandberg's "Lean In." Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this meeting was that it wasn't remarkable to the people in the room. Afterwards, no one was saying, "gosh, why did they let three women lead a meeting?" No one else seemed to notice (or care) that three women in leadership were teaching a group of men and women. It wasn't unusual or abnormal to listen to women in positions of authority. One of my favorite Sandberg quotes was: "In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders."

As a lifelong church member, I've attended many meetings in church, and it's very, very rare to see a similar meeting where women are "in charge" of a group of both men and women. Women lead Relief Society and Primary meetings, but those organizations are made up primarily of women and children (some male Primary teachers, I grant you). There have been recent attempts by the church to integrate women into the decision making structure of the church (training on effective use of councils including women voices, sister missionary leaders), but for the most part, women do not play a large part in leadership in the church. This is evident by the graph below, which was put together based on the Church's 2013 General Conference (put together by the good folks at By Common Consent, a Mormon blog).

I had never thought about it, but there is a higher percentage of male speakers at the women's meeting of General Conference than there is of female participation in the General sessions of conference. Something that some men have talked about in recent General Conference talks is how wonderful women are (see here and here for recent examples). This idea holds that women are unique, with individual gifts of the spirit and a different role than men. This is troubling to me for two contradictory reasons.

First, if it is true, then why would we not want to have more women in leadership/speaking/teaching positions in the church? If we women, as a group, truly do have unique insights or talents, why would you use only 50% of the talent given to the church? If women ARE all that you say we are, wouldn't it be helpful to hear from them more often? Wouldn't men benefit from being taught by this group of people?

Two, what if it isn't true? What if women and men don't really have demonstrable differences in our characters? In my opinion it leads to the same conclusion as the first point - why would we limit ourselves to only men teachers/leaders? It seems an unfair burden to the men and a lack of opportunity for women.

Dear reader(s), don't interpret this as a jab at men. I have known many wonderful male leaders in the church, who have inspired me by word and example. However, I have likewise known many capable and wonderful women who have the ability to inspire and teach, but have done so in smaller venues. I simply feel that women and men would be blessed by hearing these inspiring women.

I'll close with a scripture that flies in the face of Paul's advice to "let your women keep silence in the churches..." (1 Corinthians 14:34). Emma Smith was told: "And thou shalt be ordained under [Joseph's] hand to expound scriptures, and to exhort the church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit." (D&C 25:7). Lest you think this a role only for a prophet's wife, the Lord reminds us "and verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my voice unto all..." (D&C 25:16). Expounding scriptures and exhorting the entire church sounds like a role for women I can get behind.

Let's hear it for the girls ladies sisters! I hope to share some more insights from "Lean In" in the coming months - I really enjoyed that book.