The teachers that don’t look like teachers!

This morning a friend sent me a link to an article in a local paper profiling someone we both worked with a few years back. The article positioned this woman as a rising star, someone who had achieved a lot in the corporate world and who stated that she had so much advice and expertise to share with women trying to succeed in business. Boy, did this get my day off to a bad start! I worked with this woman for about three years. She made my life hell!

I feel like I encounter these types of women a lot in my life. I’m working with one currently, and though I can’t say she makes my life hell the way the other one did, I dislike her, intensely. She’s manipulative, conniving, underhand. But she’s a smooth operator, she’s clever. And people (men in particular!) love her!

It makes me question how I operate in the world. In the corporate world, I’ve always felt I just don’t have what it takes to really succeed. My nature is to get stuck into the work and get it done. I meet deadlines. I complete projects. I take something on, I run with it and I finish it. I do this with 100% commitment and I do it really well. But no-one really notices. My achievements don’t get celebrated. No one congratulates me or says well done. And I don’t shout about it. Bottom line, I’m not good at promoting myself within the company! And no-one else is doing it for me!

You see, I am quiet. I am introverted. I shun the limelight, I do not seek it. So is this situation, this lack of acknowledgement, of not being seen and valued, of my own making? Or should the powers-that-be be more observant, more clued-in, see what’s really going on? Are they so superficial that they don’t see that the ones who shout the loudest, push themselves forward, make every exchange into an opportunity to promote themselves, are not always the best people on the team? Maybe they don’t have time to look deeper. Maybe they don’t really care.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. For every challenge I encounter in life, after I’ve had my rant about the unfairness of it all (the rant is usually internal and can last a number of days!), I ask myself ‘what is the lesson for me here?’ ‘What is life asking of me?’ ‘What am I being called to do?’

Yesterday on this blog, I mused about my role in the world, my gift, what am I here to give. I think this work challenge, that shows up time and time again for me, probably in every job I’ve ever done, ties into this. I feel like I am being prodded, annoyed, agitated, so much so and with such regularity that it’s time to take action!

It’s hard to put yourself out in the world if you are shy. It’s difficult to share your gifts if your tendency is to hide, to deflect. How can I impact the world in any meaningful way if I shirk a challenge rather than meet it head on?

And so I conclude that these women are here to teach me. It sickens me a bit to say that because I do not like them. I have always understood a teacher to be someone I look up to, someone I respect, someone with deep knowledge and experience, who has lived and learned and wants to impart their life lessons to me in a gracious and dignified way. These women are not that kind of teacher!

So I have to look deeper. To look beyond the surface. To stop wasting my time feeling angry and hateful towards these women, because I do not want to be that kind of person. Quite honestly, it’s not like me at all and I don’t want to experience it any longer.

And so I believe that the Universe has put these women in my life to stir me up, to rile me, to get me so uncomfortable, so angry that I say ‘ENOUGH’! I am no longer letting you walk all over me. You can no longer undermine me and think it is OK, because you don’t value me. No longer can you disrespect me. You cannot take the moment that is mine. I am  no longer playing small to allow you to play bigger than you really are. It ends today. I am pushing back.

Pushing back is not in my DNA. I like to work with people, not against them. I love helping people succeed. I like to praise and compliment people. Tell them they’re great. But you know what, sometimes that just won’t work. And in this world there will always be people who want to keep you down.

It took me a long time to learn this lesson, to fight back, to stand up for myself, to have more self-respect.

Who are your teachers? Who’s pushing your buttons? Who’s making you so uncomfortable that you want to catch them by the scruff of the neck and say ‘No More’! It’s hard to say thank you for these people. But in reality, perhaps they are our greatest teachers! It just galls us to admit it!