“We Prefer Our Men to be Confident”

21 Aug

Lately, I read two inspiring quotes.
In Sports Illustrated.

I know, I was surprised, too.

One, when describing a coach, said “{He} may not be in a class by himself, but whatever class he’s in, it doesn’t take long to call the roll.”

Not exactly a profound quote but one that I’ve thought about daily for the past few weeks. The kind of quiet legacy that we should all aspire to – whether or not people would use wordy superlatives to describe us – whether or not we become famous or heroic or important – that people think we are in a class of our own…or a class of a very select few people.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be rare. And valuable.

Last weekend, my parents hosted a graduation party for me.  Minus the balloons and cake and cards…so basically a summer get-together with a lot of people that I love and respect. People that I find valuable. And feel honored that they would take time out of their busy lives to celebrate with me. This is the kind of friendships we want to promote – ones where both parties feel they’ve lucked out, or, in the words of the Herman’s Hermits, feel they’re both “into something good.”

The second quote was by a British weightlifter when questioned as to whether she had “troubles with men” because of her occupation. “{We} prefer our men to be confident enough in themselves to not feel emasculated by the fact that we aren’t weak and feeble.”  Exactly. Only a weak guy is going to get bent out of shape if his girl is strong and capable and mature and responsible and independent. Everyone needs to feel needed. Everyone has moments of weakness where they need to borrow someone’s strength. But whatever strengths a girl has should not be seen as detrimental to the men in her lives.

I see this all the time.  The woman at the MIT gym who says “I can’t lift heavy weights. My boyfriend wouldn’t like it.  But….good for you.”  (I’m left wondering “Why would he object?” “Why do I feel like you just patronized me but pretended it was a compliment.” “Why should lifting a few weights change any dynamics?”  “Wouldn’t a good guy want you to be strong to take care of yourself?”)

The woman who always defers to her husband…in everything.  I mean, she knows the answer to the Trivial Pursuit question but in a silly act of respect, defers to his wrong answers every time. Asserting yourself doesn’t always include arrogance.  Exercising your strengths doesn’t always include making others look weak. Being independent doesn’t mean you don’t need people. And being confident in yourself is not mutually exclusive with celebrating confidence in others.

I often listen to a running podcast where Shalane Flanagan’s husband makes guest appearances.  One of the regulars referred to him one day as “Mr. Shalane Flanagan.”

“Oh, sorry, is that annoying to be referred to by your more famous wife’s name?” said one of the regulars. (Shalane’s husband is a pretty talented runner in his own right.)

“Nope, I am proud of my wife and proud to be referred to by her name” he said quietly and confidently. You could almost hear the unspoken words “I am confident in who I am. And proud of my wife for her accomplishments. And it is possible to love someone talented and not feel overshadowed by them.”

We prefer our men to be confident. We prefer our women to be confident. We prefer our kids to be confident. And that begins by showing them where our real confidence lies (hint: not in ourselves) and how to be confident without being cocky.  And then we work towards being rare and valuable, “a class of our own.”



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