Lessons I Learned from Successful Women

30 Nov

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I come from a long line of successful, strong women. When I say this, I am speaking of women who raised families, held on to their husbands and kept their marriages going through the best and worst of times when lesser women would have given up, gave birth to children in the most difficult of circumstances – my great-grandmother gave birth to her first child at home with not a bit of help from a doctor and that little girl weighed right at twelve pounds! She went on to have another child, my grandfather just two years later in the same manner, in the same bed and he weighed eleven pounds. My very own mother, a CN3-RN who was a supervisor at a large hospital went into labor with me after watching two women die from emergency C-Sections, so she herself refused to have the same procedure done even though I was coming Frank-breech (butt first) and upside down and the doctor begged her to allow them after thirty-six hours of hard labor to allow them to cut her open and relieve her pain. Out of fear for her life and mine, she instead insisted on a much more painful episiotomy that cut her two inches ABOVE her anus and left her unable to walk for ten days and me black with bruises from my legs up to my shoulders. But we were both alive, and she went on to have my brother 17 months later without complications. Honestly, I’d slap anyone who ever dared say my mother wasn’t a strong woman. She may have been terrified of having that C-section, but it took not only physical strength but determination that lasted more hours than any one of us can imagine to bring me into this world and I am forever grateful to her for it. So no matter how angry I ever get at her, no matter what she ever says or does, I will never forget the sacrifice she made for me before she ever knew me.

She wasn’t always a patient woman, but few women who are smart and strong and successful often are. She told me things growing up that I didn’t understand the reasons for until much later, and she would do crazy things that I thought at the time were completely ridiculous. Now, however that I am a wife and a mother, I know why she did those things, and what they all meant, and I passed them down to my daughter-she thought I was just as crazy I suppose but now that she is twenty-one I believe she is seeing that I’m not as foolish as she once believed. I know that there are many daughters who did not get those lessons from their mothers, not because their mothers did not love them, but perhaps because their mothers had forgotten them or just hadn’t been blessed to have the same crazy mothers from which we descended. That’s what this blog is about tonight. I’m going to share some of the lessons I learned about life, men, succeeding in this world, and maybe you can use it to your advantage and pass some of these lessons down to your daughters one day too.

1. My mother used to make me walk with a book on my head, just like in those old fashioned movies. I had to walk with a heavy book balanced on my head while walking the straight line of the kitchen linoleum, the hardwood floor, or a chalk line she drew outside on our carport. I had to do it in flats, heels, tennis shoes, and place one foot in front of the other and execute a graceful turn at the end of the room or line without dropping the book. I’d walk back and forth for what seemed like forever until she was satisfied. If I was standing and she saw me slouching, she would slap me HARD between my shoulder blades and tell me to stand up straight and that would be the signal to go get that damn book of Shakespeare’s Sonnets or the S out of the encyclopedias and start walking. Some days she would pick out a really high pair of heels, some days I’d get lucky and get a pair of low kitten heels, but I NEVER got to do it barefoot. Do you know what I learned from this? I bet you can guess! I have, to this very day, excellent posture! I can be ANYWHERE and if I feel myself starting to slouch from tiredness or boredom I very quickly straighten up and put my feet in a ladylike position, one heel to the instep of the other foot and stand like I should. Why is this important? I feel good when I stand straight, and people notice that I look professional and put together, no matter what I have on when I stand like a lady. I AM a lady, and I always want to look my best and unless I am sick I will always do my best to look like the lady my mother taught me to be! I taught my daughter this, and it has served her well in her school days, jobs, and whenever she is in public. This is not to say there haven’t been times when both of us have leaned, stumbled or even fell, but when we needed it, we knew how to stand and walk properly.

2. My mother corrected my grammar relentlessly from the time I was learning to speak. Yes, I am Southern, and I know how to speak ‘redneck’ with the best of them. I can speak with a country slang so thick that when I lived in Belgium I could mutter insults aloud with an accent that people swore I was NOT speaking English! I laughed and told them I was speaking ‘Redneck’ and it was a language all it’s own! But my mother made sure from the time I could speak that I knew to say ‘she and I’ and ‘her and me’ and when to use each and how to construct sentences in the proper form so that no one could ever say that I was uneducated, no matter where they were from or how many advantages they had been raised with! She encouraged my brother and me to increase our vocabulary daily, often challenging us to not only use new words but to spell them at the nightly dinner table. It was a game we played, and it challenged us to expand out minds and use our conversations to grow and become better at expressing ourselves so we didn’t have to resort to profanity to make ourselves understood. I became an autodidact, and greedily soaked up obscure language so as to impress my mother as well as my teachers. I did this as well with my daughter, and perhaps it is why she is such an excellent speaker and writer to this day!

3. Know your worth, my mother always told me. My grandmothers both said the same thing every time I saw them and until I grew past the awkward teenage years when self-doubt ruled me I truly had no idea what my real worth actually was or would ever be. I had to have my parents force me to not allow the boys I dated disrespect me, or I would never have had a chance to gain that knowledge and I thank them for making me feel embarrassed with all their rules. They never let me go out with a boy who would not come pick me up at the door and meet them. I had a couple of boys, my first husband was one of them, who pulled up in the drive and honked the horn for me to come out and go. My parents physically forced me to stay in the house until my dates walked up to the door and knocked, greeted my parents and asked if I was ready for our date. The boys, or young men, would then have to meet my parents and then tell them where we were going and what time we would be back. Mom and Dad were never rude, in fact they were polite and welcoming, but they made sure those fellows understood that I was WORTH treating with care, with manners and dignity, and that I was a lady. My first husband told me he had never had to walk up to a girl’s door to pick her up, and I remember telling him that evidently he had dated girls without good raising then! I was being sassy, but now looking back, perhaps that is why he saw me as a potential wife and not just some girl to treat any old way.

4. Girls do NOT pay for the date! The gentleman asks the lady out, he pays, he always opens doors, he walks her to her door after the date, if they are ordering dinner the lady orders first (or she tells him what she wants and he orders for them both), he holds her chair for her, he walks on the side nearest the street as protection, and he chooses the restaurant. OK, now when I was told all of this, I thought just as you probably are right now “OMG, we aren’t living in the DARK AGES!!!” but listen to the reasons that this works, even today. The man invites the woman out to show he is truly interested in her as a girlfriend, not a buddy, not a pal, not a friend. He selects the restaurant according to his budget, so he knows he can afford the meal, and when ordering for both he can control the cost-allow him to make suggestions so he doesn’t overrun his wallet!!! See? This makes much more sense, right? The gentleman opens doors, takes her coat, walks on the outside of the sidewalk closest to the street so he can be her protector, because men LIKE to be protective and strong when it comes to women. Even if you are a foot taller and can bench press fifty pounds more than he can, no man wants to be reminded of that on a romantic date! Let him be the man and you be the woman, it’s nice to be treated like a lady, and you’ll both feel much better when this happens. And if a man isn’t willing to even open a door for you, what does that say about him? It says he isn’t a candidate for a relationship. It’s a small matter to do such a small thing to show you respect and caring and if he can’t do that, do you think he is going to be generous down the line with his deeds, actions or affections when it counts? No! And what man wants a woman who won’t let him treat her like a lady, or who doesn’t understand that she is WORTHY of being treated like she is special? Not much. I say this from experience, I’ve been married three times, my first lasted six years and ended amicably, my second ended due to our lives heading in separate directions (and hidden drug use on his part) and I am happily married now. In between, I dated many men, good ones, bad ones, abusive ones, and had several engagements that I ended all amicably due to family needs and job moves. The men who treated me like a lady and did what I am telling you they should were the KEEPERS!!! The ones I let slide on the rules turned out to be worthless and not worth the time of day! When I forgot that I was WORTH being treated like a lady, when I forgot that I was not their buddy, or their hangout ‘bro’ or someone to ‘kick it with’, that is when I was miserable!! I have friends, I have girlfriends, I have gay guy friends, and I have straight guy friends, I don’t DATE them!!! I split the meals bills with THEM, I open my own doors with them, I buy my own drinks with them, and that is how it is. If you start out buying your own meal, opening your own doors, and not making it clear that you are the GIRL and you are in a DATE, don’t be surprised when you aren’t their girlfriend!!! And don’t be surprised when you hear that even though he might have slept with you a few times, he is in a relationship (maybe even a serious one) with someone he met either before or after YOU! Know your worth, know the rules, and don’t kid yourself about any of it!

5. Never underestimate the value of a career and a good education. If you want to be respected in this world, both by your friends, loved ones, and your enemies, you best get a good education and get a career. OK, it’s fine to work in a restaurant as a waitress while you’re in college, or as a side job while you’re saving money to buy into something else, or even as a second job to help pay the mortgage and pay off your student loans as you work your way up the corporate ladder. Just don’t think when you’re thirty-five and working as a cashier somewhere and you’ve never even taken a single college class or tried to get a better job people are going to take you seriously. OK, yes, the times are hard right now, but if you can’t find a job in your chosen field then start your own business, do something about making things happen for yourself, have some dreams and set about making them come true! It is better to work for peanuts as a musician on the weekends playing music because you have talent and toil in a factory all week to pay the bills than to JUST GIVE UP!!! Life is much too short to not figure out what it is you love to do, what you’re good at and pursue it! Everyone has something that they do better than anyone else, you just have to figure out what that is and DO IT!! Michael Jordan played basketball on a dirt court in his backyard from the time he was a child, he has no idea that one day he would become one of the greatest basketball players in the world-he just loved putting the ball through the hoop. What if no one had ever handed him a ball? What if Tiger Woods had never been handed a golf club and a ball? What if Leonardo DaVinci had never had a pencil and a piece of paper? There are people out here, millions of them, that are in college right now, taking all different classes just trying to figure out what the hell they are meant to be doing with their lives. That’s ok! My advice is to do the same thing! Even if it is just one class at a time, you can only better yourself by having taken that class, you can only come closer to your dreams, and you can only increase your worth by increasing your mental prowess. Do it for YOU, no one else. You’ll be happy you did.

6. Love yourself, no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, how smart you are, or what you have. This world is made up not of a single path, it is full of paths and some are marked and others are covered with weeds and look totally deserted and abandoned. There will be times when the clear ones are the right ones, and then times when those are the ones you need to avoid. My point is, you have to use your own judgment, the lessons you’ve learned, your strengths and knowledge of what is right for you and those you love to know which way to go. I’ve seen people make some really stupid choices just because they didn’t take the time to stop and look at the landscape. Look at the people you know or have heard of who are in jail. Every singe one of them is there because of BAD decisions. They didn’t stop and take the time to do the right thing, take the right path. Most of them took what they thought was a shortcut, or made a hasty decision, or simply didn’t even look where they were going. There isn’t a SINGLE unwanted pregnancy in this world that happened because of a thoughtful, carefully made decision. No, someone acted without thinking, they didn’t plan ahead or wait until they could take the right steps. There isn’t a crime committed that didn’t involve a wrong decision. So my point is, you are in control of your own destiny. Take your time, think about the paths you want to walk upon and make sure that you always choose carefully because once you’re walking, you can’t turn around and go in a different direction when you realize you’ve screwed up. The best you can do is forage around until you find the correct way to go, and that’s a helluva lot harder than simply taking the right one in the first place. You’re going to make mistakes, but don’t beat yourself up. Love yourself enough to take care of YOU. Don’t let someone else put you last. You are too precious for that. It’s your walk, no one else, and while they may be along for the ride you have to feel the pain if things go wrong.

7. Know who your friends are, and know when to say goodbye. We have many people who come into our lives, and many we will call friends. Some will be so close they will be like brothers and sisters to us, and we will think they will always be there. Some will be friends that we grow very close to and the friendship is intense for a short time but ends soon. Some will be gentle friends that we know for a while but fade away, leaving us with smiles and great memories. Some friends will be false, and use us for what we give them and when we are dried up and no longer fueling them they will leave us for the next. Don’t be afraid to make friends, to love people, but guard your heart until you know what kind of a person you are sharing your friendship with. Know your worth as a friend, and be a good friend to all-but don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of or used if you can help it. I’ve had friends that I would have sworn loved me like they were my family break my heart and treat me like trash under their feet for no reason. When I looked back on my friendship with them, I realized too late that I was blind to what everyone else saw…I was a sucker being used for my time, my love, my money, and my support. Be a good, honest person in all you do, be a good friend to those you meet, but don’t give your heart wholeheartedly to anyone not willing to do the same for you. True friendship is as hard to find and as precious as true love, never forget that. Don’t be a cynic, but don’t be a fool.

8. This pertains to the way we dress, ladies. Men reading this will agree with me, I am sure, for all my friends who are men have told me this time and again, and it is hard for women to get it through their heads at times, but I must say it.

If you dress like a lady, you will be treated like one. If you dress like a whore, you will be treated as such. I’m not saying you have to wear a skirt to your ankles and up to your neck, but if you are out and about with no bra on, in a skirt that shows your legs all the way up to your butt, platform heels, and cleavage that shows everything but your nipples, you look like trash asking to get picked up…and you don’t look like anyone a man wants to take home to meet his mother or be a mother to his children. What you DO look like is a convenient hole for him to stick it in. Now, that may sound harsh, but I’ve owned several businesses, and I’ve had to send women home who seemed to have forgotten that bras are necessary undergarments at the workplace, that skirts at work should never be shorter than an inch or two above the knee and YES, you should wear hosiery-and not with bats or crazy patterns all over them! Save that for the club later! The office (Unless you work at a fashion magazine that allows it specifically) is not  circus, and we are there to do business, not distract one another. I admit, I am a lover of fashion, and I was working in a conservative office in my twenties and wore a leather skirt (knee length) with a beautiful silk blouse and black stockings and heels, and I got FIRED!!! Now, my outfit was completely modest, nothing showing, the skirt just happened to be made of beautiful kid leather. I was hired back the next day after I filed a complaint, but I quit soon after because that incident ruined the rapport I had with the other office staff. You see, I simply forgot that I was working in an office where women were used to wearing jeans skirts and sweatshirts, not fashionable attire like I was used to when I lived in the city and I stuck out like a sore thumb. I learned my lesson and began to invest in beautifully cut black suits, some with long skirts, shorter skirts that came just to the knee, others with slacks, but all conservative and with tailored jackets of various styles. I made my suits ‘me’ with various blouses, scarves, brooches-antique, real diamond, some pearl, all kinds, and I splurged on gorgeous shoes to match. I was a shoe freak long before Carrie Bradshaw’s name was ever known. But the point of this is that I dressed appropriately for not only the job I had, but the jobs I WANTED. I knew if I came in wearing clothing that was flashy or too sexy, I would never get ahead in the businesses I worked within, so I found a way to accommodate them and still be myself. I see young women in their early twenties getting ready to enter the job market and I see how they are dressed and I cringe. Ladies, New York is one city in this big country, and what they wear there is not what they wear in most of the rest of the country. If you want to be taken seriously in the business world, I suggest you invest in some good quality, well tailored and lined dress suits, blouses, hosiery, Spanx (the type that go ALL the way down to cover your entire legs) and some nice heels you can walk in (forget Louboutin, try some 3 inch Nine West black pumps to begin) and NEVER ever take your shoes off during the work day!!!! There is nothing tackier than a woman taking her shoes off and walking around in bare feet in the office!!!

9. Now that you look like a lady, sound like one! Clean up your language, even if you don’t think anyone important is listening! Do not involve yourself in gossip at the workplace-it will come back to haunt you. Don’t use foul language at all, get in a habit of not EVER dropping the F-bomb, and don’t use any of the other ones either. If you get the reputation of being the woman with the sailor-mouth, it will follow you forever. It’s simply for the best if you class yourself up and sound like a lady since you know deep down you ARE a lady. I guarantee when you sound like a lady, look like a lady, and do an excellent job as well, you will be a greater success!!! Your paycheck will reflect it as well!

10. Last but not least, no office romances-EVER EVER EVER!!!!!! Remember how in high school everyone knew who was sleeping with whom, almost as soon as it happened, and how everyone talked about it continually? Well, the office is worse. Don’t date clients, either, you’ll be labelled a whore trying to get business the ‘easy way’. Don’t even engage in the ‘what if’ conversations that go on when boredom hits the other girls in the afternoon or on breaks. That’s a very dangerous game, too. And don’t share tales of your own love life, no details about your dates from the previous weekends, don’t allow coworkers on your FaceBook, and if at all possible don’t put anything on FB that you don’t want your employers to read, such as how drunk you were on Saturday, or God Forbid any drug use or sexual escapades!! You want no one at your job to know ANY sordid details about your life, remember that these are NOT your friends, these are people who would throw you under a bus in a heartbeat if it meant a raise for them!!! Listen quietly to their tales if you want, smile and nod as they complain about husbands, diapers, soccer practices, but don’t say jack about your life out side of the office!!! You don’t need to ever air grievances about your job either, you don’t want them to have anything to tell your supervisor or boss, nothing!!!! As far as everyone you work with should know, you ADORE your job, LOVE IT, and would work late seven days a week if you could!!!

Now, I hope that some of these many words of wisdom have sunk in, I do realize they are long and varied, but I swear they are all true and if you keep them in mind you will do well!!!!! Keep the faith and never forget how valuable you are!!!!!

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