So many of you resonated with my Young@Heart (A Daily Routine to Deal with a Cranky Hubby) on living with a critical person, that I thought I should write a little more, since I lived with a very unhappy and critical man for 15 years and received advance studies in the field.
Aristotle said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Hmmm that sounds fun! Let’s all go into comas.
The truth is we women have been dealing with criticism most of our lives. We’ve been conditioned to not rock the boat. We want to be liked. Throughout history a woman’s life depended on it. Many of us don’t voice our ideas or pursue our most important work because of our fear of criticism. We don’t take risks or speak our truth because we’re afraid of criticism and dependent on praise. The truth is, whenever we look outside of ourselves for validation, we’re looking in the wrong place and if we allow anyone to cause us to doubt our ability to succeed, it’s our own fault.
Turn a deaf ear to negative words
I decided to look up the negative words our society uses to describe women, especially in the workplace. For example, if a man forgets things easily he’s called an absent minded professor. If a woman is forgetful she’s called a ding bat. Here are the words used to describe women and what I came up with to describe men who exhibit the same characteristics.
Both men and women have hormones, so why don’t we ever hear someone say of a man who has just thrown a temper tantrum, “He’s hormonal.” But it’s commonly used to describe a woman’s outburst and especially in conjunction with PMS (which my sister’s husband thought was an airline).
Illogical and Irrational
If a woman expresses her feelings in a way that’s perceived to be “too much” it’s likely she’ll be called illogical or irrational. A man would be called a visionary.
This is a close relative of airhead, ding dong and bimbo. Ditsy is another word to describe someone who is perceived as being a silly woman. It’s often accompanied by a patronizing tone and rolling of the eyes. When a guy is being silly he’s often referred to as entertaining.
Bossy has become such a contentious word that it has its own anti-campaign – “Ban Bossy,” the brainchild of Sheryl Sandberg. The words used to describe a man are The Boss.
The dictionary defines abrasive as “Irritating in manner or personality; causing tension or annoyance.” This is the newest negative term to throw at working women. The words used to describe a man who is abrasive are Firm and Decisive.
Not only can a woman be a bitch, but she can also be bitchy, malicious or snide. The words used to describe a man are an unpleasant male boss. But the female equivalent is always given this six-letter description.
Every human being has emotions. So, if emotional describes someone who is expressing his or her natural feelings, you’d expect it to be gender-neutral. NOT.
The word is commonly pitched at any woman who dares mention how she feels, raises her voice, or wells-up with tears. When it’s applied to men, we say in an endearing way, “He’s sensitive.”
The word means lively, animated or excited and tends to be used to describe a woman’s personality. When was the last time you heard a man referred to in this way? The word used to describe a man this way is Enthusiastic.
Frigid is so commonly used to describe a woman lacking sexual responsiveness that even the dictionary defines that meaning as being “especially of a woman.” I couldn’t find a word to describe a frigid man except to say, “He’s too busy right now.”
The dictionary defines this word as being about what a woman is wearing. For a man we commonly use the words Friday casual.
The “high-maintenance woman” with her pedicures, massages, careless use of credit cards and incessant demands is a rarity today now that most men and women work. The “high-maintenance man” is a stereotype yet to surface. Perhaps we’d say he’s focused and knows what he wants.
Closely related to ambitious, bossy and abrasive, pushy is another word that sums up gender inequality in the workplace. But it also describes moms who are heavily involved in their children’s lives and education. A man is called a good role model.
Commonly used to describe a woman with a strong personality and often linked to sexuality and race. It’s rarely ever meant in a positive context. When a man has a strong personality we say he’s sharp witted.
Hysteria is an old Victorian condition, just like frigidity. It’s still applied to women in the form of the adjective hysterical. Not to be confused with the other meaning of hysterical, meaning hilarious (which is applied to men).
It’s typically used to describe a female high-pitched voice and is rarely used to describe an equally high male voice.
We need to establish a healthy relationship with praise and criticism and adopt the motto, what you think of me is none of my business! If you are sensitive about what others think I’d like to share a free chapter from my book The Joy of Being Disorganized. It’s about decluttering but it goes deeper into the reason you have too much stuff in the first place and it has to do with what other people think.