I am sitting in a large convention hall in San Francisco listening to Sheryl Sandberg, who I have come to admire after her book Lean In, speak. This is about 5 years ago when I was attending a conference on behalf of my job as Development Director trying to learn more about databases - specifically Salesforce. I say that sidenote to give myself a chuckle because the word database and Ashley really should never be in the same sentence. I mean maybe but really a technology conference is the last place I usually picture myself. Anywho, back to the story at hand, which is that Sheryl asks this room of like 20,000 people to raise their hand if they are a female and they have been called Bossy before. Hands beside me and behind me and all around me of my female counterparts raise their hand. Mine is like touching the ceiling if we were going to stack the number of times I was delivered this label as a child. Then she asks the males in the room to raise their hands if they have been called bossy. I strained my eyes and searched the rows to find a hand up, there were a few, but they were a few. The next line she delivered launched my path back to my true self. What if those bossy girls on the playground really had great ideas? What if from your earliest days you saw no one was leading and it felt so natural that you do so? Even if it was coming up with what the next game should be at recess, something in your body instinctively knows the best game for the best time and how to organize the group around it. What if you were called a leader instead of bossy? OH MY GOSH. REDEMPTION.
Now listen this doesn't mean that there is no such thing as bossy and that those leaders get a free pass. It provides a new set of vocabulary around the labels and boxes that we put one another in as a way to understand the world. There will be some who are thrilled to follow an idea, and others who make it there mission to resist. GREAT, now we have the representation we need to make the world work. Leaders, followers, resisters and some in between trying to make peace - peacemakers. I have a memory walking up the hill from Edgewood Blvd. with one of my dearest friends and we were crushing ant hills on the way from my house to hers when she told me that her mom said I was too bossy and that she should find some other friends. And I ached. and ached and ached. Because I loved her so much AND my true self was always trying to create order in the world. I was at war with my design.
Since then I have done story work to attempt to connect some dots of how I transformed my true self into an ideal self. I wanted to learn more of how this war with myself has left me as an adapted self today. I could share story work and hours of therapy but recently have been a bit fascinated with the Enneagram tool. I am going to call it a tool for this reason - one, it is neither scientifically or psychologically backed at this time, HOWEVER, it has (debatably) centuries and for sure decades of use to lend further understanding into our motivations, fears and needs. It provides windows into hearts and minds of those we are close to and raising. And so I jumped into learning more and with 3 tests under my belt, a few books and a number of podcasts, I am an 8 w 7 for every side of Sunday.
And the thing is that as soon as I read the description, I thought, "NO!, when do i get to be something else?" And kindly God has said back to me, "never, because this is my good design."
FINE. I get it. I accept that when I walk into the room, I am wondering who is in charge, and the options are that either they will be deemed trustworthy to lead or I will want to create more order clarity and efficiency. I will respond to life from my gut to whatever is being said or done. My instincts are my go to, it doesn't mean I won't spend time in my head, I will, after the fact I will replay and replay conversations. But when it is time to act, I am guided by instinct, and while I am aware of hearts and minds in the room, my brain is on rapid fire connecting dots trying to make sense of the world, wanting to support, empower and protect others. If I sense injustice, I am on fire inside, and it usually comes right outside through direct expression of ideas and thoughts. I have not always received accolades for my assertiveness in a culture that has always medaled women that are quieter, less expressive. And the thing I have also really come to understand is not only can I not help but communicate with confidence and directness, but I really appreciate that type of communication back. I love truth-telling. I love others guts. It doesn't make me unwoundable, in fact that is the other side. Much of the time because of my confidence others assume I can take anything and that is also not true, the other side of me is a tender mush.
My 7 wing gives me the balance and also can fuel the fire of my 8ness because i want to live life so dang big. I want the next adventure, the next great whatever... all the time. And my expectations can be through the roof wanting the biggest best life ever and struggling so much with contentment and satisfaction. It is a drive and a curse. It makes rest hard. Life becomes all about anticipation and if there is nothing to really anticipate that discontentment becomes a regular bedfellow. My 7ness also shows off my enthusiasm, my energy and my invitation to go big or go home. Not a lot of complacent 7's. BUT too much of a good thing is actually too much and that is so hard for my 7 brain to know. I ALWAYS want more.
So, back to that convention center seat, I now see that hand raised high and I say to myself - "You are a leader. Its always been in you. And you may have a lot to learn about things like timing and delivery and constructive critisicm, but the way you enter a room and connect dots is a part of a real good design." God has and wants to use my wiring for Her good. And now, more than ever, I am available to that. I am so dang ready my 7 heart may explode. I am anticipating what is in store for me and praying for the patience as I wait. My 8 self will rise when it is time, I just know it will, and that has begun to shift my adapted self back to my true self with acceptance and kindness.