Appropriately confident: what are YOU really good at?

 by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    October 21, 2018

It all started with a little post on Twitter by San Francisco OB-GYN Dr. Jen Gunter, urging this call to action:

I was hooked when I read an early response from a pediatrician, who (on top of everything else a pediatrician might feel self-confident about) mentioned that she does the New York Times crossword IN PEN. Now, that is true confidence, my heart sisters. . .

I decided to bite, tossing aside all that ‘aw shucks’ false modesty that women are so often socialized to embrace. Here’s how I responded about myself:

I was mesmerized by so many of the #AppropriatelyConfident responses from other women! Their statements contrasted with the countless women I’ve heard from who openly admit their reluctance to “make a fuss” or draw attention to themselves – even when in the middle of a frickety-frackin’ heart attack! 

I was one of them. The urgent need to be normally assertive during a cardiac crisis didn’t seem enough to counter that reluctance for me and for many otherwise assertive women. And I learned on the spot what could happen when I did dare to speak up to the Emergency physician who had just misdiagnosed my textbook heart attack symptoms as acid reflux: his nurse came up after he left my bedside, and sternly warned me:

“You’ll have to stop questioning the doctor. He is a very good doctor, and he does NOT like to be questioned.”

The question I’d had the temerity to ask? “But Doc, what about this pain down my left arm?”

It takes a good healthy dose of self-confidence to insist to people with the letters M.D after their names that something is wrong when they tell us it’s not, or that we deserve to have our cardiac symptoms taken seriously – especially for those of us who are used to being misdiagnosed, dismissed and sent home, as many female heart patients are.

Many of us need regular reminders that we should worry far less about being perceived as “difficult” and worry far more when our health – and life – are at risk.

To do that, we need to exercise that confidence muscle.

So in no particular order, here are some of my favourites of women’s responses to Dr. Gunter – along with an invitation of my own: What are YOU appropriately confident about? 

Q: Are you as “appropriately confident” as you would like your daughters to grow up to be?

See also:

18 thoughts on “Appropriately confident: what are YOU really good at?

  1. I like that all the respondents’ comments that I read used the word “women” to describe us. I do not like the word “ladies”, and the sooner we stop answering to it, the sooner it will disappear from ordinary daily speech. I find that the word “women” is much more respectful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Jean – I like Slate reporter Katy Waldman’s definition of “lady” a couple years ago:

      “The word sounds different in the mouth of a feminist woman than it does coming from a man. We mostly judge guys who say ‘lady’ to be condescending dinosaurs.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, while I understand and respect what you are saying here about the use of the term “ladies” in a condescending way, I still find this idea kind of odd — and very sad. Historically, a “lady” used to be thought of as the epitome of everything a woman of culture should be: gracious, educated, a leader, refined, tasteful, setting an example in manner and speech, etc. Even today, the term is often used to promote decorum and modesty — I know many moms (including me!) who have told their daughters to act (or sit!) “like a lady” in an attempt to raise their behavior to a higher standard. (Yes, I am an old-fashioned former homeschool mom who still believes there is great power in modesty!)

        By the same token, I think parents need to teach their sons to be gentlemen — to be polite and treat women (and other men too, and older people) with respect and honor and to be men of high integrity. It seems to me that “men” don’t necessarily treat “women” with respect — but a “gentleman” would treat a “lady” according to a higher standard — and vice versa, it works both ways. Good manners are not only becoming a thing of the past, rudeness is now escalating out of control into increasing violence, even being promoted and praised by our president!

        How sad that the two terms “ladies” and “gentlemen” are now thought of and used in a negative way as our culture is just becoming more and more rude and violent. While I completely agree about equal rights for women, I still think we’re losing something very important here at the same time.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You accurately started your description of “lady” with “historically….” and that’s an important point. It’s a word that made perfect sense during historical times in which women were also unable to vote, own property, speak their minds, open a bank account, use birth control, go to university or practice a career, not to mention societal expectations of decorous behaviour, obedience to men, and feminine beauty.

          I too have raised my two children to be polite and respectful to others, but I don’t see those important qualities as somehow synonymous with being “ladylike”. And the shocking hatred and rudeness I’m observing among the audiences at your president’s rallies are being demonstrated by middle-aged and older women who would most likely refer to themselves as “ladies”.

          In my opinion, it’s just a word, after all, and one that is more and more associated with a cultural history few women I know would be interested in revisiting…


          1. First of all, I love the idea of defining what we’re appropriately confident of – what we’re really good at!

            Secondly, it always interests me to see how people use language in different ways (one of the things I’m really good at is languages!).

            It might be a personal thing or an age thing or a cultural thing – I’m 61, and culture here in the UK is different from Canada, which is different from the USA…

            As George Bernard Shaw (allegedly) suggested, perhaps we really are separated by a common language.

            Personally, I use the word “ladies” to show respect for women I love and admire.

            For example, I would always refer to the “ladies” in the breast cancer choir which I performed with recently at the London Palladium, to raise funds for a breast cancer charity.

            I would never refer to them as simply “women” because, to me, “women” is a generic term and implies that I don’t actually know them.

            I look forward to reading more of your blog, Carolyn!

            Liked by 1 person

    2. I certainly don’t want to offend anyone, but I thought I’d pass along this statement from my father. I’m 67 now and was probably a pre-teen when he said it. Don’t remember why the statement was made, but I always think of him when this topic is mentioned. “There are two kinds of females, a lady and a woman. Always conduct yourself as a lady.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree that women, for the most part, believe that their chronic illnesses are unimportant to Docs and the MH system. These affect not only you. but your families. That makes them very IMPORTANT!

    Do not allow the busy system to beat you down. I have a 10 yr old grandaughter who watches my every move. I heard her tell a friend one day that she knows how to make herself known, no matter what. Asked how she knows what to do. She answered “my Nanie” has taught me how to “be strong”.

    She watches me like a hawk. One day I explained to her that girls are as good at math as the boys. She is now #1 in her advanced math course.

    Mothers and grandmothers teach these young women well and to believe in themselves! They may surprise you in the future.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Such an important point, Virginia. “Watching like a hawk” and modeling what they see is how our little ones learn. My 3-year old granddaughter already has a strong awareness of what’s “nice” and “not nice” behaviour as she learns how to behave in society (which is a practical lesson all kids must learn). Thanks for the reminder that our granddaughters are watching and learning from us all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it’s sad that we women still have to find pride in doing what is “appropriate” (but I do understand) – I’m putting my bets on younger generations of females to be proud of what’s “exceptional”.

    Gender equality has a long way to go on this tiny planet called earth.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I too think it’s sad, Judy-Judith!

      I was reading in Forbes recently a depressing article suggesting that “women in mixed-gender work teams tend to give more credit than is necessary—or even true—to their male colleagues. Instead of talking about themselves in an honest way, women give away the credit, talking about the great team they had, the collaborative efforts involved, the talents of someone, anyone, else.”

      Other studies have suggested that men will apply for a job even when they meet fewer than 60% of the job requirements, while women won’t apply unless they meet 100% of the requirements! A LinkedIn report found that the site’s male members brag more than women about their career accomplishments, while women downplay theirs because we live in a society in which acting assertive or self-confident (traits that are traditionally seen as “masculine”) is less acceptable in women.

      The Forbes author suggested that women should adopt an “Honor thyself” strategy: “acknowledge your accomplishments internally.”

      So this concept of being #appropriatelyconfident has a long way to go! If we can’t feel good about what we’re honestly good at unless it’s “exceptional” – well, that IS sad.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m sure “difficult patient” was on my charts in the large city I left where the Drs didn’t listen or help. (Didn’t recognize heart attack.)

    Moved to tiny mountain area, requested no records, & started fresh. Not many Drs, but they LISTEN & work hard to heal. The area desperately needs government help for all the poor who don’t have the means to get to a doctor.

    Small hospitals are closing. Medicare & Medicaid funds are being lost due to fraud. When the owner of a company makes $59,000,000 there is something wrong with the system. At this rate, these programs won’t be available to help your family when someone has that heart attack no one expected.


  5. Yes! I’ve learned that speaking up gets me tagged as either opinionated or judgmental — both of which are considered un-PC and of course very unfeminine — but shutting up gets me nowhere.

    I choose to speak up. Nobody an advocate better for me than … ME.

    Liked by 1 person

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