I have a reputation at work: the truth teller. If I were Native American, I might be called “she-who-reveals-the-elephant-in-the-room.” I think that this reputation, this quality is perceived positively, and I’m expected to speak up and say what others are thinking but won’t say.
I worry about it, though. I worry that I’m speaking too much, too loudly. My voice is too strident. I’m too forceful. I worry that coworkers are secretly rolling their eyes at me and exchanging glances. I worry the prevailing thought is, “There goes KeAnne on her soap box again.”
I wish I could be silent. I wish I could wait until I was asked my opinion, but I can’t. The words bubble up inside me and practically explode from my mouth, spewing over everyone. I’m compelled to say what I’m thinking. I go to a lot of meetings and in each one, I tell myself I’m going to sit and be quiet. Detach. Be thoughtful. Pensive.
And then I wonder if I feel that way because I’m a woman. If I would feel differently if I were a man.
The downside of being a truth teller is frustration when you tell the truth, and it is ignored. I’ve always identified with Cassandra, able to predict the future and tell truths but cursed to be ignored. Cassandra watched her world fall apart around her because no one believed her predictions about the destruction of Troy.
I have no psychic ability (to my disappointment), nor am I dealing with events as catastrophic as the ones Cassandra did, but I am very, very frustrated. I find myself explaining situations, answering questions, providing information, predicting outcomes over and over and over, and it is like I am shouting into the wind. My words spin away into nothingness, never to find their target. And the more frustrated I become, the more strident and aggressive and let’s face it, unfeminine I feel.
I feel like a traitor writing that when we’re being urged to lean in, speak up and not opt out. I want to be respected for my work and the contributions I make, the thoughts and opinions I have. I want to be a leader, a go-to person. I do not want to be a loud-mouthed bitch.
But right now, like Cassandra, I feel out of control over how I and my message are received.