When I was a little girl, my father made me his “star”. He groomed me to star in his show. patriarchy, He’d brag about how smart I was in front of people. He’d brag about my multitude of talents. He’d brag about my obedience. However, there was one problem: I grew up. As I grew up into my own person, I stopped obeying. I felt uncomfortable when he asked me to perform a song for my uncle. I felt anxious when he told everyone about my achievements at school. I felt fear when he showed me off to new people that he just met. In time, I realized that my father needed rewards to spend his time with me. He needed the time to pay off handsomely for him. The payoff came in the form of praises for him as a parent, praises for me as a productive member of his household, and most of all, praise for his manhood.
Twenty years later, I became my manager’s “star” in Corporate America. I was loyal to a fault. When my manager exhibited narcissistic tendencies, I worked around him. I diligently worked 12 to 16 hour days to respond to unreasonable demands by him or by the clients from business units that I worked for. I gained a reputation as a “diplomat” — someone who can balance enormous egos when they need to be balanced. I also gained a reputation as a “star” — someone who my manager can cite as a performer and show off to the clients.
Years later, when I ended my career in Corporate America, I realized the pattern that I was repeating in my life.
I chose to live in patriarchy because that is all I knew.
The truth is that there’s a kind of freedom in making my own choices. That freedom is inherently scary for me. All my life, my decisions were validated by men: my father, my significant other, my male manager and my male extended family members. I counted on that validation to feel confident in my own decisions.
In order to gain that validation, I submitted to all the toxic wasteland patriarchy can mean to the detriment of my own mental health.
After I severed ties with all patriarchal relationships in my life, I suffered withdraw. I went through a period where I was unable to make even the smallest decisions for myself. Without the validation from my male peers, I was lost. Even when I advised female colleagues to seek independence, once again, I started to seek approval from male colleagues to validate my own existence.
The cycle doesn’t end until I embraced my own freedom of choice.
Recently, I ended another toxic working relationship with someone I once admired. From this incident, I realized that I still have work to do. In order to fix all my patriarchal biases, I needed to practice these skills without any excuses:
having a firm conviction for my own values
putting my values before other people’s values
asserting my needs in all my relationships
calling out people who have hurt others
standing up for people who I admire
drawing firm boundaries to protect who I am
After I fix my patriarchal bias and truly graduate from them whole-heartedly, I know these people are waiting for me: Men who champion and admires women; Women who support each other and uphold each other’s values. Only with these people by my side can I truly find love, happiness, and inspiration in life.
For a woman like me, who have lived in patriarchy for so long, the road to recovery is long.
But, with recognition, comes conscious independent decisions that stack up as high as a skyscraper. Each day, when I look at this tall tower, I will remind myself that I don’t need any external validations for my choices. I am just fine by myself.