After a recent and particularly egregious blunder, my apology was accepted, accompanied by the comment that, “I knew you were just thinking like a male.”
In the context, it sure sounded like an oxymoron.
There are studies showing how men and women think differently, but that’s not what happened in this instance. My actions were the result of not really thinking at all. After misreading an email and misremembering something from the past, I proceeded to push ahead without listening to suggestions that I could be wrong.
In the end things worked out fine. However, my unwillingness to stop and ask for help put me squarely in the mindset of “thinking while male.” I wasn’t really thinking deeply about what I was doing. Unfortunately, I do it often enough to recognize the signs.
Stereotypes can be harmful and are often used to avoid getting to know people as individuals in order to look down on them as a group. They also describe behavior, roles, and preconceived notions we absorb from an early age as appropriate for our gender or social class. One of the best known stereotypes of the male mindset is the willingness to drive for long periods of time rather than stop and ask for directions. In this case, it becomes a stereotype because so many of us have adopted this behavior without giving a great deal of thought as to the reasons for our actions. But these routines don’t have to be self-fulfilling prophecies in our own lives. We can defy convention. Habits do not have to become destiny.
In our family discussions, we’ve now reflected over which past factors may have contributed to an increase in my oh-so-self-assured lack of judgment. Identifying the problem and calling something by name is a first step in making the conscious decision to break the routine that leads to bad habits. We discussed things I could do to be more present and mindful. I was also gifted a little book by Lee Coit, Listening, where I’ve been reading about the difference between the limitations of ego and the understanding that comes from following an inner guide that is deeper and connected to a truer vision of the world. Listening to that guide requires stillness, avoiding the tendency to pre-plan, and having no investment in the answer to the questions other than wanting to follow what is true. I don’t have to always be “right.”
Shifting from a busy job filled with tasks and challenges to the different pace of the next third of my life is not a simple step. Even after taking a gap year and then enduring — along with the rest of the world — pandemic lock-down, I still find I rely too much on the old habits. Yet as one of my mentors suggested, this time in life can be so much more meaningful if I will slow down, be present, listen, and think deeply about what is before me.
That means I will need to stop “thinking while male.”
Have a good week.
More to come…