Saturday, October 20, 2007

You're Not the Boss of Me!

Words have such power, don't they? It can be as outright as "nigger" (a word I hate but use here because of the strength of its illustrative value) or "cunt" (a word I use because I enjoy shock value and, as a woman, I enjoy taking the power of it back), or as subtle as "boss". The extreme examples are easy to recognize, they often trigger a primal reaction in the listener. What troubles me is the subtle words and how they impact us subconsciously.

Boss is a word I never use. I hate it. Granted I have some authority issues, but it goes deeper than that. I have never used the word "boss" when referring to an employer because I feel it not only empowers the person referred to in a way that connotes submission and hopelessness ("what can I do? It's what the boss wants!"), but because I think it wears away at any sense of personal responsibility or choice in the individual who uses it ("I was just following orders."). Having a boss implies far more than simply working for someone, it implies total subjugation. If you listen to children using this phrase "You're not the boss of me!" you see how powerful it really is on a deep psychological level. Kids are basic, they are right here, right now and they are great at divining the truth of things. Only as we get older do we start analyzing issues and over thinking and making allowances. For deep down truth: go to a kid. You'll never hear one child say to another "you're not the employer of me!" because it does not hold the same weight.

It's interesting to me to listen to my friend Gary talk about the people he works with. He's a teacher and not once have I ever heard him refer to anyone as his "boss". He refers to his school's Principal, Vice Principal, Co-teachers, etc., but no one is "boss". They may indeed have more power in terms of policy but they are most certainly not 'the boss of him'. This indicates a level of equality, a feeling of community, mutual respect and shared objectives, that you don't hear from many professions or jobs in general. Usually people view a hierarchy of power and fall into place, and if you're not "on top" you're crushed. Metaphorically, of course, I don't want you to visualize an office full of stockbrokers jumping into a dog pile with some poor secretary on the bottom trying to make make a xerox copy.

Too many of us have bosses in our lives. Not only in the work place. People who bully us or who nick away at our self-esteem with such tiny subtleties that we don't even realize it until we wake up one day wondering why we hate ourselves so much and why we feel so useless. You don't have to be in a physically abusive relationship to be hit. Words have the power to maim and destroy. Words have the power to inflame and to begin wars.

Oddly enough a common phrase you hear from parents trying to settle down an unruly child is "use your words". Yes. Use your words. But use them wisely. You can certainly hurt others with them, we all know that. The thing you may not realize is how you can hurt yourself with your words.

Be careful with yourself - and others.

Use your words. Just remember: you're not the boss of me!


whimsicalnbrainpan said...

I think my inner boss is the worst. Knows everything about me it does.

BetteJo said...

Words very well may be the most powerful thing out there. For sure.

Gary said...

People are always saying things to make themselves feel better while putting down someone else. It has been noted before and it is worth repeating that words are indeed powerful but it is also important to recognize that how much weight they are given is up to us as well. Children are good at this as well. The old "I can't hear you" thing or "so what?" line throws off the power struggle.

I generally brush off petty insults and move on. My energy is too valuable to waste on negative phrases.