Intimidating: (adj.): having a frightening, overawing, or threatening effect.

Some people have words they dislike because of the way they sound.  I’ve known more than one person who has harbored ill-feelings toward the word moist.  Personally, I don’t dislike many words, but intimidating definitely makes my short list!  It raises my hackles, pokes me hard in my emotions.

I am not an assertive person.  I will work three hours to solve a problem that could probably be resolved with a three-minute-long uncomfortable conversation.  Brene’ Brown would likely say I struggle with vulnerability.  I consider myself to be someone who persists and who has intense passions but who is reluctant to press my views upon others (unless it involves my children).  I’m happy to share my ideas and thoughts, but I don’t typically do so with any expectations.  I live on Planet Me and work to make it a place I enjoy.

I am also someone who finds school to be my safe place.  I know and understand the ebbs and flows of that environment. I can talk about its topics. I like learning and typically enjoy both being a teacher and a student.  In other places or with other topics, it can sometimes take me a long time to warm up, to find my footing.  Confidence in those other conversations is often just a facade.

Despite how I view and define myself, I’ve been told I’m intimidating.  Had this been a random or infrequent occurrence, I would dismiss it.  In fact, many times I have dismissed it outright. I don’t see myself as someone who walks boldly into very many situations, and I certainly don’t consider myself threatening.  I’m the girl who anticipates (aka dreads and plans) and ruminates (aka frets and stews).  How on earth can I be so misinterpreted?   But I have been, and I am.  Often.  For years.

It’s been sixteen years since a kindly, grandfatherly administrator pulled me aside and gently explained what I simply could not see.  My desire to be a life-long learner and to hone my craft wasn’t always being interpreted as simply loving what I do and wanting to enjoy it even more.  What I considered one of my greatest strengths was, in fact, not.

Honestly, I still struggle to see it.  I still struggle to understand just what it is I do that prompts people to tell themselves that story about me, to define or categorize me as intimidating.  Through time, I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that it happens despite it being so contradictory to how I feel most days.

I’ve learned from it, too.  It’s taught me to question more.  Sometimes that means living in the land of high school girl insecurity– what does this make them think of me?  Mostly it makes me question the stories I tell myself as I consider how others walk through the world. It reminds me to show more grace and to wonder what if more often.

The word intimidating always makes me flinch.  It feels like a punch on a bruise, reminding me of times that word has hurt.  It will certainly never make one-little-word status, but I’ve grown from it as much as I have from any of the words I’ve chosen over the years.  Perhaps more.