Scare Tactics

gerund or present participle: intimidating
frighten or overawe (someone), especially in order to make them do what one wants.

Since moving to Vancouver, I’ve had more than a few people tell me that they were intimidated by me when we first met. This is laughable to me because most people read my aloof bearing as snobbery or superiority when in fact it is masking a severe lack of confidence and a fear of rejection.

Hearing it again the other night made me want to try to unpack this reaction. What is it about me that makes people feel cowed? Is it my size? If I were smaller, would people feel less threatened by me? If I were more outgoing and less reserved, would that put people at ease?

If I spoke more haltingly or appeared to be more uncertain when sharing a professional opinion, would people relax? If I did that, it would fly in the face of the kind of professional advice women are usually given, e.g. be more assertive, don’t hedge, use I statements, etc.

Some days, nothing would make me happier than to be anonymous, to blend in, to be thought of as engaging, approachable and friendly. But even when I consciously try to adjust my body language and tone of voice, I still don’t get it right.