When I used to teach high school English, there was one phrase students uttered that bugged me more than any other. I’d ask a question, hands would go up, and then I’d call on a smart, articulate female student who would begin her answer with the dreaded …
This is probably wrong, but … and then, more often than not, she would give the right answer.
Why? Why? Why the disclaimer? And why was it usually the girls and never the boys who had to precede their answer with self-doubt?
Lately, I’ve thought of this a lot as I’ve heard myself and other women in my life reflexively offer disclaimers in countless areas of our lives.
I’m sorry my house is such a mess. There’s laundry everywhere!
I’m so sorry that my kids are acting like wild animals.
Oh, I’m just warning you that this dish is not poorganic at all. I just threw it together.
Oh, this haircut? Well, I know the color looks like Sharon Osborne, but it’s better than grey.
I’m sure that you’d rather have someone [older, smarter, younger, prettier, funnier, happier] volunteer, but if you can’t find that person, I’ll do it.
Let’s just face it. My house is usually a mess. My kids are childish because THEY ARE CHILDREN. Food I make you is free! Like it. My haircolor is what you get for $5 a box. AND if you can find someone [older, smarter, younger, prettier, funnier or happier] to volunteer, you probably wouldn’t need me.
I think we gals offer disclaimers for a number of reasons; all of which reflect a bit of inauthentic behavior on our part.
I want YOU to know that I KNOW my problems; therefore, if you think my house is a mess, well, I beat you to it. I thought it first. See. I’m so self-aware.
I want YOU to think that I have high standards for myself, which I may or may not have, but I will pretend to have them. (Aren’t my kids naughty? Actually, they act like this all the time, but it only bothers me in Target when YOU are glowering at me.) See. I’m just faking it.
I want YOU to tell me that my mediocrity or failure is OK because I couldn’t bear to have you be disappointed by it. So I will announce it. Then you won’t be surprised. See. I’m so insecure.
I’m falsely modest because when you say my hair looks awesome, I just don’t know how to say, “I know, right!?! I’m so H-O-T, now.” See. I’m fishing for praise.
I’m evasive when you ask me for help because I don’t know how to say, “WOW, I think God has gifted me for just that! I’d love to.” See. I’m afraid to seem self-righteous.
Worse than this, I realize that offering disclaimers has become second nature to me. I offer them even when I don’t feel any of those things. I virtually cannot open the door to my home without disparaging some aspect of its cleanliness, even if it is pristine.
What am I teaching my daughters? At what point are they going to lack the confidence to strap on some goggles and a tutu? At what point are they going to question themselves? Their opinions? Their abilities? Their correct answers? At what point are they going to begin their answers with, “This is probably wrong, but …”?
All this has led me to one definitive conclusion. I’m giving up disclaimers for good.
Normally people give up some vice like Coke or chocolate, that they immediately readopt on Easter Sunday. Some people might abandon a habit (like Facebook) in an effort to bring balance to their lives. But I want to kick this disclaimer habit altogether.
I want to proclaim the truths of my life and my identity without shame. I am who I am, fearfully and wonderfully made with a fabulously normal life, full of foibles and faux pas. I want to be able to greet people openly without false modesty, pride, artifice or guile.
Welcome to my life, Friend. I hope you feel as comfortable here as I do. Let me move this pile of laundry so you can sit down. Would you like to help me fold?