It happens to everyone, and it never feels good. I am not talking about some boot-camp setting where the drill sergeant yells that the session is over. I am not talking about being asked to leave the room during a meeting. I am not talking about being fired. Although being dismissed can mean any of those things, I am talking about when you feel like your view, your opinion, your experience or your contribution is under-valued.
I don’t have a grown-up job. I don’t have an advanced degree in anything. I have a few terms of Bible College (shocking, I know). I have an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts (with a concentration in English). I have a couple of additional years of creative writing classes and photography classes in my education list. I have over a decade of experience in Restaurant Management (with the highest scores on my exams and certifications). I have nearly a decade of experience in Workflow Management (basically how to get stuff done with the least effort, in the least time, with the least amount of resources). Until my recent marriage I was a single mom for nearly a decade.
I have won national awards for my writing. I have been published in some pretty snazzy anthologies. I tutored Psychology and Statistics at the college level while I took my creative writing classes. I helped many students graduate college, even if I ended up not gaining my degree myself.
I wrote and implemented the Employee Manual and developed the training courses for the last company I worked for. It was my “unofficial” job to make sure we were in compliance with the ever-changing safety and labor laws.
I worked with the Math department at my local community college and helped streamline the way they taught Basic Statistics. Many students were failing, and they couldn’t keep tutors. The reason was, even though this was a basic class, and required for all students in any degree program, every teacher used different texts and teaching styles. There was no uniformity. As a Stats student, I was able to overcome this and achieve a better than perfect grade. I was a highly sought after tutor and well paid for my efforts. At my suggestion, the Math department standardized the texts, the tests, the homework, and the way stats was taught. As a result, even the most math-impaired student could pass, and most did. I am especially proud of this last bit.
I could go on. But most people don’t see past the first two things. I don’t have a grown-up job, and I don’t have an advanced degree.
What that means is… I am often dismissed.
My husband does have an advanced degree. My mom and my uncles have advanced degrees. Many of my friends have advanced degrees. For some reason, it can feel as if they think they are more right than I am in most things… by simple virtue of their education. It’s not easy being in a relationship with someone who’s always right, be it friend, family member, or spouse. Even when they say they see your point, it still often feels like it’s coming from a place with just a little higher view of the world. And that, to me, is infuriating.
Because I try very hard not to dismiss others. I know my IQ. I know the strengths of my intelligence. I know that no matter what room I walk into, I am likely the smartest person in it. That’s not arrogance, that’s fact. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t reached my “potential” (whatever that is supposed to mean). It doesn’t matter than I never finished my degree. It doesn’t matter that I have bottomed out on relationships. It doesn’t matter that my kids don’t have the world’s best mom. What it means is, I’m pretty damned smart. I have the tests to prove it. What’s more important, to me, is that I remain curious about the world. I read a LOT. I study a LOT. I read journals, and articles, and I try to keep on top of what’s happening in the world. I read about medicine, science, psychology, farming, politics… whatever catches my interest. So I know I’m not only able to grasp the nuances of what is happening around me, I am also able to apply it in some way.
I am most endlessly fascinated by why people act the way they do. And so I pay attention to people. If I dismissed someone’s opinion because I didn’t see the value in what they had to say, because I didn’t feel their education or experience gave them a right to their view, it would be my loss. They don’t need my approval, but I value their participation in our interaction. That’s not to say I don’t mess up. I do. I am rude, I am arrogant, I really piss people off. But I do try not to, and when I know I have behaved badly, I apologize. Unless you are one of my ex-husbands. You guys totally deserve it. But I digress.
So when I am dismissed, when my views are de-valued, I want to cry, “UNFAIR!” Because, honestly, the people who dismiss me the most are usually the people who, in spite of my sometimes feeling like they are talking out of their asses, I listen to. I try to see their views, even when I disagree. I’d MUCH rather have arguments than end conversations with dismissals. So when the tables are turned, it feels like a real attack to be dismissed.
I have found ways around this. I am obnoxious enough to push through most dismissals. I can usually “gently” maneuver the conversation back around to where the person actually, in spite of themselves, really listens to me… and shockingly enough… I am found to have a valid point after all.
But that doesn’t mean the hurt is gone. It feels like a betrayal to be dismissed, especially when it’s by someone whom you love, who loves you. I almost wrote “claims to love you”, but the fact is, most of the real damage to us is done by people who really do love us. But painful or not, betrayal or not, at the end of the day, I have to choose to accept dismissal or fight to be heard. For me, the fight is worth it.