You are the villain in someone’s story.
And every good story needs the perfect villain.
Earlier this year, one of the directors in our foundation was sent to work with me. I was to be his boss and he had to report certain deliverables to me. He dreaded it. You see, unknown to me, he had an image of some mean Cruella de Vil associated with me. Weeks into working with me his brain was confused. The image he had of me and the reality were quite different.
Yes, I am all business most of the time, but I am also quite approachable. He finally confessed about the struggle he had earlier and all the reservations he had with working with me. I wasn’t surprised. My resting bit** face can be too intense sometimes. And as a woman in a leadership role, it is not unusual for people to assume that you are cold-hearted when they see you leading with authority. It’s very counter-cultural. People see women in control and something in their brains cannot process it.
In my earlier years, I had tried to be liked by people. I thought being liked was an important aspect of leading. This didn’t work very well for me by the way. Interestingly enough, the people I had put in the most effort into getting their approval actually liked me the least. I had thought that I needed to soften my approach. But something amazing changed last year. I finally said, “Screw it”. I’d rather succeed or fail as me than as someone else. I wanted to be authentic. I wanted to be me - just an imperfect woman who is doing her best with all the amazing things she’s been given.
The truth is, I am quite a mechanical person. I am weird. I am introverted. I have embraced the truth about the way I am wired. Self-knowledge only helps me position myself better and adapt. I like things to be excellent in their delivery. I hold myself and my team to very high standards. I always say, “If it can be better, then let's make it better”. I had thought that it was an act of love to help people grow into their potential. And sometimes, that meant tough love. But not everyone responds well to being challenged to be better. Some people are just fine with how they are and where they are. I learnt this vital lesson last year. And no matter your best intentions, you have to meet people where they are and acknowledge your limitations. This was after I had struggled with pushing and encouraging people to reach for more. I had to draw the line early on enough on what I can do. I now seek consent early to let you know that this is my leadership style. If you don’t flourish with this method, I’d like to know what works for you and I’ll try to adapt, while still being me. Being authentic as a person is important to me.
I became fine with not being liked. It stopped being a goal for me. The truth is, in a world with billions of people, the odds that you would come across someone that doesn't like you is pretty high. So I embraced the title of villain. The truth is, you can be the kindest and most compassionate person who acts with the best of intentions and you would still be the villain in someone’s story. So why fight it? I told myself that if I was going to be the villain in someones’ story either way, I wanted to be the best villain I could be. I wanted to be an oscar-winning villain. I wanted to be the Thanos to the Avengers.
No story is complete or intriguing without the perfect villains. Villains are very integral. They challenge the heroes to rise and be better. They make the story more captivating, and they help people rally resources to achieve a goal. Villains are crucial to everyone's story. Even my story has some villains. I also call them my ‘worthy rivals’. They challenge me to stay on top of my game and innovate. I appreciate them.
Not everyone would like you. Quite honestly, not everyone should. Sometimes you make mistakes and do stupid things. I know I have. It’s never malicious. But it happens all the same. So don’t focus on being liked by everyone. Instead, work on being the best you that you can be and act out of the best intentions when you are relating to people. If you discover that you’ve hurt someone, apologise if you can. But embrace the title of ‘villain’ in some people’s story. And be the best villain that you can be. Because your role as a villain is indispensable.
Thank you for reading :)