The Unintended Alpha Woman

For most of my adult life, I never saw myself as an Alpha female. I shrunk with shyness and passivity to the more overpowering people I was spending my time with; my mother, my (now ex) husband, and some of my friends and bosses. Even though I was working very hard with clear goals that I had set for myself, I often saw myself as the “beta” because I felt that everything I did in my life was meant to please others.

My mother was an intense person with an overpowering personality. I never doubted her love for me, but I was always afraid of her, and therefore rarely ever told her “no”. She was a pretty manipulative person, so most people found themselves powerless around her. As a child and young woman I worshipped my mother because she was so powerful, but as I got older I started to distance myself from her because I sensed her manipulative tendencies. This could have been my first step towards independence, but instead I voluntarily handed over the reigns to my husband.

Why did I do this? I was scared to make decisions for myself. I was intimidated by the reality of my adulthood. My ex is a person that tends to think the world is perpetually more against him than anyone else, and this is a good person to be partnered with if you want to sabotage your own success. During my youth I was so afraid of failure that I often made life choices that I subconsciously knew would lead to disappointment. I didn’t believe I was good enough to become successful, so in order to avoid the risk of failure I just jumped head first into the shallow end of the pool.

It wasn’t until I decided to become a teacher that I got in touch with my inner Alpha. When you are a classroom teacher you are in charge of your own domain, and its success relies completely on your shoulders. It’s much like running a small business, except that your profit comes in the form of good student discipline and performance.

The students will never hand over control of the classroom, this has to be taken with confidence by the adult in the room. You can’t ask permission to teach the class. I started off teaching in one of the most difficult middle schools in Providence as a substitute, and I met with mostly opposition from the students and administration. No one expected me to succeed, or to attempt to actually teach. They assumed I would run away screaming with terror like many of the substitutes before me.

However, I felt I had no choice but to stay. My oldest son was only two at the time, and my husband was unemployed. I had to take care of my family. At the time Providence was paying its subs twice as much as the other surrounding towns, and offered health insurance. Even though my daily life as a sub felt like psychological torture, I returned every single day. That year I got pink eye three times, bronchitis and a bad stomach virus, but I always returned to school. I had a family depending on me.

Eventually I learned that in order to survive, I had to assume the position of Alpha, even if it was uncomfortable. I had to demand respect from my students and dole out consequences for breaking the rules. I remember the day I actually decided to pretend to be someone else. “Fake it until you make it”, I thought to myself.

And it worked. It wasn’t easy or comfortable, but it was better than being trampled upon. Eventually, this Alpha role carried into my personal life, and it shook things up significantly. I recognized when I was being disrespected by the people in my life who claimed to love me, and I let my frustration be known. It was a gradual self-realization, and there were times when I slipped and swam around in an infested pool of self-doubt. But deep down inside something changed, and I would never be the same again.

My transition took a major leap when my mother passed away. She had been the person who loved me unconditionally, but also had fanned my flames of low self-esteem. When she died I became completely in control of my own life. I know now that I already had been in control the whole time, but it was easier to think that other people made my decisions for me or to blame others for my discontent. There is an expression that says that you truly become an adult when you lose a parent, and that really hit home for me. With sudden clarity I saw my life as my own, the good and the bad. The potential for positive change was infinite.

And here I am six years later, in a place I never thought I’d survive. I pay all my own bills and take care of my sons, even if that means I have a second and sometimes third job. I am in a relationship with a person who thinks I am amazing just the way I am, and encourages me to follow my dreams, wherever they take me. I depend on no one but myself.

This is not easy. I often feel overwhelmed and stressed and lonely, but I look back to the person I was ten years ago, and I’m pretty impressed. I am now the HBIC of my life, and there’s no going back.


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