I have always been the kind of person to struggle with authority. Not the way people usually mean that. I'm not a rebel, by any means.
No, I struggle with the fear of having an authority figure call me out, which is why I do what I'm told to do. All I need is someone to appear to have authority over me, and I will do whatever the hell they tell me to do.
I also struggle with having authority. In general, I don't want it. And when I do want it, I don't seem to have a powerful enough personality to wield it with any sort of power.
But somehow, I've always ended up in jobs where I have to play the role of an authority figure. I was a teacher for a long time, and now I run two programs and oversee about 20 adult staff members.
And I'm not very good at it.
It took me many, many years to draw the line in the classroom, which I suppose is pretty pathetic. Most people don't struggle at all with laying down the law with a child. But I did. I didn't want to hurt them, to scar them in some way. And I was deathly afraid that they would see me as the enemy and just want to keep fighting me all day.
I couldn't draw the line in my relationship and as such, he dated other women while we were together and I never once confronted him about it. I was terrified that he would leave for good if I "pushed" him by demanding his respect.
Sometimes I feel that I'm having similar problems in my day job. Don't want to listen? Great, no problem. Don't want to follow the rules? Your call. Don't respect me? Oh well!
How does the wild world model authority and power?
I think about my owlets and their parents and they operate in very specific ways when it comes to power and authority. The little ones sometimes challenge their parents, physically scuffling with them until the parents move to another branch. The parents hooted incessantly in the months before the babies were born, audibly marking their territory. When I stumble upon one of the owlets, they click their beaks at me, warning me that I am too close and expressing their distaste.
They speak up. They make themselves clear. They sure as hell aren't worried about whether or not I'll be angry with them or if I'll interact peacefully with them in the future.
And yet they are not unshakeable. Crows will sometimes gang up on one of the parents and peck at them. Tiny little birds will often dive-bomb the owlets, making the babies fluff up their feathers in disgruntlement. The owls don't do much in response to this - there isn't much to do. The attacks are usually short-lived, not worth the time to make a fuss over.
So what's the answer here? Speak up, speak clearly, draw the line, and let the little stuff go?
Perhaps. It seems so simple when put like that.
But the human world is always like the wild world. It feels like it should be - we are animals, too, after all - but there is so much more complication to it all. Or maybe we just make it complicated.
I don't know what the answer is, yet. Part of me feels like I'm just not good with being an authority figure and I should just accept it and shy away from that role. But we will all have to face that role in some ways during our lifetimes. It's not something we can put down and ignore.
Maybe there's only owlet-sized steps to take to practice speaking up, clicking my beak, drawing a clear line. Maybe that's enough… At least for now.