“Respect Your Elders.”

That was one of my mom’s golden rules growing up. Disobeying that was a cardinal sin. It made her look bad, and among other things, she would not have a disrespectful child. She’d kill you first. As a result, my family will tell you I had manners. Instinctively, I still say “Hello, how are you?” on the phone.

Talking back was a huge no-no. If someone older than you said something, it was fact. You didn’t disagree. You didn’t correct. You didn’t argue. No ands, ifs or buts about it.

I never thought twice about this rule until I started working in corporate America. I went from my peers being the same age as me to being the youngest on my team, even if I wasn’t the lowest salary grade.

I faced an even stronger internal struggle in Kansas where my friends were 10+ years older than me. I had friends that were the same age as my aunt! Luckily, they never made me feel like I was just some youth’s that needed to stay in a child’s place. However, there would be times where I was reminded that they were closer to my parents’ age than my own. And in those times, I would often wonder if my conversations with them were perceived as disrespectful. There were times where we had some pretty intense debates, and though there was no love lost I couldn’t help but wonder if my speaking my mind was taking as me talking back.

I’ve been reading a lot of professional development articles lately and I’ve noticed that I have a lot of mild mannerisms. In other words, I lean out when I need to lean in. I know why this is. I don’t want to be seen as confrontational or disrespectful. But the problem is I’ve been employed because they want me to challenge them. The powers that be decided I bring a fresh new perspective and they welcome me speaking up.

I’m just not always good at it. But I need to be. If I want to have the career that I desire, I need to find my voice and use it – loudly and clearly.

I also need to teach my daughters how to find their voices. To navigate the lines of respecting others without silencing themselves. I want them to know that they should always have respect for others as human beings, regardless of age. And, that their opinion is not any less significant because they may be younger. It’s important that they know they can speak up and offer a differing opinion without being considered disrespectful.

Their future careers depend on it. Their value and worth, the way they see the world depends on it.