Catholicism and my Italian American culture influenced the message I received from my parents of the value of humility. It was a double-edged sword! I was taught, and for too long naively believed, that my accomplishments and hard work would be recognized and rewarded. I could not brag or self-promote. It was instilled in me that it was important to be humble. I relied on other people to advocate or promote for me. An imbalance or lack of perspective when it comes to humility or humbleness, was problematic for me in handling failure. It was always my fault or my inadequacy when I failed! This humility value and message was a potential career killer! I needed Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean-In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” in my 20s and 30s to learn to brag about myself. Being humble can be a real problem for woman.
I was fortunate to have a sister! No brother to get favored treatment in the family hierarchy as was the case in many of the Italian American families around me. My Dad encouraged my sister and me that we could be anything we wanted to be and encouraged us throughout our lives. A critical seed for self-confidence and success.
The combination of being Italian American and coming from New Jersey initially seemed to make the volume of my voice louder than the entire world. Everyone seemed to talk so softly compared to me. I even married a WASP from the South who told me he never had anyone raise their voice to him until he married me!
One solution for coming to terms with my Italian American background and achieving a state of good mental health was to take an honest inventory of what I liked and disliked. Accepting and embracing those traditions and characteristics I applaud and rejecting those traits such as bigotry or intolerance I abhor have made me able to laugh and learn from my ethnic background. I loved that my heritage claimed Leonardo de Vinci but I regret Tony Soprano!
A love for food, music and an understanding of values and an appreciation of traditions from my Italian American background, created a rich tapestry from which I can better understand and accept who I am.