I was talking to this woman who’s in her late 20s about how you have to know what you want to be respected for in order to feel respected.

People can’t respect you if you don’t respect you.
I can’t tell you her name. Let’s call her Imogene because it’s one of the most popular names of 2014 and I want this blog to feel fresh even though I’m writing about a topic that I have not been able to shut up about for five years.

My investors respect me. But I’m pretty sure they respect me for my track record and not for what I’m doing now, which is running a startup in slow motion.

But whatever. It’s my fourth startup. They’re all the same. You waste money on things that don’t work. Over and over again. The problem is believing in yourself through all that. And I’ve done that.

Speaking of my startup, this  would be a great time to announce a new course, because you are listening, but instead I’m going to go on a tirade.

So I was talking to Imogene and she told me that I’m having so much trouble with my current life because I want to be respected for work, but I feel compelled to give my kids a great childhood to make up for my own shitty childhood, so I am focused on my kids instead of my work and it’s not fulfilling.

I was defensive, and then incredulous, and then I thought “Fuck her.”

You can fail at a lot and still earn respect.
And it’s really bad I am writing this because Imogene will recognize herself as the object of my wrath. But sometimes you have to shoot the messenger – we can’t be our best selves all the time.

So in that spirit, I’m just going to tell you. It was Melissa.

Melissa said this to me, and I was really shocked. Because Melissa is usually right about everything.

But she pissed me off so much that I realized that I think I’m doing great, and I can’t actually believe that she can’t see that I’m doing great.

Here’s where I’m not doing great:

I wish I were writing more.
I wish I were doing webinars more.
I wish I still have a twentysomething butt.

I take anti-anxiety medicine that maybe I would not need if I were not a mom. But probably I would need to take it because when I was the standout startup girl everyone lusted for, I was also throwing up in-between team-bonding meetings. So probably I need anti-anxiety medicine for whatever I do.

Look at what you do well. Now. That’s what earns you respect, whether you like it or not.
What I’m saying is that I love this blog so much and thank you so so so much for reading and also thank you for making this blog have such great comments that even my brother who is a total big shot—and I can’t believe I hide his name here because his whole office reads my blog—even he says I have some of the smartest comments of any blog.

When I question if I’m successful, I think about this blog. And how I’ve been able to earn enough money to not starve. (Even though sometimes I have to use the farm account if I have bad cash flow.) (And even though right now my husband wants to kill me.) But even though he wants to kill me, I have a solid marriage (which is not really a marriage because he won’t marry me because I have too many tax problems) but even those are not huge problems to me because I can compartmentalize.

Which, by the way, is an innate skill of all good CEOs. It just happens that it’s not usually a skill of women. And I’m a rockstar at compartmentalization. (You have to be, to throw up during work and still look like a leader.)

It’s okay to stop caring about some stuff.
So I am happy that I’m homeschooling my kids. And some days I want to kill myself because most of the people I used to network with I would rather die than talk to me now. Because I have nothing to say. Because I don’t care what they’re doing.

I just want to be a good mom and have intelligent conversation. And in the end, I want respect for this blog and respect for being a good mom.

Maybe you’re thinking it’s easy to be a good mom. Maybe it is. I wouldn’t know, because I have a mom who did not get respect for her parenting. Well, at least from her kids. The rest of the world, the world that does not read my blog, thinks she’s a great parent because all her kids have big jobs.

If you count my job as big. My mom calls me a journalist because she’s from the generation that thinks that job is impressive.

You can only get respect for something you work hard at.
What I call myself is someone doing a good job of keeping my life interesting while I raise my kids.

And I’m meeting my goals. Like, I can pay my taxes.

My investors are rich and famous and you would know them but I promised a thousand times that I would not name them on the blog. I’ll tell you, though, that I’ve learned a lot from them. Especially about my taxes.

Still, I will not get your respect from handling my taxes properly because I don’t care enough. I won’t even be able to get married for learning to do my taxes right; my (not) husband still thinks I’m a maniac with my money.

I had forty years of therapy so I can be a good mom. But still, we all go to a family therapist because I’m so scared of being my parents, so scared of messing things up.

I respect myself because I’m doing something really hard for me.

On anti-anxiety medicine. Because all this makes me nervous, but that’s why I have you along for the ride. Thank you.

Writing this post was not hard for me. It took me only five years. Five years of trying to figure out who I am if I am not a top-flight serial entrepreneur. But who I am is fine. I want to be respected for doing work I like and being the kind of mom I want to be. And for keeping a friend like Melissa, who’s willing to tell me stuff that makes me want to scream.

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  1. Kelly Poppe-Gale
    Kelly Poppe-Gale says:

    Penelope,
    You are an inspiration. I treasure having met you and have followed your advice from additional conversations. You are insightful and say those things to others that they may not want to hear. You are also a “Melissa” to others. Thank you!

  2. Adrianne
    Adrianne says:

    Cutest pic of Melissa ever!

    Also, she is totally right – and I have similar thoughts all the time. I think I have also caught myself doling out similar information to people who are worried about being respected and worried about their place in their particular hierarchy. The next step after figuring out what you want to be respected for is to set about ignoring other people’s opinions on whether what you want to be respected for is “right” or “popular”.

  3. Elli
    Elli says:

    Of course, I agree! People can’t be perfect in every single thing they do. It’s natural for humans, I think, that everybody has their pros and cons. But….that doesn’t mean you are not respected by the people who are good at doing some things that you are not so good at. People should be thankful for things and abilities they have, enjoy them and be happy about them, right? Thank you for your honesty in this post.

  4. Andrea Enright
    Andrea Enright says:

    I’ve been a phantom reader for some time, but I just had to say I am enamored with your blog. I love your authentic, honest voice- it’s something I’m desperately trying to do on my blog and it’s HARD. I commend you. And I love to read- so I hope to see you writing even more!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Andrea. I love the conversation on this blog so much. So I like that you made the leap to the comments section! Thank you for not being a phantom anymore.

      Penelope

  5. Kathy Berman
    Kathy Berman says:

    Love you. I follow 500 blogs in 6 different RSS readers and you are my favorite. Why not do a shorter daily post for sale? Easy with PayPal. Extra income. Count me in.

  6. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    I am in the middle of a transition from a professional position within government to a lifestyle business. The idea of being respected for what I am doing now is interesting because part of what makes the transition difficult is feeling respected for my new endevour. A big part of that process has been figuring out how to tell my story well to make other people ‘get it’. Your blog has helped in many ways with this process.

  7. Lindsey
    Lindsey says:

    Is there an inverse relationship between being happy and fine with who you are, and being a superstar?

    When I was working with Olympic-level athletes, I thought, for the most part, that they were totally insane and had miserable lives. They gave up every bit of a normal life to be superstars, which doesn’t sound too bad, but is so sad in practice. They have no life, no other interests, no interesting conversation, no friends, often estranged family, and no home (always on the road).

    When things didn’t go well, they lost their lifestyle, their income, and the friends they did have (their staff, donors, and sponsors). I met lots of their children, but never one that I thought was a decent human being.

    It’s awful to give up everything to be a superstar at one thing. Still, when we know we are capable, accepting the fact that we are not willing to give up everything to be superstars is so hard. But, I think it pays off in a better life. If we let it.

  8. Denise
    Denise says:

    You got heart and soul and you keep trying to make it better. You are doing fine.Remember that everyone else is just as worried about how they are doing.Take care.

  9. Robin
    Robin says:

    Penelope Trunk. Where’ve you been all my life? Well, at least since 1987… since the year I started my first business and became pregnant with my first child. I’m grateful I stumbled upon you now. Your words make me cry. In a good way. The kindred spirit kind of way. Thank you for being so honest.

  10. Caroline Combs
    Caroline Combs says:

    I cannot tell you just how much your honesty helped me to feel. How many truths lay bare at your words. I would love to put into words what you’ve done for me in one article, that I for one, hope you realize means as much to some of us as it did to you as you wrote it. I leave this page a better person than when I found it. My most humble and sincere thanks.

  11. Becca Britten
    Becca Britten says:

    I like how you made a list of each thing you had to be proud of and those things you felt needed work. By setting achievable goals you have already allowed yourself a reason to be respected. You’re organized and you care about your family and your following here, and it shows. I think the biggest problem I have is pride, and admitting my faults so that I can work to fix them. It’s not up to the world to work around my inadequacies, it’s for me to hold myself to a higher standard. I really appreciate how you hold nothing back in your writing. Thank you so much.

  12. Bob Ketteringham
    Bob Ketteringham says:

    You definitely earned my respect in sharing so deeply about yourself. This was the first time I received this, as I only recently subscribed. But, I am looking forward to more!

  13. Sebastian Aiden Daniels
    Sebastian Aiden Daniels says:

    Interesting take. I think that you will never gain true respect if you are constantly in search of respect from others.

    You are right that people won’t respect you if you can’t respect yourself or if they do respect you, you will feel like a fraud because “they don’t know the true you.”

    I applaud you for going to family therapy. I definitely will be going to couples therapy before getting married if I ever get married. I don’t think I will get married, but who knows the future.

    I’m on medication too and I would be an extreme emotional mess without it, so keep using it if you need it.

    I love your writing. I can feel your anxiety through it haha. Keep up the good work and slightly “hypomanic” energy.

  14. MaryK
    MaryK says:

    Just found your column today and love it! As the mother of an Aspie, as well as being self employed, I find your blog to be refreshing and insightful. (would love to hear more about what you learned about tax issues since I am involved in 2 other tech startups and don’t know a thing about this issue).

  15. Seth
    Seth says:

    The way I see it is that it’s easy to lose sight of a “lesser” priority while working hard to gain respect for one aspect of yourself. It’s often the case that we put things that are important to us on the backburner in order to achieve “success”. But hey, just like we need to define what we want to be respected for, we need to define our own success.

  16. Casquette
    Casquette says:

    I think, that everybody has their pros and cons. But….that doesn’t mean you are not respected by the people who are good at doing some things that you are not so good at.

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