Mixed Messages, Ambiguous Answers

Mixed Messages

As a woman, it’s not the first time I’ve been told I’m sending mixed messages. And I’m sure it won’t be the last.

As a woman, I’m also aware that I consider what others think – sometimes excessively – and I’m trying to curtail that habit.

But I do love data. And equally, feedback.

The context for these observations?

A few of my online friends have commented on my new site – which is admittedly still a work-in-progress. Some tell me the header conveys vitality, confidence, and a can-do attitude. Others have expressed that it’s not the right “professional” image.

That it sends mixed messages.

My impression? Both views are right.

I love the header, and kudos to my exceptionally talented (and patient) designer. But I’m ambivalent when it comes to whether or not it “works” for the site’s purpose.

Women, Curves, Heels and Other Symbols

I’m a curvy woman. No way to hide it, no way to deny it. I’m also a tiny woman – and I wear heels. I’m careful to downplay the curves, and tend to wear black (often) to accomplish that. And no, I don’t wear 5″ stilettos wherever I go. A 3″ heel is my usual approach.

So where’s the rub? Does a curvy body automatically suggest sex? Do heels – of any sort other than low – automatically conjure other images? On a web site, without question, image is essential. But in life – do we as women always have to watch what we wear and how we appear?

And regardless of intention, if we don’t, are we bound to send out mixed messages?

If we don’t pay attention, will we always be accused of sending mixed messages?

Ambiguous Answers

One of the daily dramas in life is ambiguity. We can play in the “safe” zone as much as possible, but eventually, we have to go out on a limb. We can take a risk and blow it. We can take a risk and succeed. More than likely, we’ll take risks – mess up and succeed.

My shoes? My curves? Hardly critical items.

My site design? I’ll sort it out.

But how do we navigate all the genuinely important issues – parenting, education, health, career choices, investments – when the data available is insufficient, constantly changing, or unclear, and the possible answers – ambiguous?

Medical Marvels, Problematic Procedures

I’ve written before about the dangers of polypharmacy, and expressed concern over our tendency to accept the quick fix for women when it comes to antidepressants.

Lately, I’ve worried about the frequent swings in opinion – annual PAP, no annual PAP; mammograms, no mammograms; PSA test for men, no PSA – and very recently (thank you Liz Scherer) – word that “exercise might be harmful.”

What do we do about the ever changing landscape when it comes to advice for staying healthy?

In today’s New York Times, medical doctor Elisabeth Rosenthal writes about the annual physical. She suggests that we no longer have a need for this routine ritual, and

… screening tests that routinely accompany them – are in many ways pointless or (worse) dangerous, because they can lead to unneeded procedures.

We may be less inclined to worry about these things in our 20s and 30s, but by our 40s or older? We’re hoping for unambiguous answers when it comes to healthy habits and preventive procedures.

Judgment Calls 

Mixed messages?

They’re sure to happen. We process what we can with what we know at a point in time.

Ambiguous answers to serious questions?

That’s where we can and must rely on our judgment, data, and experience, while listening to experts we trust.

In my own experience with the medical profession, I’ve had three outstanding physicians in my lifetime, whose judgment I relied on. That doesn’t mean I surrendered my questions, but their caring, their thoroughness, their ability to clearly present a situation – all encouraged me to follow their recommendations.

My own judgment told me so, and in each case, I’m glad that it did.

  • Do you feel women are more often accused of mixed messages?
  • Do you seek clarity in images, in statements, and in roles?
  • How do you decide which experts to trust – in medical or other matters?
  • Do you appreciate feedback – positive or negative?
  • How do you manage ambiguity in general?

© D. A. Wolf


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  1. says

    Do you feel women are more often accused of mixed messages? — Yes.
    (Interesting that you don’t ask the follow up question — “Do you think this accusation is accurate?”)

    Do you seek clarity in images, in statements, and in roles? — Yes
    (What healthy person would prefer ignorance?)

    How do you decide which experts to trust – in medical or other matters? — Follow the money trail. Don’t trust those whose only interest in you is for their financial profit.

    Do you appreciate feedback – positive or negative? — If appropriately given, absolutely.

    How do you manage ambiguity in general? — This is the one that could lead to a book-length response. I like clarity (who doesn’t), and so I need to reach clarity that ambiguity is my clear and established best status on whatever is the ambiguous issue in question. I have worked this through on some of my questions about pacifism, war, life and death, love, sex, honesty, and so on. Many of life’s “big” topics pose some inherent ambiguity for us (unless we think we’re God). Gotta think and then deal.

  2. says

    Generalizations can be odious. I might go out on a limb and suggest that women send mixed messages more often; men lie more often. I think women’s way is smarter. And what do YOU think? (That’s back atcha.)

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Ah, Paul… We could indeed go back and forth. I may require a pot of coffee first however. (Was that a mixed message? Well, it certainly wasn’t a lie.)

  3. says

    I try pretty hard not to send mixed messages, but am sure I sometimes do. I actually think all HUMANS send mixed messages, men included. I don’t limit it to just women! Great post.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Nice to have you stop by, Missy! And thanks for keeping us honest. Yes, all humans are certainly capable of mixed messages.

  4. says

    I think you can be sexy and confident and, at the same time, quite professional. Let’s face it – sexy sells – and you should use every item at your disposal to market yourself. I don’t see any mixed messages on your new site (which by the way – love it – and happy for you!). You radiate confidence as you should.

  5. says

    Sometimes the “mixed” part of a message, whether verbal or nonverbal, is on the part of the receiver of the message. Sometimes preconceived notions make it impossible to send a message that is received as “clear” rather than “mixed”. Sometimes our feelings are mixed, which make it extremely difficult to be clear. It is a problem and always will be, for men and women alike, in communication.

  6. says

    I have a different take on it. You are multifaceted. You are not just one thing; you are capable of many things. I don’t like being pigeon-holed, and I would think that you are more likely to attract those that are interested in more than one of your capacities…which sounds like a good thing to me.
    You look gorgeous!

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Thanks, April. I think of myself as multifaceted as well. In fact, most of the people I call friends are equally multifaceted. I think it’s a necessity these days, and an advantage. But we do like to pigeon-hole people as you say. (And thanks for the compliment!)

  7. says

    Hi, I just found your blog after reading ‘A Femme’. I like it.
    Mixed messages are “a wide field”, as our poet Fontane would say. I love your header – and it might sound strange, calling my one blog ‘gardeninginhighheels’ – that I say: highheels standing on a tablet might give a wrong impression – and ‘BigLittleWolf’ might continue it – it is mixed too, in an appealing way. It is humurous, fun, and shows you deal with a lot of subjects seen from the view of a woman. (My blog is ‘You are witty and pretty’) I would keep your header the way it is, blogs are playgrounds, and your new website as a professional is quite different for the business life.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      I’m glad you think it’s mixed in a good way, and the the business site is appropriate (but hopefully still me). Gardening in High heels! I love it! I like contradictions and playfulness and jeux de mots. It makes everything more fun and layered.

      Thank you so much for stopping by Britta, from Tish’s place. I hope you will again.

  8. says

    I love that you trusted your own judgement. I have a photograph of my curvy belly with the words written on it “Trust your gut.” I listen to the opinions of others and then trust my gut.

    Maybe the accusation of mixed messages is one of shock because sometimes it’s hard for people to imagine that a woman can be smart and sexy. A woman can have curves, sex appeal, and be mentally stimulating, mentally intimidating. Sex appeal and smarts? Well that just short circuits the brain. Society tells us to be either/or. If you’re both you become too hard to pigeon hole. You must be sending mixed messages because, goodness forbid, you have the benefit of both brains and beauty.

    My friend sitting next to me, also pointed out, that people who are comfortable in their own skin are the ones who are most attractive to others. Maybe that’s your conundrum. Self-assurance, smarts, and high heels. Damn, you’ve got it all. And I love your blog header too.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Sassy Queenpin – Delighted you stopped by to read and comment! As for the picture, actually, it is not the first that appeared, which showed my curves to a greater extent (they’re harder to hide than one might think), and which may have been too playful a picture for a mixed target site. I still love it, but it’s probably a better “Daily Plate of Crazy” image (it shows my fabulous shoes!), and the second picture – which is no Shrinking Violet – still captures my real self, but with a somewhat more conservative approach.

      What I will say is this: It turns out I relied on the new site literally the day after making a change to the banner. I was equally comfortable in my own skin with both images, yet I was glad to have the “sweater” look over the first, simply because it was more professional.

      I love your point about a woman who is “bien dans sa peau” communicating confidence. I hope you’ll stop by again. It’s exciting to discover new readers!

  9. says

    I saw your site before you changed photos and didn’t think of mixed messages at all. I saw a professional woman who had personality and wasn’t trying to mask it.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Thanks, Jack! (I’ve kept it, and will probably use it for something else that is purely “Daily Plate of Crazy” oriented… probably a better fit for that.) :)

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