It’s a strange time to be twenty, and it’s an extremely strange time to be a woman. Historically, women have been expected to be dutiful mothers and wives. The ideal woman was completely selfless; she completely immersed herself in her marital life and wasn’t encouraged to find herself. As a result, women of the past never developed a sense of individuality and lost their autonomy in the process. Now, women face more choice than ever before, and it’s equally as terrifying as it is empowering.
Although some “young” women (whatever that means) may still let those around them make decisions for them — I have actively resisted following this patriarchal path. Instead of asking myself, “What would please those around me? How do I secure a stable future for myself through my relationships with others?”, like women are encouraged to do, each day I wake up with different questions in my mind: “Who am I? What do I want to do? What makes me happy?” As a feminist, I make my life decisions based on these scary questions and not much else. Despite what others may believe — I do care what other people think. In fact, I worry about the perception people hold of me every single stupid day. But I actively resist this worry and do my best to maintain my confident composure. I believe doing this will lead to me achieving everything I dream of.
For so long, my number one goal has been to be completely independent. Now, my insistence on being independent is holding me back by preventing me from having fulfilling relationships with others. I still want to maintain my independence AND my individuality BUT I do want to give up a portion of my self-concern. This past year was an extremely positive and introspective period for me. I’m a much better person than I used to be. I’ve moved beyond my past mistakes. I retreated inward and found the answers that I needed to grow. For the most part, I was alone in my inner turmoil. I made sacrifice after sacrifice to achieve my goals, but nothing I did was ever enough. I have so much passion in me that it drives me crazy. I fall asleep each night feeling like I could be doing so much more. My work didn’t completely satisfy me, and I felt like something was missing.
At the beginning of 2021, I was uncomfortable with being alone because I feared loneliness. Loneliness is natural and unavoidable — true freedom can only be found after learning to deal with it. By the end of the year, I was much more comfortable with feeling lonely. In my periods of solitude, I accepted myself for the person I am. I have accepted my needs — however particular they may be and figured out how I can meet those by myself. My increased self-reliance has freed me from needing to rely on others. Since I am now comfortable with being alone, I am less prone to make decisions out of fear. I have faith in my ability to choose what is right for me which will allow me to achieve what I want to. Now that I have mastered this– I want to focus on dispelling my loneliness a bit in the new year. The next stage of my personal growth is to deepen my friendships. This introspective period of my life has taught me a variety of things that I would like to share:
1. Beating yourself up over things you need to work on doesn’t help you grow. It lowers your self-esteem and causes you to get defensive. Nothing is black and white — right or wrong. Reflect on your intentions and note how those have affected your behavior. You are human — sometimes, you selfishly justify your actions. All you can do is be better going forward.
2. Doubting yourself prevents you from achieving what you truly want in life. By not trusting yourself, you are lowering your self-confidence in a debilitating way. Succumbing to your doubt is a disservice to yourself.
3. Worrying about what other people think of you is unavoidable. No matter what: do not let the perception of others control your actions. More often than not, people are so busy thinking about themselves that you are nothing but a fleeting thought in their mind. In most scenarios, if you are not critical of others, they will not be critical of you.
4. Taking care of yourself is the most selfless thing you can do. You can not provide adequate support to others without taking care of yourself first. Life is an endless negotiation between your own needs and the needs of those around you. Everyone has needs, and when you don’t honor your needs — you won’t recognize your own selfishness. You will just justify it in a way that hurts your relationships.
5. After doing some self-reflection, you probably feel that you owe someone an apology. Whether you should perform the apology or not is debatable because it may not be the most considerate thing to do. Don’t let your own need to justify your behavior override what would be best for the other person.
6. You owe yourself an apology for the ways you allowed people to mistreat you in the past. You did not deserve that mistreatment. Low self-esteem causes us to internalize someone else’s hurtful behavior as a reflection of our own unworthiness. When you are comfortable being alone, you are better able to walk away from toxic people. Whenever someone isn’t able to care for me in the way that I deserve– I now see it as a loss for them. I say to myself: “It’s sad that person doesn’t have the ability to care for me in the way that I deserve.”
In the waking moments of the New Year — I gained a new sense of clarity. After the firework smoke cleared from the sky, I realized that: I didn’t have to be alone to be independent. I know who I am. I know what’s important to me. I know that I am fully capable of making decisions based on what is right for me. Now that I know these things, I am unstoppable.