When I was 29, I reflected a lot on my life and questioned who I wanted to become. These questions helped me transition from calling myself a girl to a woman.
By embracing this term that I used to feel was too adult for me, I realized that there were expectations placed upon women that I felt ashamed for breaking. But now and then, expectations are meant to be broken! Below are some of the things that I’ve decided to stop apologizing for as I embrace my newfound womanhood:
1. Gaining weight
Ever had someone tell you that you’re getting fat? It could be a family friend whose only form of exercise is checking the mail. Or that female relative who says that you need to lose a few pounds to get a date. Even though these criticizers don’t follow their advice, their words sting a little because it’s true. Our bodies are equipped to go through multiple changes, including gaining weight. Having a few extra pounds doesn’t make us any less intelligent, kind, or dynamic. The people who we should be giving our attention to won’t find us any less valuable. Our bodies will change just like our lives, and as long as we’re doing our best to maintain good health, then no one should belittle us for having some extra cushion for the pushin.’
2. Not wanting kids
I’m someone who has always wanted, children. Whether I gave birth to my own or adopted them, I’ve always had a maternal instinct. And years ago, I would’ve judged women for not having the same longing. But as I grew older, I came to admire these women for knowing who they are and what they can give to others. Many people in this world feel unwanted by their mothers. Although there are multiple reasons why women choose to have children, maybe societal pressures made them take on a role that they didn’t necessarily want?
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that women’s greatest achievements aren’t tied to finding a spouse and having children. Did these women step outside of their comfort zones to better themselves? Did they explore the world around them? Did these women use their talents to contribute to society positively? And finally, did these women give love and show kindness? If I can say yes to all these questions, then any woman, regardless of whether she’s a mother, has lived a successful life.
3. Being ambitious
College was the first time that I began to notice that women rarely speak up. It could be a fear of saying something unpopular. Or it could be the subconscious belief that certain traits that come with being ambitious are considered less feminine. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that independent young women tend to downplay their ambitions. The students in the study were asked to choose one of two roles; the first role being more flexible and paying lower and the second one being more demanding, but with higher pay. When the single women were asked to share their responses with groups of other students, and in particular groups of single men, they were more likely to choose the role that was more family-friendly. When among other women, they went for the higher salary. Zarya, V. (2017, January 25). Study Finds That Single Women Act Less Ambitious Around Guys.
Although previous studies have shown that straight men prefer women who are less ambitious, should women change themselves just to get a date? If a woman is so determined that she just can’t contain herself, then might as well let that enthusiasm shine. The right people will be drawn to her, and she might end up changing the world.
4. Being alone
As someone who’s traveled with friends and alone, I can honestly say that both experiences have enriched my life. Although I love to travel with friends, there are times when I need to be alone to regroup emotionally. As a solo traveler, I’ve been questioned about why I didn’t want to share the experience with others, and at times, this inquiry has made me feel inadequate. But the more I’ve gotten this question, the more I’ve realized that I’ve grown into a person who enjoys her company. I know myself well enough to find fulfillment in solitude. I can be the life of the party at social gatherings. It's those moments when I was alone and had to find my joy that I’m most proud of. Once I confidently defended the fact that I do enjoy my company, it became easier to make new friends abroad.
5. Ending relationships
It can be hard to realize that individual relationships are no longer worth our time. Been there, done that, and I’m still doing it. These people may have been our BFF years ago, but now there’s no connection. Or they could be a lover that has become draining. It’s hard to cut ties with people who we’ve shared wonderful experiences with. But at the same time, isn’t it worse to be hurt by those same people who should’ve been cut off a long time ago? From an early age, many women were taught to forgive willingly. However, it’s a privilege for someone to be invited into our personal lives and be given the gift of time. If someone’s presence is no longer making life a little sweeter, then it’s important to learn the art of a gracious goodbye.
As I embrace this thing called life, this list will probably get longer. But for now, I use these 5 lessons to remember to live an authentic life. After all, boss babes need encouragement too and no matter what your list is, strive to create it unapologetically!
Astrid Heim | Contributor