The spaces seem to be getting more slender. The templates feel ever more rigid. As a woman in the world, I am frequently asked to fit into a mold that doesn’t suit the shape of me. I do not desire to be categorized as the flip flop wearing executive. Nor the barefoot bohemian. Nor the fearless superhero.
I do not mind that these identities exist. But they are often so far removed from my own humanness that they feel alien to my skin. Incongruous to my experiences.
The list of labels is long, and still it feels limiting. Because there are conditions and clauses attached to each one. I often feel as though I am partially accepted into one group, but then access is denied when I fail to meet the full criteria.
Sometimes, so that I don’t drown in all of the ideals and expectations that I am asked to meet, I think of what it is I most want to burn. What do I want to see in ashes? What are the decades-long lies that have me slowly dying inside? What rules do I need to raze so that I can come alive?
And then I remember what the depths of me have always known:
We can assert ourselves as women without referring to ourselves as Boss Babes. We don’t have to feel pressure to prove our worth by constantly making pretty pink sequined statements. We can just say what it is we want to say.
It is possible for us to love our bodies and still be honest about how hard it is to be in them at times.
The value of our words, the importance of our experiences, the measure of our power need never be reduced by, or confined to, the phrases or the typeface that we are told have been reserved especially for us.
We can reject the labels we don’t require. We don’t have to apologize for existing, for taking up space, for daring to demand a different outcome. We are allowed to run our own businesses and we don’t have to adhere to a certain dress code or wear make up in order to be taken seriously, or to be afforded personal or professional respect.
Just because the arena is packed full of people who are clapping and cheering and idolizing the person who is being centered and celebrated, it does not mean that their message is more worthy than the wisdom that we have acquired for ourselves, about ourselves.
We are not obligated to be polite to people who make us feel uncomfortable, despite the conditioning we have received about how nice girls behave. We do not have to say thank you when we receive comments about our appearance that are uninvited or unwelcome.
We do not need to pick up any more weight than we are already carrying. We are allowed to ask for time, or space, or support when we need it, and not feel as though somehow we are incompetent because we can’t juggle all of the things, all of the time.
We do not have to adopt or accept the versions of success that we continually have rammed down our throats courtesy of people who do not look like us, or live like us, or remotely resemble us.
We are allowed to give ourselves permission to step back from, or sever ties with, those who cause us harm, or pain, or put the memory of trauma back in our bodies.
Just because the person is held in high regard by the rest of the family, or the community, it does not mean that they are not accountable for their actions, or their abuse.
Our anger is not something that needs to be erased, or immediately alchemized, or misinterpreted as an indicator that we are somehow less evolved or enlightened. We are allowed to challenge the systems that seek to dehumanize us. We do not have to smile through the sexism.
Silencing, shaming and gaslighting can show up in a variety of disguises. Just because the arms are open and the face is smiling, it does not mean that the impact isn’t damaging or destructive. It just means that the mask is effective.
Coercion is never consent, and No is not a suggestion.
We are not all reflections of one another. We did not invite the illness into our lives in order to learn a lesson. We do not have to be grateful for everything that we experience or survive.
Spiritual beliefs and spiritual bypassing are not worlds apart. Look closely, and then, closer still.
We do not have to bow down to the person wrote the book, or gave the speech, or has lots of letters after their name. We are allowed to identify differently, to have agency over our own lives, to advocate for ourselves.
Our bodies belong to us and we do not have to justify the choices we make for ourselves, for our health, our reproductive rights, or our sanity to anybody else. Online or offline.
Just because the quote says that it is always possible to be kind, it does not mean that our right to choose our own responses should be denied to us. There is no meme that outweighs our own lived experiences and our own inherent intuition.
We are allowed to choose. And we are allowed to change our minds.
It is not true that the end goal must always see us whole and healed and free of fear. We are not lacking, or failing, or fucking up just because we are human beings having a human experience.
Our stories are ours to tell, in our own words and our own way. We can let our truths tumble from us without having to edit every line or sanitize every chapter.
We are not defined by the people who do not love us, refuse to see us, or are unable to hold space for us. We are not, we are not, we are not.
We do not need to add or subtract, or increase or lower who we are in order to be accepted. Our boundaries are worthy of recognition and respect. We are each our own story, our own named person, our own special word to savor.
And it is us, and us alone, who get to choose the words that make up the language of who we are.
I am a writer who helps women find their courage through creativity. I am driven by a deep desire to see women claim and keep spaces which support and sustain their entire body and their whole being. To support my work, please visit my Patreon page.