C/O Sasha Freemind, Unsplash
How to navigate societal norms as a woman and embrace the person you are
There have been many points in my life where I questioned my capabilities simply for being a woman. I remember as a kid life’s possibilities felt endless and I was not the cookie-cutter version of society's eight-year-old girl. I loved getting aggressive on the field with the boys while playing Manhunt, I chose Pokemon cards over jump-rope at recess and I simply did not care about looks or my poise.
It wasn’t until I slowly started realizing I was not fitting society's mold and if I didn’t change myself to fit into it, I would be seen as less worthy. I began sitting on the sidelines watching the boys play Manhunt, I traded the Pokemon cards for the jump-rope and I started focusing on my looks and mannerisms. I started becoming more fragile and shy and avoided raising my voice.
In a period of time when I faced so much confusion, my second grade teacher was the only one who gave me clarity. He loved to read and write, specifically poems, and showed me that anyone could do what they wanted if they tried. He taught me that nothing can hold you back.
I was still intimidated by the notion of using my own voice and creating something with my mind, but I still pushed myself. Years later in high school, the pressure of being a woman — as depicted by society — grew in intensity. From navigating relationships, adjusting to cliques and figuring out what to do after high school, the only thing keeping me grounded was writing.
Writing helped me use my voice. I had the freedom to write about anything I wanted to. While writing, I did not feel what I felt as a result of society’s influence and messaging about women — small.
Through growing up in a society that believes women should be viewed as fragile, nurturing and sensitive, it becomes hard to believe in yourself and find your own independence. We feel as though we have to turn down our true selves or tie our identities to something else to simply fit in.
For example, Canadian women gained the right to vote in 1960. In fact, the pandemic has rolled back women’s employment rates in Ontario to the same levels as 1944. Today, for every 100 men promoted and hired to a manager position, only 72 women are promoted and hired for the same role and for women of colour, that number is even lower, with 68 latina women and 58 black women being promoted in comparison.
It is hard to feel powerful and independent when society tells you to be the complete opposite, yet praises men for their bravery and boldness.
My advice to any woman who feels belittled or smaller than they are is to believe in themselves. As cheesy as it may sound, every woman will be knocked down plenty of times in their life. People will question their skills and strength but as long as you have your own back, that's all that matters.
Moving with confidence and truly investing in yourself is what makes a strong independent woman. Be there for other women, work hard and the only person you truly have to prove anything to is you and no one else.
If not for my second grade teacher showing me everything I could gain from writing and teaching me the importance of valuing what I want to do, I would not be as confident in myself as I am today.
It is important to have inspirational women around you and to do what you love, take time for yourself, learn what gives you that feeling of freedom and run with it. Anyone is capable of doing whatever they please; it is all about confidence and believing in yourself.