at what point do we leave the sanctity of untouchable childhood and enter a world where we are defined by men who want to fuck us, girls who are subliminally taught to feel threatened by us, and soul-sucking corporations who want us to all be 4 inches taller and 30lbs lighter?
at what point do we say ‘enough is enough’? that i am more than the filling for an impossibly specific, and unattainable, mould? that i deserve to take up my own space, do my own time, be my own me?
this is not the same as learning to love yourself. learning to love yourself is about sitting alone in your bedroom at 2am taking selfies with your stomach rolls and unshaven armpits in them because you’ve decided to accept yourself. it’s about defiantly shaking off comments from douchebag strangers on the internet because you know that you’re beautiful regardless of anyone else’s opinion or another’s validation. this is different. this is not shielding yourself, toughening yourself, becoming unbothered. this is actively retaliating against a world that tries to keep you small.
stop saying ‘oh sorry’ when someone else talks over you. find the power in saying ‘no’ rather than inventing a fictional boyfriend that holds more sway over the guy trying to feel you up in a club than your lack of consent does. realise that someone opposing your opinions or beliefs does not make you wrong (especially if the people in question are sexist, misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-vegan - because in these cases you are almost unequivocally in the right). don’t let someone be unfair to you if it was undeserved, just to avoid the confrontation - tell them why their onslaught was inaccurate or unjust. remember that forcing yourself into social situations that make you uncomfortable, for the sake of others, will always do you more harm than it will do them good.
learning this will not be easy. it will not be a quick process. you will fail, over and over. you will have bad days when you let boys be mean to you because, somewhere deep inside, you still think it means they like you. you will sit and listen to your family, or colleagues, or acquaintances be problematic and you won’t call them out because you don’t want the fight. you will keep bad friends in your life for too long because of a sense of duty. you will let yourself be treated badly out of guilt, or denial, or a messy combination of the two. you will keep quiet for entire conversations because you don’t want to cut anyone off, because you don’t think you have the right to say ‘now it’s my turn’. you will have a brief against-your-better-judgement cry because an egg on twitter called you a bitch for defending feminism. you will have days when you are none of the things you want to be.
but if you can project a little bit of yourself onto the world everyday, then you’re on the right track. i don’t know what the end of the journey looks like. i’m not there. some days it feels like i’m getting further away. but i will never apologise for being me again. i have learned that, and it took a very long time, and - now that i know it - it will be forever stationed on the front line of my war-torn mind. it will be my first defence. it will keep me safe.
be loudly, unapologetically you. don’t shrink yourself, don’t reduce the impact you have on the world because some people find it off-putting. stand your ground, and take up space. own your body, and your mind, and your behaviour. take responsibility for the way society sees you, and if something bothers you - change it.
do no harm, but take no shit.