Look (But Don’t Be) Confident
As a child, I was always told to look my best but never in a way that was too attention seeking. Be smart but not bold. Appear confident, but never bossy. I soon realized what was meant by this. Everything I did seemed to take up too much space and be too much of a disturbance for the adults in my life. I began to notice their scowls as they informed me that I “always made my presence known, was too outspoken, and played too rough”. Exhausted from the constant pressure of others’ intrusive gazes, I learned in my youth that it was better to be “invisible”. This allowed me to escape judgement for trying to be myself.
However, having such a mindset had its side effects. It caused low-self esteem issues and made me struggle constantly with my self-image growing up. Looking back, I can’t help but be upset at how quickly I lost myself in trying to conform to the expectations of others. The age of 10 was too young for a girl like me to be aware of how many eyes were constantly on her, and it forced me to grow up faster than my male peers.
This experience is not mine alone. Many young girls are highly self-conscious and struggle with the skin they're in. Over 70% of women between the ages of 15-17 avoid normal daily activities, such as attending school, when they feel insecure about their looks. This same percentile of girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way. Not only do girls tend to compare themselves on their looks,but they also negatively compare themselves in terms of academics and popularity against friends and family.
Society has made a culture of pitting girls against each other. We constantly hold them to impossible standards, while denying them opportunities to grow and express themselves. The “Perfect Woman” has always been impossible to achieve, yet it has become the norm for many impressionable women.
Growing up, I always felt that I played a delicate balancing game between contrasting societal expectations. A woman must be prim and proper, but not snobby. Confident but not overconfident, successful enough to qualify for marriage but not enough to overshadow her husband. Beautiful but not vain, a perfect “supermom” who balances work and motherhood without a hitch! And of course women should be easy to get along with, but not too easy because that makes her a slu—.
How can a woman look in the mirror and ever be proud, or even satisfied with who she is when the world continues to throw confusing demands her way?
After letting go of the superficial expectations I had believed in for so long, I finally found myself. I built new expectations and goals that would allow me to grow as a person.
Successful, kind, passionate, and giving – this is the woman I strive to be.
Special Thanks to Editors: Fizza Jafri and Victoria Ranieri and Nujhat Tabassum
11 facts about teens and Self Esteem. DoSomething.org. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-teens-and-self-esteem#fn3
Statistics on girls & women's self esteem, pressures & leadership heart of leadership: Lead. your world. Heart of Leadership: Lead. Your World. -. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://heartofleadership.org/statistics/