I have a confession to make: I didn’t know I was a feminist.
I danced around the possibility that my views aired on the side of feminism in the past, but I didn’t realize the extent to which they were until recently.
I knew what felt wrong to me:
- women not being supported in their efforts to look after themselves;
- societal beliefs that tell us we must sacrifice our health and wellness for others and enjoy it;
- the toxic backlash we receive in commanding and affirming our health and wellness requirements.
While I’m innately driven to write and talk about women and self-care, I never felt the desire to put a label on my views and call them feminist.
A major reason I avoided investigating the origins of my stance was due to the beliefs ingrained in my psyche about what it was to be a feminist.
The little girl in me was convinced that being a feminist meant ruffling feathers and causing problems. She was constantly reminding me how impossible it would be to get everyone to like and approve of me if I went against the grain.
Using the word feminist as a descriptor for who I was seemed to be a gateway to backlash or judgement, and that was terrifying territory for me.
Therapy is helping me release that fear. I myself am not a fan of every person walking this planet, so I cannot expect everyone to like me.
And I know it’s impossible to get everyone’s approval, it’s just taking some time to get comfortable with that truth.
If you’ve had any interactions with me throughout my life you might find it surprising to know just how much I feared the judgement of others. I’ve appeared assertive – aggressively so at some points. And I’ve never seemed to have an issue with speaking out.
It doesn’t seem to fit: a strong-willed woman who took no issue in spouting her views, desperate for approval? Well, science and psychotherapy prove it fits like a glove. (Read this post via my resources page to learn more.)
The truth is my confidence was all a show – I masked my non-existent self-esteem with aggressive dominance.
I didn’t have an established sense of self on which to build and create a happy and healthy existence, let alone take a stance on something as profound as feminism.
So when I received an email from a journalism student at Concordia University last week who wanted to interview me about self-care and feminism, my first thought was,
Wait a minute: Am I a feminist?!
I quickly realized just how scared I’d been to consider that might be the case.
I’ve spent much of my life advocating for the patriarchy. Being one of the boys felt safer than placing myself in the volatile territory of being in the company of women.
It was much easier to judge another woman as being overly emotional or ridiculous than stand up for her and her right to be who she is.
I wanted to be considered strong and resilient. Associating myself with women, who society labelled as weak and fragile, made me feel, well, weak and fragile.
Part of my survivalist way of living entailed rejecting vulnerability – a state I felt suffocated by whenever I was in the company of too many females.
And my inability to trust myself – a woman – made it impossible for me to trust others.
I was never alone in my struggle: a quick inventory of “things other women have done to hurt you” will likely showcase many instances of them being unsupportive.
This defense tactic of turning on each other is a natural outcome of being incessantly bombarded with harmful affirmations about what it is to be female.
Our tendency to abuse each other is due to years of being treated like we don’t matter as much as men – that we are insufficient, as is.
Many of us are trying to compensate for a deep-rooted deficiency that was bestowed upon us the day we were born.
I spent many years bullying myself and others and blaming myself for my actions. But I realize now that there’s no need to shame or blame myself anymore.
We have all been doing what we need to do to survive, which is part of being human.
These days, I’m making enormous strides in establishing a sense of self-worth that’s large enough to house the belief that I am a feminist. I’m actively choosing to accept the events that led to my struggles and misguided beliefs and foster a strong and steady sense of self.
Because it takes self-worth to unlearn damaging beliefs about feminism.
Though it took me a while to be OK with admitting it, I am a feminine woman who has strong feminist beliefs.
For example. I enjoy lipstick, clothes, and jewellery while being passionate as hell about my right, and my fellow females rights, to be treated like human beings.
So instead of accepting damaging beliefs and practices these days, I’m learning that I can care about my appearance and quit working for a guy who regurgitates this gem: “Females tend to worry a bit too much about how people treat them – You should learn to relax.”
I can let someone know that if they choose to be rude to me they don’t get my time, while wearing a new lipstick (It’s Charlotte Tilbury and its fabulous.)
I can let a guy from high school know how inappropriate it is to send a married woman messages telling her she’s hot, and delete and block him after he tries to turn it around on me, while wearing a face-mask that evens out my skin tone (I think it works? Whatever.)
In short, I can embrace my appreciation for all that is feminine and still be a proud feminist.
Some days, letting go of the fear that shaped my inability to embrace feminism is difficult. Like the other morning, I woke up with a list of beliefs that did a really great job of berating me about all the things I needed to do in order to be allowed to be treated with kindness – by myself and others.
And some days it’s much easier to let myself be human – to accept that some of the uncomfortable thoughts and scenarios I experience provide me with a chance to get things right, in an impossibly imperfect way.
Learning to embrace the fact that I am a feminist is one of those instances.