When I was young and insecure, I craved the approval of others. I felt like I had no frame of reference and I needed others to tell me whether I was doing things right, whether I was a good person. Looking around for the approval of others in this society has taught me one very important thing:

When a young woman has an opinion (no matter how valid or personal) men will call her naive. When a young woman disagrees with a man, she is wrong. When she insists, she is emotional and probably on her period. When she becomes angry, she is a bitch. And when she says no, she will be ignored.

Some women became vocal feminists because of this. Not me. I was too scared of conflict. I grew silent. I wanted approval, so I smiled and did what was expected of me. I carefully reworded my opinions to try to convince people I was worth listening to, and not as emotional as other women. I found insidious ways to avoid saying no to anything. Sometimes I manipulated and lied to avoid no, and sometimes I sucked it up and let people walk all over me. Neither technique made me happy.

It took me a long time to understand that it wasn’t my fault. That the people who don’t approve of me being who I am don’t matter. That I can be a good person without their approval. That I am a good person despite anyone who disagrees. Even if I love several people. Even if I like sex. Even if I have a voluptuous body and no intention to change that. Even if I like to sometimes be grumpy and sometimes nice. Even if I believe there’s good in every person. Even if I believe my own observations over scientific proof. Even if I say no to you because of my feelings right now.

These are things that define me. And unfortunately, my need for other people’s approval is still here. It’s going to take a while for my confidence to grow. So if you believe in me, please bear with me.

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