I love who I am because my parents allowed me to not be perfect in a world where perfection is an expectation.
I recently read the book, "Brave, Not Perfect," by Reshma Sujani. It was exactly what I needed to read after recently ending my first year of college with grades that I wasn't too happy with and moving into an apartment for the summer in Madison, barely knowing anyone staying there.
The biggest thing that stuck out to me when reading this book was that the author explained the root of why girls feel the need to be perfect-- how we were raised. Many parents raise their kids according to society's standards so that their kids are not outcasts and fit in with their designated roles. Girls wear pink, don't get dirty on the playground, and quickly learn that for them, mistakes are a sign of failure.
We strive to get straight As and to be nice to everyone. We say yes to doing things we don't necessarily want to do because we put everyone's needs above our own. We allow ourselves to be submissive in professional and social settings.
For most of us, this comes from how we were raised. Girls are expected to get straight As meanwhile their brothers are getting Bs and Cs and it's not a problem. Girls are taught to be nice to everyone and to take into consideration others' feelings. Boys are taught that they need to stand up for themselves and not let anyone stop them from getting what they want. When girls fall down, they are coddled and complimented by others so that they feel better. When boys fall down they are yelled at to get back up on their own.
I'm grateful that my parents allowed me to be who I was, and not worry about what society would think about who that person is.
Reshma wrote, "It's brave to allow your kid to be exactly who they are and do what they love, even if you don't agree with their choices. They're happier and healthier for it, though, and so are you."
That's exactly what my parents did.
I learned from a young age that I was allowed to be exactly who I wanted to be. My mom let me pick out my own clothes every day, even if I looked like an absolute mess. I'm talking jean skirt, blue camo tights, and a hot pink shirt. Yeah, you could say my fashion sense has improved since then. When I was younger I remember my dad would always tell my mom how beautiful she was and that she didn't need to wear make-up. When girls started wearing make-up in middle school, my dad told me the same thing-- and I believed him. I didn't start wearing make-up until my freshman year of college, and even now I still know that I look just as great without it.
It's not cocky to love your appearance, it's healthy. It's needed.
Senior year of high school, when filling out college applications, I decided that I wanted to major in philosophy. My dad was furious with me for choosing a major that he thought was pointless and a waste. He "strongly encouraged" me to switch back to psychology. After fighting back and forth, he finally agreed to do the research that I had done on the philosophy major. He learned that philosophy majors learn skills critical for every career, and they actually make more than psychology majors. The point of this is that my parents raised me to go after what I want, even if it doesn't meet society's-- or my parents'-- standards.
By going after what I want my whole life, I've learned how to keep a strong head and not let anyone's opinions affect my personal goals.
Most recently, I told my mom that I wanted to try working at a restaurant this summer because I thought it would be a good idea to learn the behind-the-scenes of a restaurant. I wanted to be able to know what helps and hurts the workers so that I could be a better customer. My mom said that she didn't think I wouldn't be the best at a restaurant job, and even though I agreed with her, I went for it anyways.
This summer I am hostessing at a lake-front restaurant, and after only a month I have learned so much.
As girls, we're scared to mess up, or worse to fail, and we let that fear control what we do or don't do. It's scary to try something new, something out of our comfort zone, but that's what makes life exciting and worthwhile. Don't hold yourself back from doing something you want to do just because it's not a part of your comfortable routine.
Reshma's book encourages girls to start being brave, instead of being held back by the need for perfection.
Be 100% who you are, no matter what others think. Allow yourself to make mistakes and then get back up. Stop doing things for others because you feel obligated to. And please, I beg you, stop letting other people take advantage of your kindness. You are not here to be the straight A-people pleasing-perfect girl. You are here to be the kick ass-takes no shit-brave girl.
Reading Reshma Saujani's book, "Brave, Not Perfect," really made me appreciate how my parents raised me to be brave in who I was instead of perfect in who I was supposed to be, and I couldn't be more thankful.