To those who know me personally, this article might come as a surprise to you, but I have always struggled with speaking up for myself.

When I was younger, I felt like I could never talk about how I felt, even when I was disrespected or angry over something. I never quite understood why I was so hesitant when I went to say something about how I was feeling. I just thought that if I did say something, I would "rock the boat" or just make the situation worse.

Even when it became a visible problem for me, I would still pretend it was fine and go about my business.

Now, there are times when it's necessary to speak up and voice concerns, and I would only do so if I was really struggling and things were really not going well. The times where I asked for any sort of help were very far and few between for me. I could never quite get the words out to express my struggles nor did I really want to disrupt anyone else.

Every day felt like I just had to keep a smile on my face and my feelings inside.

I realized recently that this was a struggle between my instinctual collectivist mindset and my learned individualism, as well as difficulty trusting others (based on previous lack of effort). There are definitely some deeper personality components, too, but this internal conflict of mine was what made and continues to make my life all the more confusing to this day.

This took me almost my entire life to figure out.

Sometimes it felt like no one cared about my feelings. You might wonder, why? Because I didn't realize it was okay to visibly feel and show feelings. I thought I had to keep everything inside and deal with myself. For most people, the song "Let It Go" from Disney's Frozen was an anthem about freeing yourself from society.

I interpreted it as freeing myself to express emotions.

I was able to finally free myself. And I can say that I am a much happier person because of it

To those who also struggle with this... You are not alone. Your feelings are valid, too.