Dare to rock the boat

I want to tell you something; I’m a people pleaser.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve placed an unnecessary amount of pressure on myself to be exactly what people expect of me. For all of my high school years, I desperately didn’t want to be labeled as “the smart girl.” I thought this would cause me to be seen as intimidating or pretentious. I simply wanted to be Sarah: an average and likeable girl. I continuously made myself feel inferior because I wanted to blend in.

For so long, I didn’t dare rock the boat.

The obvious question here is why? Why do so many women, including myself, feel the need to stifle our potential for greatness in order to appear likeable? Why do we feel the incessant need to dumb ourselves down in order to feel accepted? Why do we feel compelled to pretend like we don’t understand something in order to appear more attractive?

Above all, why are we stuck under the impression that taking ownership of who we are is a negative thing?

The answers to these questions lie within several stigmas and stereotypes.

As women, we are expected to fit into a neat little box. We aren’t “supposed to be” particularly intimidating, instinctive, or intuitive. We are given room to grow, but only by so much. We are encouraged to pursue our dreams, but only the dreams that are deemed acceptable.

To put it simply, society has trained us to apologize for being ambitious.

We are expected to apologize every time we win, every time we prove someone wrong, and for being assertive. It’s time to break this pattern. As a woman, it is perfectly fine to be smart. It is perfectly fine to be strong. It is perfectly fine to be determined.

University has given me a fresh perspective on what it means to be unapologetic. As a young woman, I have realized what a beautiful thing it is to be daring, brave, and passionate. I have learned that truly succeeding in life is not simply fulfilling people’s expectations of me.

However, I have also learned how hard it is to live this out. Even though I am pursuing my greatest passion in life, I still find myself falling short of my potential simply because I don’t want to say the wrong thing or come across as too ambitious.

As an aspiring female journalist, I have come to learn that there are many obstacles that I will have to overcome that men won’t even have to face. I have learned that labels will be placed on me, simply because of my gender. I have learned that there are many factors that will try to prevent me from truly making my mark on the world.

Coming to terms with this reality has taught me how to fight and why I need to. When women only make up 1/3 of my profession, I can’t just sit around and hope for opportunities to fall in my lap. I have to be unapologetic in the pursuit of my passion.

The same goes for any other young woman at university. In this high-pressure environment it can be hard to remind ourselves of our purpose and significance. It becomes easy to simply see ourselves as inferior.

A recent study surveyed a selection of female university students who had a higher GPA than male students by 0.23 points. Yet according to the results, the female students considered themselves to be less intelligent than males in self-ratings.

In the same study, female student leaders rated themselves as being less ambitious than male student leaders by 0.7 points on a five-point scale. The study suggests that social conventions and self-doubt constrain female ambition. 

Upon reflection, I’ve noticed that as women we place an unnecessary amount of pressure on ourselves to be perfect. In many ways, this is detrimental to our self-worth. When we don’t achieve that perfect score or don’t end up nailing that interview, we let it take a massive toll on our sense of confidence. We begin to tear ourselves down and question our abilities.

As women, it is crucial to start seeing ourselves in a new light. Yes, it’s a big world out there. But no, that doesn’t mean we can’t change it. We can’t let failure diminish our sense of ambition.

It’s time to be brave. It’s time to be unapologetic. It’s time to rock the boat.