I’m strong as hell, but I haven’t always been this way. Once upon a time, I wasn’t nearly as strong as I am now and I didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself, which is why guys thought they could just walk all over me. When a bad breakup pushed me into full-on independence mode four years ago, I said goodbye to being mistreated and hello to commanding respect because I know I deserve it.
I was raised not to stand up to men. I was raised in a Baptist church, where misogyny is central to the doctrine and lifestyle. Girls in such a strict church are taught from a young age that we’re inferior to guys, mere possessions that belong to our fathers until we’re given away in marriage to our husbands. I never wanted my life or my relationships to be that way, but I had no idea how to assert myself with men, and attempting it seemed too scary when I was younger.
Being in an abusive relationship was a serious wake-up call. I’ve written a lot about my decade-long relationship because it had such a huge impact on my life. My ex never actually hit me, but he was verbally and emotionally abusive on a regular basis, and putting up with that all the time was draining. After spending way too long in that toxic relationship, I finally got out and stepped into my new single life, terrified of what my future held but knowing I had to move forward.
I faked it until I made it. ‘Fake it until you make it’ seemed like terrible advice until I actually tried it. As uncomfortable as it is at first, the best way to learn how to do anything is simply to do it repeatedly until it’s not so hard anymore. At first, I wasn’t comfortable with being assertive but I got used to it, and it empowered me. There’s no way I’d rather be.
I learned that I’m actually a total badass. My childhood influences and my ex tried hard to convince me that I was weak and helpless, but no one realized how wrong they were until I burst out of my shell and started doing my own thing like a natural. It turns out that I have a lot of talents, and I never would have discovered them if I had let others continue to oppress me.
I found out who I am and started doing it on purpose. I fell in love with my new empowered self, and I decided that I was never going to let anyone drag me down again. Being a boss started to feel natural to me, and I found the kind of self-confidence I never thought I’d have.
I stopped giving a what anyone else thought. The opinions of others used to slow me down and make me doubt myself, and, when I reflect on it, I can’t figure out why I cared so much about what they thought. I know myself way better than they do, so they can think whatever they want about me because I really don’t give a crap. I know I’m strong and capable; I don’t need reassurance from anyone else.
I found a respectful relationship because I wouldn’t settle for less. I was really picky about who I dated, and my diligence paid off. Because I stopped settling for the random disrespectful players, I was available when an actual nice guy came along and showed me what it’s like to be treated with respect. At the same time, however, I’d be fine either way because I don’t need anyone; I’m strong enough for myself.
I’m grateful every single day to be the best version of myself. I know what the bottom of the barrel feels like, and that makes victory so much sweeter. As rough as the past was, it helped me become the strong, confident person I am today, and I wouldn’t want to be anyone else.
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