Why you should be #LikeAGirl

Ask me about my dreams and aspirations – I’ll give you an ear full.

This is how it should be, right? As a freshman in high school, I remember the constant struggle of trying to find the right group of friends, trying to be pretty so guys would notice me, and ultimately, just trying to fit in. Being in a new school can prove difficult, especially at an age when you’re still in the process of discovering yourself. But add the pressure of trying to discover your true identity while juggling the expectations of others, and you’re likely to crack.

When does this become too much? At what point do women stop and think, “Hey, maybe all this isn’t necessary and maybe I should just be myself?”

For me, pretending to not be as intelligent as I was, was a result of trying to fit in – and of course, I got the backlash of being called “stupid” or “dumb.” It was worth it though, right? I certainly got the attention I felt I needed to “fit in.” But were the consequences to my confidence and self-image worth it in the end?

Absolutely not.

At this phase in life, so many girls are trying to find their way in the world. Trying to discover who they are, and yet most girls in their pre-teen and teenage years resort to pretending to be someone they’re not, simply to attempt to live up to the standards society has built for them. To act how a girl “should” act.

We’re brought into a world that says a girl should act one way and a boy should act another at any specific phase in their life, but one misstep and we’ve created chaos in our society. Who wants to live in a society that says being a girl means you’re weak and being a boy means you’re strong?

One day, I had reached my limit of false accusations. Being called stupid was not only offensive, but it didn’t represent who I really was underneath all of the pretending – a strong, independent and intelligent young woman.

At that moment, I made my decision and flipped my switch. Who cares what people think of you? What matters most is what you think of yourself and this is the message we should be sending to girls (and boys).

The #LikeAGirl campaign promoted by Always feminine hygiene products brings to light the stereotype of what doing things “like a girl” truly means. In a commercial aired during this past 2015 Super Bowl, Always asks men and women to imitate how girls run, throw and fight. All of the men and women seem to do these things in a weaker manner adding girly sayings such as, “Oh my hair is going to get messy,” but when asked the same question, younger girls performed these tasks with strength and passion.

While the whole campaign had an impact on me, I found myself shedding a tear when a young girl is asked, “What does it mean to you when I say run like a girl?” The girl responds with, “It means run as fast as you can.”

The Always brand asks the audience, “When did doing something ‘like a girl’ become an insult to women?”

I believe this is exactly why I felt changing myself and pretending was necessary. As girls go through puberty, their self-esteem and confidence plummets, since we’re told so often that being a girl means being weak through phrases like this.

But times have changed. We need to recognize that women are not weak compared to men. Women can be just as, if not more, intelligent, strong and powerful, and still keep the beauty and elegance society assumes us to have.

If you asked me today what my dreams and aspirations are, I’d tell you, to graduate from Central Michigan University with honors, to work for a high-end fashion magazine and become an editor, to live in New York City – and my list could stretch on for miles.

Some may laugh and say, “But you’re a girl,” and my response would be, “Hell yeah I’m a girl.”

It’s time for young girls and women to embrace their inner strength, be proud of who they are, and most importantly, be a (strong) girl.