Learning to be proud of yourself in the face of gender expectations

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One of the biggest barriers to celebrating our achievements is the fear of seeming boastful. But why is that? For boys and men – pride is celebrated as a positive trait, with even arrogance being encouraged at times, due to traditional gender expectations.  

As a disabled woman from a low-income single parent background, I’m exactly the kind of person who would have greatly benefited from having GFS as a girl. Sadly, it didn’t exist in my tiny pocket of small-town America during my childhood.  

So, today I continue to struggle with my ability to be proud of myself and any accomplishments I might have. Not only do I find it exceptionally difficult to take a compliment, but my nagging Imposter Syndrome constantly whispers in my ear, “but you didn’t actually do anything of value, did you?” 

My experience isn’t unique. Truthfully speaking, I can’t count on my hands the number of women and AFABs (people Assigned Female at Birth) I’ve bonded with over our similar struggles.  

But why do we have these struggles and what can we do to ensure girl children today don’t have these same problems as they grow?  

In simplest terms, this is yet another creation of the gender divide. From a young age, girls are told to make themselves smaller, to be quiet, grateful and humble. Being successful and goal driven is for boys. Women who exert those behaviours in adulthood, by demanding the space and respect they rightfully deserve are typically demonised with gender-based insults. 

And while those stereotypical gendered behaviours aren’t necessarily bad, they are bad when they’re forced on you as sole expectations, or when they are used to lock you into a box that just doesn’t fit you.  

Though our journeys to overcoming these barriers in adulthood may be long and difficult, if we start working on them today, that means we’re also doing our best to set positive examples for the girls of today. When we give them examples of healthy behaviour and pride in oneself, we help support their journeys to be much brighter than ours. 

Expressing pride in yourself and your achievements may be uncomfortable at first, but talking about yourself and what you’ve done sets a good example for girls to do the same for themselves.

Let me give you an example about myself:

When I moved to the UK, I struggled to find my place. So, I made my own. I launched a music magazine with my housemate and my husband. Through this, we have booked bands from around the world, developed friendships with people from Mexico to Japan, seen our magazines stocked in record stores worldwide, and gained invaluable experiences.  

Generally, I simply refer to this magazine as ‘a hobby’ and I deflect my own achievements by saying ‘oh, I just did this, it was really all my partner, or my old housemate.’  

But if I’m being honest and allowing myself to feel pride in myself and what I have done, I would say that it’s much more than that. It’s a testament to how far I’ve come since finishing my education, migrating between countries, launching myself into the non-profit sector, and ultimately ending up here, where I get to see the next generation of women starting their own paths!  

So, why do I choose to downplay my successes and achievements with this ‘hobby’? Because that’s exactly what I’ve been socialised to do. So, instead, I’m trying to teach myself that it’s okay to share these things about myself, because I want girls and other women that their proud moments deserve to be shared and enjoyed.  

I want every woman that’s read this to reflect on themselves and think of something they’ve done that they’re proud of. Then I want you to go out and tell a girl about it. See her reaction, see what she thinks, and then I want you to ask her about something she’s proud of too. 

She deserves to be proud of herself and her achievements, and so do you.  

-Linsey McFadden, GFS Marketing and Communications Coordinator 

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