Unwavering Empowerment

| by Gabrielle Koenig |

This thought process began when I first read a quote from a blogger I’ve been following for a while.[1] She expressed how she has always been fearful of coming on too strong— being too much to love, too much to handle, or simply too much to deal with. However, it wasn’t until she said something along the lines of refusing to be watered-down tequila because she’s one hundred proof, that I was sent down a vortex of thoughts.

I, too, have worried about being too much or too overpowering. I held back certain aspects of myself in order to reserve popular public opinion to avoid being “too much”. This was never a conscious effort; it was simply the way it was. I would be written off as shy, and when I became close to people, they soon realized their first impression of me is not always the way I am.

When I think about this recurring dilemma in my life, I’m taken back to my first-year politics tutorial. I sat in my male-dominated class, said the bare minimum, and wrote notes when necessary. It wasn’t until the weekly topic was feminism that my hand shot up to speak before I even knew it. Pushing through the nervous butterflies, I sputtered something about the uneven playing grounds of hookup culture in university and how sexually active women face a multitude of derogatory terms used against them, whereas there are no similar terms for men. Think about it: There are no negative terms associated with men regarding sex. Safe to say, I was fired up. After spewing out a miniature rant and getting my participation marks for the day, I looked around and saw the blank faces of my classmates. Some were indifferent; some shrugged it off as yet another angry female yelling about skewed social norms. I could feel my face reddening as I dropped my pen on my notebook and slumped back in my seat, but simultaneously, I was proud. Speaking up felt good, and I defiantly decided I could care less what their opinion of me was.

I look at the times that I’ve broken my own glass ceiling and chosen to speak my mind in a non-academic sense. Times I’ve been truly exhausted by playing emotional ping-pong with boys who truly don’t care. Nights when I refused to be confined to the box others had put me in. In these moments, I wasn’t worried about being too much. I knew the level of respect I demanded, and I refused to accept anything less. I was unapologetically myself. I was tired of chipping away aspects of my true self to appease people who didn’t deserve my time, energy or presence. These were instances where I was completely and utterly vulnerable, and spoke my truth though my voice was shaking. I think some of the most important things you can ever say occur when your voice is shaking.

Sometimes, we view female empowerment as a job promotion or a raise. While these things are wonderful and empowering, the times I’ve been truly empowered was when I was fearless. When I sent a message not knowing the outcome but knowing it was right. When I supported a friend in need, and when they supported me. When I raised my hand in a tense male-dominated debate and shared my opinion, regardless of the hesitation I felt. Sometimes, it’s the small vulnerable things. It is unapologetically speaking your truth.

There’s beauty in knowing the person you are now is not who you will be tomorrow, a year or a decade from now. There are bits of yourself that you meet every day that will make you the person you are meant to be. Empower yourself at any given moment and don’t wait for the opportunity to do it—seize it. I’ve allowed myself to cultivate honesty, respect and love in my life because I realized that life is happening now, and it waits for nobody. In moments of pure empowerment, I dumped the water out of my tequila and became one hundred proof—and I’ve been drinking it ever since.

[1] https://www.thekatyproject.com/the-blog/im-too-heavy