When I was a little girl, I used to sit with my knees up and play with the loose calve muscles and skin that jiggled when I touched them. Until I turned 16, I don’t think I had an ounce of fat on my body. I took those fast metabolism years for granted, but that’s beside the point. The point is, when I asked my mom why the parts of my body jiggled, she simply replied “that’s normal” so I accepted it and used to take great joy in playing with “my normal”. I was never shamed for having seconds at dinner or stealing another cookie at dessert out of concern for my appearance.
I love my parents so much for the confidence that they instilled in me. Yes, I have still had my issues. I was uncomfortable in my skin – literally. I had really bad acne for years. Every now and then it still decides to flare up. But I know that I am so much more than a pretty face. I am an intelligent person. I have a lot of interests. There are a lot of words that you can use to describe me besides beautiful.
What still catches me off guard is when people tell me how much they respect how independent I am. Some things just come naturally to me. It’s probably a combination of my upbringing in my home life as well as the community I was blessed to grow up in. People surrounding me always taught me that I could do anything. When conversation at Thanksgiving dinner turned into “Well, don’t the girls like to wash the dishes?” (and this came out of a female’s mouth), I got frustrated because no, I don’t believe in gender normative roles. Here’s a sample text between my dad and my sisters which skims the surface of why this is the case:
My mom told me how headstrong I am recently when we were talking about my life and my future. She is proud of my sense of adventure, and the fact that I’m not afraid to chase my dreams and put myself first.
But sometimes I think people think I’m stronger than I am. They see a brick wall, which is really just a piece of cloth painted to look like one. I’ve been trying to make appearances a reality. I’ve been trying to practice self love. Take care of myself physically and mentally. It’s a lot easier to treat yourself poorly. But dedicating the time and energy you deserve is so worth the rewards.
I believe that part of the reason why some people label me a strong woman is because of all the strong women in my life who have taught me to love myself and build up my fellow women.
The obvious woman role model in my life is my mother. Kimberly Levitt has taught me so many things. From her, I have learned kindness, strength, and the power of unconditional love. She has granted me freedom to find myself and have confidence in being that person because I know that there is someone who will always be there supporting me. I have learned the power of my words as well as how to take responsibility for them and my actions. I have learned the power of forgiveness. She taught me how to love dark chocolate. And running. And how to balance the two.
I grew up in a female dominated house. Sometimes I feel bad about the estrogen overload that my stepfather powered through for years. My sisters and I were a handful. Because we were opinionated and stubborn. We were taught to stand up for our beliefs. We built a bond – we have each other’s backs through thick and thin. We love each other even when we hate each other. My sisters have always been my mentors. Motivated. Dedicated.
Growing up, I came across a few beautiful females who weren’t afraid to get a little dirty with me. In high school, my friends and I thought it was badass to finish a race covered in mud and bleeding a little because somebody spiked you or you ran through a bunch of thorns. It wasn’t about looking cute. It was about proving something to yourself. Feeling strong and healthy. Supporting each other.
Fast forward four years to college. I admit I was a little lost for a while. I had found a few people, but they weren’t THE people. I found a majority of those people at the same time. I call a lot of them my sisters. Sigma Alpha has taught me how to conduct myself professionally. I have learned humility and grace. Sisterhood always seemed cheesy to me before I became a part of it. I’m NOT a touchy feely person. There are exceptions to the rule. Sometimes I’m a very touchy feely person. It depends on the person and my mood. But these women, they have taught me that that is okay. They have reinforced self love and the idea of boosting our fellow women up rather than tearing them down and turning everything into a competition. Life should not be catty. It’s exhausting. That’s why I like beer and don’t always like people. Its quieter. But it’s also nice to split a case of beer with some badass women who get you. They’re not all exactly like me. That would be boring. The things that are different about us are so much more beautiful. The world would be ugly if everything was one color.
All of these women and so many more have taught me how to be a woman in today’s world. I am a person. I deserve to be treated like one and respected like one. I am a woman. I am learning to love everything that comes with that. The emotional roller coasters created by natural hormonal fluctuations. The body that is harder to sculpt into what I want because it’s built to make babies whether I like the idea of that or not. That’s biology. It can do so many other amazing things, too. I’m learning to respect it. To put good things in it not because of what will happen to it on the outside but because of how it makes me feel on the inside.
Thank you to all the moms, sisters, aunts, friends, mentors, and strong women who I have been blessed to know and learn from.
This quote is found on the door of one of my favorite professors’ doors. She took me to the other side of the world and became more of a mother figure during that time. I only hope that I can make as many strides for women in my life as she has in hers.