When asked to write a reply to the outwardly simple yet surprisingly complicated question of “What is a Wapsi Girl?” the first thing that popped into my mind was: how do I convince people that I am awesome if I don’t believe it myself?
That’s the challenge inherent in the task, though, isn’t it? Not to convince others of my worth, but to convince myself. Not in an egocentric sort of way but to give me a reason to hold my head up each day. To meet my own eyes in the mirror and be able to say that woman is someone I am proud to be. The breezy self-confidence that seems to come to some people so easily can and is an ongoing, uphill battle for others like me. It requires tapping into the inner strength I somehow manage to scrap together just one more time, knowing that tomorrow I will do it all over again because I expect nothing less from myself. A variation on this theme has become my own personal motto: We are strong. If we were not strong, we would not be here.
And it’s not like the world we live in makes it particularly easy to follow that motto and accept ourselves as we are. Society’s expectations see-saw viciously from one extreme to another with little or no provocation. It is far too easy to become trapped in the mindset that no matter what we do, we will still be in the wrong. What is praised one minute is reviled the next, going from being accepted as The Thing To Do or Be or Aspire Toward, to being condemned as antiquated or unhealthy or just plain unfashionable. Unless one is a celebrity, with access to the best surgeons, cosmeticians, and ‘change your life’ therapy money can buy… how can a woman keep up?
Short answer: we can’t. More importantly, we should not try. But for some reason it is more difficult to love who we are than it is it to contort ourselves–physically, emotionally, and intellectually–to squeeze the molds forced upon us. It becomes a choice between giving up hard-won self-respect and conforming, or blazing our own path. I choose the latter, even if it means I don’t match anyone’s preconceived idea of perfection. I am not climbing the corporate ladder or battling double standards in the work place. I am not burning myself out in an attempt to be a home-maker and a successful career woman simultaneously. I choose to channel that energy into my writing and come out the other side as a better wife and mother.
I’m not saying I have it all that rough. I did not grow up in a broken or abusive home or on the streets, nor have I struggled with addictions, be it to drugs or alcohol or sex. But I have dealt with (and continue to deal with) that silent killer, depression. I have looked in the mirror and bitterly hated the woman looking back at me. I carry the scars unchecked self-disgust can result in. Each one exists as reminder of a time when the only thing that silenced my demons was the sight of my own blood. I am not ashamed of them; on the contrary, they are proof of how far a person can fall and still get back up. Because I did, and found better ways to handle Doubt and and her Sisters that didn’t involve the diet version of a human sacrifice. They’re still there, of course (am I pretty enough? talented enough? and just who do I think I’m fooling with all this ‘yes you are important’ stuff, anyway?) but I’ve learned how to control them instead of being controlled by them. Which makes me happy.
And at the end of the day–or the world–that’s what defines a Wapsi Girl to me; someone who is happy with herself as she is. It’s what matters the most, after all.