I was not raised to be a girl

“Learn to be independent.”

Every time I face a challenge that seems like an impossible obstacle and my own voice sows a seed of self-doubt in mind, I hear my father’s unequivocal voice demanding that I be independent – in thought and action.

And every time I tide over stronger, eventually figuring it all out and knowing fully well that my independence is a gift of my family’s solidarity.

Growing up I was privileged to be exposed to environments that shared my family’s values – mainly honesty, equality, and respect. These weren’t just words to live by, but the very essence of the way of life my parents paved, still do. It allowed us to own our strengths, our weaknesses, and everything in-between. And we were better people for it, together yet independent.

Some might say independent isn’t a very suitable adjective for a girl, in fact, it can be quite damaging.

Because being an independent girl can be intimidating. It can make you unapproachable, or worse, portray you as unkind, vain, and selfish – to men. Because to them, independent women don’t make for good wives, or mothers. And that’s all that is to being a girl, right?

To those people I say – I was not raised to be that girl.

I was not raised to be a girl who had to choose between my independence and my values. Being independent didn’t mean I had to give up on kindness and compassion. I could still be selfless, and know my self-worth.

I learned this from my mother, a woman who personifies selflessness and strength. She taught me that kindness is not a weakness, more importantly, everyone is deserving of it, and the world is better for it.

And you should always think about making the world a better place, something you can’t think of if your mind is dependent on others’ validation of you and your thoughts.

I’ve seen my mother play multiple roles as a woman – daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, mentor, sociologist, role model. I’ve seen her play all these roles at different times and all together, and never once compromise on being human first.

Something she has in common with my father. At no given time, will my father ever compromise on his values of humanity, no matter how dire the consequences. It is his unwavering faith in doing the right thing that gives me the blinding confidence in my own ability to figure things out, independently.

My parents always encouraged me to see the big picture, daring me to dream big, think bigger. And words I never heard growing up were, “That’s not what girls do”, or, “That’s what a good girl should do.”

I was raised in a home where your gender didn’t determine what values you should have, or how you should behave.

And it is how I grew up to see the world, to embody doing the right thing, always.

My parents taught me that honesty wasn’t just a value, but a practice, even in intention. This is how I got my courage of conviction.

They taught me that caring from deep within your core is a strength. That’s how I got my drive.

My parents gave me to freedom to express myself – the good, the bad, even the ugly – and it only brought us closer. And that’s why I always lead with my emotions.

Above all, they enabled me to be my true self in every way, big or small.

I was raised by parents who were selfless in their love but thoughtful in their upbringing, who championed my passions but were also not afraid to challenge my choices. I was raised to discern between right and wrong, truthful beauty and false vanity, honest praise and ill-willed flattery, unintentional lies and purposeful malices. I was raised to be genuine and kind, even when my environment felt hostile. I was raised to be brave and bold, especially when the situation seemed adverse. I was raised to trust myself and my values, not the constructs and expectations that the world would place upon me.

I was raised by my parents who walked their talk and set the right example for their girls, who were true to themselves and their values, and made sure we knew that they stood for, what we stood for – what I stand for.

Some people believe that raising girls is about making them gentle and submissive so they can survive this world. Some people believe, it is about making them harsh and aggressive so they can dominate it.

I wasn’t raised to be either of those girls. In fact, I wasn’t raised to be a girl at all.

I was raised to be a human – and a good one, for what it’s worth, to make this world a better place.

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