I have a problem with authority.  I have always thought the problem was that I didn’t like it. But actually, the problem is that I have always assumed that authority comes from the outside.  And that assumption has made me feel like someone has a giant thumb on me, holding me down.  I have recently come to conclusion that, in fact, I am the one who has been holding myself down.  Fuck that.

[pi_wiloke_quote quote=”Remember always that you have not only the right to be an individual; you have an obligation to be one. You cannot make any useful contribution in life unless you do this.” author=”Eleanor Roosevelt”]

All my life I have felt like I am too much because other people have told me that.  I’m too loud.  My laugh is weird.  My hair is too short.  I’m like a billboard.  What I say reflects negatively on those around me.  I just need to keep my thoughts to myself. Girls are supposed to BE smart, but not ACT too smart. Those are all things people have said to me.  Fuck that.

The problem is not that people have said them.  It’s that I have allowed them to stick.  And when I do that, I feel like I need to be smaller, quieter, more “appropriate.”  But who decides what appropriate means?  If I let others decide then I cannot be my divine spark of a self, and I put myself in a box that gets smaller, and darker.  On the one hand, I’m supposed to be strong because I’m a survivor.  I have survived a lot of shit, as we all have.  But I’m not supposed to be too strong, because I’m a woman, and nobody likes women who are loud, bossy, bitchy, or slutty.  All words, by the way, that men use to describe women who act more like they think men should act in our society than how they think women should act.  Fuck that.

I saw a billboard the other day that said, “Hot Wife” in giant red letters on the right-hand side, and on the left was a short list of plastic surgery packages:  botox, liposuction, mommy make-overs.  So, if I want to be a hot wife I can’t have wrinkles, I can’t have body fat, and I can’t have a saggy tummy where my babies lived?  Because men decided that’s what a “Hot Wife” is?  Fuck that.

It is not my job to shut up, alter my body, or in any other way placate to others’ ideas of what is “appropriate” for me.  Women who inspire me are women who have not given one shit about adapting for others.  They have shown benevolence and compassion, not by placating and conforming, but with fierceness, and by abandoning anything that wasn’t their own truth. Helen Keller.  Gloria Steinem.  Eleanor Roosevelt. To name a few.

And yet, I find myself placating.  It is the fear of being ostracized that keeps me quiet.  In my family of origin if I went against the grain I was ostracized.  At work often when I have spoken my mind I have been reprimanded.  Since family and work meet base needs for life I allow my fear of losing those things to dictate my voice instead of speaking my truth. Fuck that.

I have been writing this piece in my head for over a month, since someone said something to me about what’s appropriate.  It has been burning me from the inside out and screwing up everything I think about myself.  So, as my friend Patti said, I’m going to be Teflon Brandie and let these fiery words slide right off onto this page.  Not honoring my feelings is an act of self-harm. Fuck that.

Fellow women, I implore you to work with me to support each others’ voices.  We need to lift each other up, not tear each other down. You want a mohawk?  A tattoo?  A calico dress?  To go to church?  To live in a van down by the river?  To work 75 hours a week?  To stay home and paint?  To howl at the moon? To drink whiskey?  To have a dozen lovers? More power to you!  We don’t need to resort to subjugating one another as if there is a finite supply of places for us in this world.  Fuck that.

[pi_wiloke_quote quote=”Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” author=”Helen Keller”]

This post originally appeared on Brandie’s blog, Simple Life Yoga.

Brandie is a two-time breast cancer survivor who credits writing and her other creative endeavors for helping her be happy to be a survivor instead of six-feet-under. She is a Masters’ Level Intern at a counseling private practice where she counsels cancer survivors, survivors of family violence, and other adults and couples. She teaches yoga and Ayurveda classes in McKinney, Texas, and nationally for Patti Digh’s Life is a Verb Camp.