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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at GWU chapter.

I regret the years in which self-scrutiny was my default. Submission dictated my formative moments in the classroom; uncertainty corrupted how I dressed, walked, and slept; apprehension strangled my delicate throat before I could vocalize anything potentially disagreeable. As a young girl, embarrassment did more than just color my cheeks red until the moment passed—it played an unremitting tape of my mistake in my mind while I fought for peace—a tape that warped more grotesquely each time I watched it. I policed each step I took for fear it was too large. 


Girlhood taught me to find comfort in shame. It graced me with the talent of putting others’ needs before my own. It wasn’t my parents, who were devoutly certain I was the best, but the dynamic I existed in, the way I craved smallness. I remember how I used to answer teachers’ questions in my head, never out loud. These answers were smart, introspective, and creative—but I was shy, tense, and reluctant. I forfeited far too many seconds of my life mustering up the guts to raise my hand across a field of boys squirming in their seats—fingers darting towards the sky like bright helium balloons escaping an outdoor birthday party.

As a woman—an older girl, a young adult—I live with the complex that girlhood handed me. I see the same complex in my friends and my female classmates—taking the best notes but tapping their feet nervously and keeping their mouths shut. Women who exert so much just to validate their submission of an inconsequential assignment. Women offer disclaimers so naturally, yet dread compliments for fear of having to respond. Women whose intuition pitches within a murky sea of second-guesses and self-doubt. These women—critical, careful women—were once little girls subtly guided to compensate for what they could not offer rather than showcase what they had. Now they withhold their expectations; they press forward without hope of ever achieving the perfection they strive for. 

It is not to say that assertive women do not exist—I spot them infrequently, bold as bluebirds amongst swarms of pigeons. Most people would subconsciously agree that assertiveness is inherently a masculine trait, and people are quick to classify loud, confident women as manly. But they don’t say manly out loud—only “aggressive, bossy, abrasive.” Judgment runs rampant in the face of a potential threat. Both men and women tremble in the presence of powerful feminine energy; women cannot fathom how to embody her, and men reject her strength for fear of being overshadowed. 

So, women continue to labor meticulously, quietly offering perfection and never acknowledging their own brilliance. Doing so is inconceivable under the assumption that someone else always has something more important to do or say. Perfection is an opinion—it exists only in the mind. With this, I wonder how perfectionism is such a feminine trait when women fail to claim their perfect work as perfect. How does one spend endless hours creating, pondering, and fixing to achieve greatness—then reject the significance of their contributions? It’s the overthinking, the shame, the male voice always being louder. It’s the female experience, after all.

Originally from New Haven, CT, Anya is a senior at GW majoring in Political Science with a double minor in Criminal Justice and Human Services & Social Justice. Anya hopes to travel after graduation, and gain work experience outside of the United States. In her free time, Anya is probably taking a walk or facetiming her friends and family.