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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Courage is a strange thing. We’re conditioned to associate it with masculinity and big, public displays of bravery.

While rescuing Gotham from evil is great, courage exists in smaller ways in daily life. The grand connotation this word carries shouldn’t discourage us from recognizing courage in ourselves and our surroundings. 

To me, courage starts with having the strength to think and exist for yourself. Resisting conformity and thinking critically about what you want is not an easy task.

As UC Berkeley students, I think we all understand how hard it can be to separate our own goals from the expectations others have for us. The level of prestige associated with this university creates intense pressure to be successful and to make something of yourself in the most traditional and socially accepted ways. In reality, success means something different for every person and isn’t always a high-paying tech job.

Courage means taking the time to recognize what you’ve been conditioned to want and believe compared to your own desires. For me, this has meant finding the courage to say no when society expects me to say yes and existing on small scales. Collectively, having this level of self-awareness and learning to think and act for myself has been fundamental to my self-understanding and acceptance. 

For instance, if I’m out with my friends and start to realize I’m tired and want to go home, I have this internal pressure to stay out, say yes, and not be the downer of the group. If I’m feeling that way the whole time, ready to go but forcing myself to stay out, what the hell am I getting out of that experience? I’ve been pushing myself to do what I want and only put myself in situations I want to be in. Surprisingly, people are often highly receptive to this. No one wants to be the one to say something, but often we’re thinking the same things that we’re afraid to admit. Give yourself a chance to be honest — you’re a lot less alone than you probably think.

Courage also means challenging our socially constructed views of ourselves and the people around us. Like everyone else, I constantly find myself comparing myself to other people, particularly other girls. I objectify myself and tear myself down because I decide my body isn’t good enough. In doing so, I dehumanize both myself and the person I’m comparing myself to. It takes a lot of courage and strength to separate from that mindset, consider why I’m thinking and feeling this way, and figure out what really matters. I am not perfect at responding to these thoughts by any means, but taking a step back helps me work towards getting better.

Having the courage to be yourself can be really confusing. With the mass information and perspectives we’re exposed to, our sense of self and reality can become distorted. I find myself struggling to understand what I want and who I am, and I question if my understandings are my own or a reflection of how others view me and expect me to be. It can be really overwhelming and confusing to try and conquer this, but I know that I am aware of it. Wanting to work on it is in itself a demonstration of courage.

To me, living in a society with such harsh and isolating expectations and still making the decision every day to live for yourself is a beautiful form of courage.