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Why are girls raised to be afraid? There are a handful of helpful lessons (say avoiding strangers in vans with puppies) that help get us through our early years, but the messaging often continues into our adulthood. We feel we are putting ourselves at risk when we set our drink down on a date, wear a tight pair of pants, walk home alone, travel without a companion, or engage in a whole host of other behaviors that men might never put in the high-risk category.
There are the messages we are consciously aware of, but there are also hundreds of subliminal ones that impact the way that we approach others, the way that we carry ourselves, and the way we view ourselves. What if instead of being afraid, we decided to be assertive and to trust the strength of our bodies and our minds? We all know well enough that anything can happen, but does living in fear get us any closer to being safe than we would otherwise be?
When I got the chance to partner with Plan B One-Step*, the emergency contraceptive sometimes called “the morning after pill”, I felt strongly about taking it. While everyone has their own opinions on contraception, I happen to believe the availability of products like Plan B One-Step is essential. Whether it provides a backup plan for failed birth control or an option for victims of sexual assault, emergency contraception can be hugely important to women who are trying to live fearlessly.
So, you wanna be a badass female? Here are a few of the common fears that many women live with. Give them a read, become aware of them, and see if you can’t start living a bit more fearlessly in your own life.
Fear of Being a Bitch
As people pleasers, disagreements can be agonizing. We like being liked. We apologize for being assertive and start sentences with “I think…” in the event we need to back out of it. It can be hard to say what we mean when we’re worried about offending someone, but we’ve gotta get over this one if we ever hope to be taken seriously. The coolest women you know are the ones who know just what they want and know how to ask for it. People we think are bitchy are often just women who have set solid boundaries, and that’s hard to criticize!
If you don’t like the way a contract looks or hate the way a waiter touched you or are bothered by your friend’s belittling comments, SAY SOMETHING. If you don’t stand up for yourself, no one else will. You have every right to say what you mean, and the more you stand by your convictions, the more you’ll be able to articulate them without coming off as defensive.
Fear of Traveling Alone
The fear of traveling alone for the first time can be serious. Social anxieties aside, the idea of going somewhere outside of our comfort zone is legitimately scary. What if we get kidnapped or stranded with no money? How the hell do we file a police report in Cambodia anyway? While it’s true that not all countries are equally safe for solo females, tons of them are. For all the horror stories we’ve read, there are thousands more stories that no one is telling because nothing happened. Women have traveled solo everywhere in the world without incident, and had a damn good time, at that.
Get out there. Start small if you have to. Go for a road trip in your own country or take a few days in a nearby city. Every woman should have the experience of traveling alone and the only way that you can get past this fear is by facing it.
Fear of Violence
This is one I can’t speak to fully, but a very important one. Men are generally stronger, bigger, and faster than women are. How can you be expected to physically defend ourselves against violence or aggression? The unfortunate answer is that you really can’t. You can get into shape, and avoid dangerous situations, and carry pepper spray, but violence happens anyway. I don’t want to minimize this fear for women who have lived through violence, but the point I’d make about this kind of fear is that worrying about it doesn’t really make us safer. There’s no way we can worry our way out of the dangerous guys in parking garages. We can avoid dark alleys all our life and still get mugged in a crowded American shopping mall.
Learn to trust your intuition. If something feels off, avoid it. Tell your friends where you’re going and prepare yourself with a self-defense course. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and get out and do things. What’s the point of life if you’re always afraid?
Fear of Our Bodies
This one sounds a little weird, so bear with me. While menstruation, pregnancy, and sexuality may literally be the source of life, they are still total taboos. There’s a new school of women who are owning these topics, but I would argue most of us still aren’t. Feminism is only cool as far as listening to Beyoncé and Women’s Marches go. When it comes down to the details, we’re afraid of the gross parts. In my experience, learning to manage your body is an important part of being a grown ass woman. Rather than feeling ashamed, prepare yourself with products that you like using. Be confident rather than apologetic if you decide to talk about it. When it comes to sexuality, women are handed the additional risk of pregnancy – that can be scary enough to stave any young woman off sex. But with the IUD, oral contraception, condoms, and Plan B One-Step, sex doesn’t have to mean getting pregnant if you’re not ready yet.
Take the time to figure yourself out. Learn what you like by eating different foods, taking dance classes, and trying different styles of clothes. Pay attention to what’s going on with your body and go to the doctor if something seems off. And finally, stop criticizing other women for breastfeeding in public or wearing short skirts! Focus on your own body, figure out what makes you feel best, then go do it.
Fear of Getting Old
Many of us have a timeline on which our lives were supposed to unfold. Boyfriend by 25, married by 27, kids by 29… you know the drill. But the minute you start slipping from this timeline, shit gets scary. You worry that if you aren’t married but your friends are, there must be something wrong with you. You know you’re not ready, but you fear that you won’t be able to have kids if you wait too long. You stay in relationships that don’t serve you because you have an idea that if you get too old, men your age will be looking only at younger women, and you might be alone forever. How useless is that?
The best way to conquer this fear of getting old is to get interested in yourself. Build a life that you’re excited to live every day so that you’re not constantly waiting for a future that most certainly won’t come when you expect it to, and may never come. Find things that interest you and validate yourself. Decide if you want kids, and make a budget and a plan to have them, whether or not you have a partner. Once you take control of your own life, the fear of getting old might just be a little less scary.
*About Plan B: Plan B One-Step is emergency contraception, not a regular form of birth control pill, but it contains the same ingredient – levonorgestrel (it is just taken as a single and higher dose than regular birth control). It can be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex or birth control failure, and it’s available without a prescription or ID. The pill typically costs $50, but you can get $10 off here. For this post, I found the pill at Walgreens. It was located behind the counter, but there was an indicator in the contraception aisle about where to find it. Don’t be embarrassed if you can’t find it right away! You can always ask the pharmacist and they can help you out.