I think it first started a couple months ago, when I came across the Ban Bossy campaign. I saw the video pop up multiple times in my Facebook newsfeed, so I finally gave it a watch. And it stopped me in my tracks. Growing up labeled as “stubborn” or “bossy” makes girls feel like they can’t be leaders and they can’t speak up about what matters. How many times have I bitten my tongue over the years? Afraid of the eye roll and “Here she goes telling us what to do again” that was bound to follow. How many times have I second-guessed standing up for something? Because it’s been ingrained in me that I need to quiet down. The Ban Bossy campaign not only showed me the lies I had grown up believing, but also that it was time to stop apologizing for who I am.

It’s far too easy to feel ashamed of who we are. As a female, as a Christian, as a human being. When we don’t fit the mold that society sets in front of us, we start apologizing, we start making excuses for ourselves, and we start filling with shame. For too long, I apologized for how detail oriented I am, how I am always asking questions, and how I constantly want to push people to action. I would make excuses for my passions, my opinions, and my dreams for the future. And I felt so much shame for being an introvert, for having a love of knowledge, and for desiring to make a true difference in the world.

Last week I watched the film Miss Representation, and I was blown away. It focuses on how women are perceived in the media – as objects. It discusses how these attitudes are ingrained into society, and how that affects girls as they grow up. It shows how few women we have in leading roles, in leadership positions, or in the spotlight for doing things that matter. I was disgusted and heart broken at the same time. So many of my insecurities now made sense; the hatred of my body for never being close to a size zero, feeling forced to choose between having boys like me or having my opinions heard, the dilemma between being smart or being pretty – because girls are never both. But then, instead of sadness over these issues, I felt anger. Anger at a culture that fed these lies to me for so many years. Anger at a media that ingrains these lies into the minds of our soceity. Anger that young girls are still growing up in the midst of it – and its only getting worse.

And now there’s this new campaign – Like A Girl – that challenges the concept of telling people that doing anything “like a girl” is an insult. And I completely love it. Because now I’m not afraid to speak up like a girl – a couple months ago I was chosen to give a TEDx talk. Now I’m not afraid to lead like a girl – last year I started an after school program at a local high school. Now I’m not afraid to be passionate like a girl – I’m about to move across the world to Malawi and pour into the small community of Chinsapo for 6 months. I know who I am and what I am capable of and my true worth. But for too long I didn’t. And too many girls don’t, because they constantly get told to stop bossing people around, to be quiet, to be prettier. When they attempt something similar to what boys do, they get told they do it “like a girl” – and simultaneously get told its second-class, lower worth. When we finally do achieve something of importance, we get told that it’s not too bad for a girl. Before we are tall or short, blonde or brunette, light or dark skinned, we are girls – it is the core of who we are, something we can’t change. And we get told that it’s not good enough.

I’m sick and tired of that nonsense. I’m sick of apologizing for the talents God gave me, the passions He put on my heart, and the person He created me to be. I’m tired of feeling ashamed for not fitting into society’s idea of the perfect girl. And I’m done believing that I need to do either. It’s time to own being a girl, time to see value in our imperfections, and time to be proud of who we are. Because I think it’s time that girls should grow up believing they can be whatever they want to be – but no matter what that turns out to be, they will always be respected. That’s what I believe in. That’s what I’m fighting for. 

My name is Krysti, and I’m going to change the world. Like a girl.

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