By: Ignatius Manana and Rachel Lastinger, IATG ContributorsAugust 11, 2016
A South African Story:
Our culture believes that the male should be in charge of everything. With that belief, it’s hard for girls to stand our ground and be independent. We fear that we won’t be taken seriously. The belief in our community is that a housewife is the only good thing a woman should be. This idea exists as an oppression towards girls. If we try to choose another path, we won’t gain approval from the men in our community. These critiques around everything we do as a female gives us a fear of the unknown. We always have this idea of the “what if,” and that brings us down.
Standing up for yourself as a girl takes a lot of courage and guts.
Even with these attributes, fear seems to have a way of getting to us and eliminating everything good.That’s what happens to me whenever I try to be myself. Fear can make you feel and be a lot of things you don’t like. Fear exists and depends on chance, because it needs help from your mind to believe in negativity for it to exist.
Standing up for yourself as a girl is hard, especially in South Africa, because with your effort to be your true self comes a pile of negativity and disappointment.
Fear is something that all of us have and experience every day of our lives, but it’s how we deal with it that really matters. Most people think that they are alone in life, only to find that the next person understands. It’s just a matter of communication. Take situations like gender inequality, which is experienced all over the world. The fears that I have are common to every girl around the world.
Take, for instance, the fear of the unknown. Everyone is afraid of what the future might bring for them because of the decisions they make at present. This fear leaves me with many questions. Will I like the person I’m going to be in the future? Will I be the person I want to be? Will I still be having the same fears as I’m facing right now? Or will I be the complete opposite of what I want to be because of the decisions I make right now? The fear of failure may also have a negative impact on my future.
Some failures may lead to the end of your hopes and dreams, because hope or motivation is lost. Whichever way it might be, fear is usually the driving force, unless you decide to take a stand against fear. Taking a stand is the first step you take to overcoming fear and moving closer to being the person you want to be. And yes,you’ll face trials and tribulations, but your hard work will pay off in the end. I hope that from today on fear will just be a stepping stone to get you where you want to be in the future. Fear is just an illusion.
An American story:
As a young girl, I often sought after the approval of those around me and feared being disapproved of. I was afraid that if I spoke up too loudly in a meeting or in a classroom that I would not be approved of; that my opinion may not be the one people want to hear. As I’ve become an adult, I still feel this fear. I’ve begun to fear how others might disapprove of my opinion. I once shared my opinion on how I had observed female oppression while living in Ethiopia and was told by a male that I was not observing the situation correctly and that I was just playing the “female inequality” card. In my adult years, I’ve often felt rejected anytime I tried to speak up about the gender inequalities I observe.
I have feared offending others so much about so many different things that it causes me to not stand up and to not use my voice. Instead of offending others, I just allow myself and others to continue to be oppressed and silenced. I stand by and watch rather than voicing my opinion. I do this because I’m afraid.
While desiring to be approved and accepted of by others, I fear showing people my true self. I fear that when I’m raw and open with someone, they won’t return the action, and I’ll be left feeling vulnerable and like a fool. I fear showing my true colors to a man. If I show him too much of my feminine side, will he take me seriously as his equal counterpart? If I show him too much of my strength and courage, will he see me as the “marriageable type”?
I think deep down I experience these fears, because I fear the unknown as well. Mostly, I fear being alone. If too many people reject me and disapprove of me, will I be alone? If I continue to rise up as a strong, confident, independent woman, will I be alone? I don’t know what the future holds for me, and that terrifies me sometimes.
We fear showing our true self, but the reality is that when we do, we allow ourselves to grow deeper as a person and deeper into relationships.
It’s when we step into our fears that we grow into stronger individuals.
I’ve been told that when I’m my most vulnerable, I’m actually at my strongest. Isn’t that beautiful and encouraging to think of?
If we stand silent and afraid, we never speak out. If we never speak out, we never experience the change that we could create with the power of our voice.
Ignatius talked about the fear that she experiences as a girl in South Africa and how that leads her to fear standing up and speaking out. Yet here she is, doing just that, using the power of her voice. I’m inspired by Ignatius and how she stands up and faces her fears head on. How she overcomes and perseveres. What if we all stood hand-in-hand and faced our fears together? Knowing that our sisters on the other side of the world are experiencing similar fears. What beautiful change could come from us all facing our fears together?
Take some time together this week to simply start a conversation with a friend about fear. Community is such a powerful bond and being vulnerable with another can help BOTH of you grow!
Ignatius is a 12th grade student living in Mpumalanga, South Africa. She aspires to start University this next year (a January start in South Africa) and study forensic science or law. Ignatius is passionate about raising up the voices of young women in her community, South Africa, and beyond. She loves reading, listening to music, going to church, spending time with her friends, and brinning joy and laughter to everyone she’s around.
Rachel is a graduate of Oklahoma State University where she studied Political Science/ International Studies. After living in Ethiopia for 2 years, empowering and mentoring young university women, she is now attending Emory University in Atlanta, GA where she is obtaining her Master’s degree in Development Practices. She has also spent time working in South Africa with youth empowerment and education. She is a strong advocate for her faith in Jesus Christ, strong friendships, women’s rights, dance parties, reading, and Parks and Recreation.