International Women’s Day or the 8th of March has always been a very special day for me. It was and still is a national public holiday in Belarus and the day is full of spring flowers and gifts. It is a day to celebrate women. But what does that mean? All women and girls got gifts and flowers on March 8th and we all had cake. As a child that sounded great. But today, I realize that there are more important things we as women would rather have than flowers and gifts. I find it absolutely barbarian and unacceptable that in some parts of the world women are still treated and valued as less than a man. There are places where women:
- are denied the right to vote
- cannot marry whom they chose
- cannot drive
- do not have access to healthcare
- do not have equal access to education
- are paid less than men
- are not protected against violence
- Treated as property. The list goes on.
Nevertheless, I am happy to see that in recent years the holiday is getting more recognition and celebration across the globe. It is very inspiring to see this day becoming more of a worldwide event that celebrates women’s achievements – from the political to the social – while calling for gender equality. This is in part why I feel more so than ever the importance of being a woman and contributing to this movement. It is also on this day that I realize how far I’ve come and how far I still have to go on my journey towards self-acceptance, self-love, and self-respect.
“If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.” -Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Although I have made significant strides in those areas over the years, I definitely have weak moments. This last few months have been particularly challenging. What I really want is to believe that I am valuable, worthy, intelligent, important and good enough just the way I am. I want to feel confident that my main worth, contrary to what I’ve been told most of my life, is not in how I look and the beauty from the outside, but rather in the beauty on the inside. I want to believe that my heart with its ability to love, give and feel deeply, is my most attractive feature.
However, I realize how much I still have to overcome. There are times when I still obsess over my weight, body, and appearance, and compare myself to other women. I have allowed room for relationships that did not lift me up but instead brought me down and disrespected my boundaries. I found myself trying to cater to the selfish and narcissistic people in my life to get their approval. All this because I never got the approval of my parents growing up. And sometimes I still feel out of control because of it, so I try to control what I know best – which is food. Above all, I realize that unless I’m honest with myself about it, I cannot change how I feel. So I choose, to be honest with myself. Sometimes I feel weak and insecure.
“You don’t have to be pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female.'” —Erin McKean
So today, on this beautiful spring day in Dallas I’m going to CHOOSE to celebrate the progress and achievements I have made and not focus on the negatives. I’m going to choose to stay positive and surround myself with kind and compassionate people. I’m going to celebrate other women and the strides they have made for me to have the freedom and opportunities I have. And I aspire to do the same for others. Above else, today I am enough. I am exactly where I need to be. And I will never stop working on creating a better future for myself and other women. When I am weak, there are others who are strong and together we will go far. I would love to hear your comments and stories of struggles and wins.