Finding freedom through females

Inspiring women and how I found myself through them

Story by Audrey Haskins, staff writer

When I was younger, my mind was plagued by voices telling me I’m either too much, or never enough– too fat, too lazy, too boring, too eccentric. However, these voices faded and for the most part, became non-existent, thanks to the inspiring women I found through videos, radio and television.

For a while, I was loyal to the voices and awful things I saw in the mirror. Every curve, every unwanted mark, every detail of my body was disgusting to me. That was until I discovered Winnie Harlow.

Winnie Harlow is a Canadian fashion model, spokesperson and activist with Vitiligo, a condition where skin loses patches of it’s pigment, making them prominent to the naked eye across the skin. She didn’t let her condition stand in the way of her ambitions to be a model and instead reached for them. She ignored the fact that no other supermodel has the condition, and the chatter among others telling her that she’d never make it anywhere in the fashion industry became irrelevant.

I was inspired by her story to begin the journey to self-love, but along the way, and with her optimism and confidence radiating onto me, I found that what I saw in the mirror was not awful, but beautiful. Without her passion to encourage others to feel good about themselves, I would still think negative things about the body my mother gave me.

The voices were quieter, the self-hatred decreased, but both were still present. The voices then took it upon themselves to display their truth in my actions instead of the mirror. I grew up in a private Catholic school in southern Louisiana and diversity was a word that no one seemed to know. Girls weren’t allowed to sit with the boys, uniforms were required and neither students nor teachers were allowed to wear any colors other than black, white, brown or grey.

I found it better to keep myself from expressing who I really was, so I got into the activities my peers did. I dressed how everyone else dressed and I said what they said. It wasn’t me then, and it isn’t me now. Stevie Nicks shined a light of color into the beige world I was brought up in.

Stevie Nicks is an American singer-songwriter, best known for her work in Fleetwood Mac, and is designated by the rest of the world as the “Queen of Rock and Roll.” I was fascinated, however, by her originality, courage to be herself and ability to bring out the light she saw in others. I decided to practice what she preached through music and got out of the box I confined myself in. I began to write, draw and act. I began to do things I was passionate about, not what I felt obligated to do, thanks to Stevie. She let me know that what I did was unique, not strange, and that the “truth” the voices were trying to show me were actually deceitful lies.

Comparing yourself to other women does not make you a woman; to lift up others and find your voice is what makes you a woman.”

— Haskins

I began to feel free, but the path I was on was still a little rocky. I now knew what I loved and knew what I had a talent for, but expressing them freely became a great fear, and every wrong move I made left me anxious for what seemed like an eternity.

Once again, empowering women glided into my life to save the day. A few years back I was blessed enough to find not one, but four women who came together with great luck to form a popular European band known as Little Mix. These girls threw themselves out into the world and showed off what they had with grace and confidence, despite the negativity thrown back at them. They managed to succeed in one of the most competitive industries.

What stood out to me the most was that they managed to do it with a confident attitude that displayed intense strength while maintaining the cute “girliness” they all shared. Their love for themselves and their career is what made them both special and riveting to my young, insecure self.

I took a page, or maybe a few, from their book and found within myself the realization that confidence is only built when people do the things that they are afraid to do. With a dry swallow and a cool sweat, I forced myself to have a few seconds of courage and jump into my fears to see what harm they could really bring to me. Jumping wasn’t as unpleasant as I assumed it would be; in fact, it was both stupefying and astonishing. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, and it was a decision that never would have happened without the encouragement and motivation that was gifted to me.

I used to describe my feelings toward women and girls as threatening. I used to see them as constant competition in careers, in school, in beauty and in relationships. That shouldn’t be the world we live in. Women should encourage, inspire and empower one another, not judge and be afraid of each other. Comparing yourself to other women does not make you a woman; to lift up others and find your voice is what makes you a woman. These six women, filled with talent and courage, showed me that light. Find the beauty within yourself, be whoever you want to be and don’t be afraid to show off what makes you who you are. That is the greatest freedom of all.