My personal definition of strength is to be wholly comfortable in yourself and your flaws. I have grown to accept that, and it has given me immeasurable solace in the past few months. I have learned how to hold myself accountable for certain things, and forgive myself for others. And all of these personal achievements were done with unwavering conviction. I like to delve into things head-first, and just like everything else, I dove into a series of revelations and foolishly expected them to be a buffer zone. They weren’t.

Just days ago, I wrote an article and I put a part of myself in it. I vowed to become a better person in the new year and let myself grow with no apology. I told myself to learn from my experiences, and swallow enough of my pride to be able to confront myself when I am at fault. This morning, it all fell to shreds. Any self-confidence I had in myself or in my character was shattered in the span of five minutes.

Let me set a scene. A few friends and I were joking around about our school’s Student Council. I mention that I was considering running. One of them casually mentioned,”I don’t think you should run, because I don’t think you’d win.”

I stared at her, aghast. I felt my friend next to me tense up.

The person continued,”It’s just that people think you’re very opinionated and I know not a lot of people probably don’t like it. I don’t think enough people would vote for you. I just don’t think enough people like you.”

I’m gonna be honest, the aftermath was a wreck. I was crying, she was crying, everyone was really confused. I proceeded to bawl my eyes out for the next twenty minutes. I haven’t spoken to that friend since, and I don’t plan to.  I felt every piece of confidence I had just dissipate, as if all of my revelations suddenly didn’t mean jack. It wasn’t all bad. I have a wonderful support system, I had friends with me every step of the way, and that took a piece of the hurt away.

I mean hey, silver linings, right?

When I was six years old, my mother taught me how to read aloud. I opened my flimsy chapter books and read in a structured, monotone voice. I carefully repeated the tone used by my teacher, one that was used to emphasize clarity. My mother shook her head and said “No Anjali. Read it like this!”She read the sentences for me and they burst alive in the air as every motion and color she described danced from her mouth and into my ears. She made me repeat the words with the same fervor as her.  I got my voice from my mother.

When I was ten years old, my father taught me how to speak in public. I was auditioning for a part to narrate the historical backgrounds of certain songs in the school recital. I stood ram-rod straight in front of him and recited my piece. He stopped me, and showed me how to talk with my hands and how to speak from my heart instead of from a piece of paper. I got my courage from my father.

It has gotten me so far already and it will get me farther in the future. In ninth grade when I had a speech class, I spoke to my peers fearlessly. When I did a heavily weighted academic presentation two weeks ago, I spoke to my peers emphatically, and finished with a room of heavy applause. I am so proud of that.

And I suppose my takeaway from this is that my voice threatens people. I suppose I am too loud, I suppose my words take up too much room. And I am so ready to own that part of myself with no shame. I am opinionated. I am incredible. I have the conviction it takes to change the world. And if that scares someone into wanting to intimidate me into not running for a position, I’ll be damned if they succeed in their intent.

To everyone who has the courage and conviction to speak their minds, I applaud you just as much as I now applaud myself. Live as you please. Speak your mind. It takes guts and bravery to do that, and even if there’s setbacks, even if your pride is compromised, you owe it to yourself to continue to open your mouth and be the person you were carved out to be.

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