I grew up in a progressive family during the beginning years of the internet age, spending many hours of my youth microblogging on Tumblr and getting caught up in the latest, niche fandoms.
When girls online started cutting their hair short and dyeing it bright colors across the full rainbow to look more like anime characters, I did too. When girls started dressing like the manic pixie dream girl from whichever edgy, angsty teen drama was in fashion, I did too.
When everyone online started to embrace the qualities of being a social justice warrior – years before the woke movement garnered mainstream attention – I did too.
So how did I go from a self-conscious, green-haired, slam-poetry writing, thrift-store dwelling, politically correct, feminist-minded, grungy teenager to a blossoming young wife and professional? I became a good woman when I met a good man.
My Man Inspired Me To Seek Wisdom
There is no doubt a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Focusing on a good education with honors and AP/IB classes in high school led me to believe I was smart.
Sure, my head was filled with facts and figures. I gained knowledge because I was studying a lot of information in school and prided myself on knowing unique things about culture worldwide from living on the internet in my spare time.
Meeting a man who challenged me intellectually made me realize that knowledge isn’t enough.
But I wasn’t wise. Meeting a man who challenged me intellectually by having a completely opposite political upbringing and being a dynamic polemicist made me realize that my knowledge wasn’t enough. I needed to improve my critical thinking skills and try to understand a point of view that I grew up discouraged from engaging with.
I took argumentation and debate classes. I practiced being my own devil’s advocate against opinions that I thought I had. I accepted the fact that I wasn’t questioning narratives I held as gospel, and then I started to feel humbled.
Wisdom Led to Humility
My journey to become wiser and not just more knowledgeable began when I felt attracted to a good man whose opinions completely differed from mine. I had to let down my guard and admit where I was wrong.
It’s really challenging to admit when you’re wrong. It can be unpleasant to let go of your own ego and listen rather than defend a mistake. That uncomfortable state of mind is called cognitive dissonance by psychologists, and it’s driven by our own self-consciousness and ego.
In addition, admitting you’re wrong is particularly hard as a woman, since our brains are biologically wired to process emotions on a higher level. We can let our emotions get in the way of thinking logically. We may defend our mistakes, but then we don’t grow.
Once I started challenging my own opinions, I felt that I was maturing. My journey through personal growth gained another chapter when I submitted to my own modesty and took a step down off my high horse. The values that this good man lived by started to become the values that I felt compelled to live by too.
I Embraced More Values
The word values can often be used arbitrarily. But few people truly live by their values anymore and instead rely on an ever-changing tide of public opinion to inform them what is right or wrong. When I started evaluating the differences between my progressive, liberal upbringing and my (now) husband’s conservative upbringing, it dawned on me that the culture I thought was old-fashioned, stiff, and traditional was actually rooted in custom and continuity.
"Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire." – Gustav Mahler
I spent most of my life disregarding conservative values but was also caught up in my own cognitive dissonance yet again. It didn’t occur to me that I took the traditional, nuclear family structure I grew up in for granted. It didn’t occur to me that the more wholesome media I surrounded myself with in my youth made me feel better than the nihilistic media I surrounded myself with in my high school years.
My value shift can be best explained by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who outlined five moral value systems: 1) Care for Others/Do No Harm; 2) Fairness/Justice/Equality; 3) In-Group Loyalty; 4) Respect for Authority; and 5) Purity. His research showed that the moral systems that liberals hold dearly tend to be systems one and two, while conservatives tend to value all five of the domains equally.
This isn’t to say that liberals lack morals or strong values, but rather that they prioritize different systems of morality and may not use values as their guiding compass. When I met a conservative man and tried to be open-minded toward his personal values, I realized how I wanted to embrace all aspects of morality and become a more disciplined person.
Meeting a Good Man Made Me Want To Be More Womanly
As I mentioned, before I began this journey, I was green-haired and grungy. Not only did I bleach my hair, dye it crazy colors, and crop it into a pixie cut to achieve the trendy, gender non-conforming style, I certainly didn’t wear presentable clothes or manage my weight.
I ate my feelings in snacks and takeout, didn’t understand proper nutrition, didn’t prioritize physical fitness, and didn’t make any attempts to doll up outside of alternative and sometimes downright gothic styles. It’s no wonder I rejected femininity; how could I feel feminine when I wasn’t setting myself up for success?
This feeling changed when I met a good man. I wanted to look better, not just for him, but for myself. I wanted to embrace being a woman. The utter lack of confidence I had in my physical appearance was within my power to change. In comes the cognitive dissonance again, where I didn’t believe in myself and so I didn’t think it was worth it to try.
It’s no wonder I rejected femininity; how could I feel feminine when I wasn’t setting myself up for success?
I grew into the mentality of wanting to respect myself.
My first step was letting my hair grow out – the damaged locks took a long time to recover from years of bleach, dye, and developer. Even though I now wear it anywhere from collarbone to shoulder length, embarking on a long journey of growing out hair from a pixie cut to mid-torso length encouraged me to realize that it was okay to look feminine.
I started caring more about what I put into my body and keeping myself tidier out of respect for the body that I have been given. Takeout and heavily processed groceries were not doing my figure any favors. I sought to understand food nutrition labels and prioritized cooking my own meals. I made mistakes along the way and still continue to struggle to find the right balance. I accepted the fact that my body craved real, animal-based protein – and a lot of it – to feel less fatigued and weak, and I ditched the cardio that was doing nothing for me.
Thanks to women’s media of the mid-2000s, I thought feminine figures needed to be super lean and that was only achieved as a cardio bunny on an elliptical machine. When I ditched that mentality and instead chose strength training, I not only began to have a more toned figure, but I felt sexier and more attractive as well. And the natural result of exercising in ways that nourish my body rather than drain me? I now feel more clear minded, level headed, and mentally stable.
The good man whom I met inspired me to want to feel sexy, not only for him, but for my own mental health.
I Found the Value in Being Feminine
Before I met my husband, I had a general disdain for gender roles. My social justice-loving brain was high on feminism and couldn’t comprehend why a woman would want to be a gentle supporter and submit to a pattern in relationships that felt oppressive.
That same cognitive dissonance I was unlearning also had convinced me that gender roles were way more black and white than they actually are. Finding the right man helped me understand what being a better partner actually looks like. I learned that it’s not problematic to point out that women and men have differing strengths when it comes to leadership roles, problem solving, and showing love.
I began to understand a woman’s role in being a “strong helper.” It actually felt empowering to me to see the perspective that a woman helping a man means to bring him to his highest glory and fill the gaps where he may be lacking.
Respecting my husband didn’t equate to unconditional obedience; as a good man, he didn’t ask that in the first place!
“Submitting” was not actually oppressive, as I learned, and was instead an aspect of one of the languages of love. Being “submissive” also tied back into me being inspired to live by values. As you may recall, respect for authority was one of the five conservative values that Haidt’s research identified. Respecting my husband didn’t equate to unconditional obedience, and as a good man he didn’t seek that out in the first place!
In my own personal relationship, for example, being a “strong helper” translated to being the one to research and do due diligence on our first apartment together, or taking the lead and feel ownership over the details for our wedding, or even managing bills and utilities since I work fewer hours. Man and woman complement one another and complete one another, so when I devoted myself to a man I felt more complete as a woman.
I could finally embrace my inwardly perceptive nature. I could finally embrace thoughtful nurturing. I am a stronger version of myself. I am a more inquisitive version of myself.
I don’t regret the choices I made in my teenage years and strongly discourage anyone on the same path from feeling shame. The meaning of the word “journey” is the act of traveling from one place to another, after all! Everyone has their own starting point, and my testimony is not unlike others…well, maybe your hair wasn’t green! Though the journey of self-improvement is endless, I can safely say that when I met a good man, I was inspired to become a better woman.
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