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It was an ordinary game of floor hockey. My palms were soaked, my skin unbearably itchy. The droplets of sweat were rolling down my back. But I couldn’t pay any attention to that. The offensive player was approaching me with the puck, trying to find a way around. I clutched the hockey stick, took a deep breath, and lunged for it. In two seconds I had tripped, and hit the floor. My failure was mortifying. And yet, it was a successful failure, for after my angry swatting at the puck and inevitable downfall, the opposing player got caught in my flailing limbs and also fell. My teammates were delighted. They marveled that a girl could take down the third-best male player in our gym class, and the hoots and cheers of the boys were infectious. I had been unnecessarily aggressive, and it had paid off. I beamed to myself. I was worthy! Later, as the triumph waned and I came back down to earth, I realized what a fool I had been. I finally saw that I had become someone who needed to prove herself, just so she could be accepted by the boys.
I had betrayed myself. I was utterly defeated.
As I experienced this keen sense of disappointment, I started to self-analyze. For most of my life prior to this experience, I had been a very aggressive person, always preferring to do things that boys normally did. I like to fight, arm wrestle, tackle people, and do all the other things boys do. It was just recently that I figured out why: somewhere deep within my psyche I have the conviction that I must always prove myself. I firmly believed that by showing weakness, I was falling prey to the expectations of the world in which I lived. The reason for all this lies in my feelings of entrapment in a gender role. As a female, I sometimes feel like the world is against me. Society has this set of rules and expectations that dictates people’s lives. To break free of those rules, I fought and fought against the stereotypes that pursue my gender. My way of doing this was by becoming a tomboy, and denying all things girly. By escaping from girldom I thought I would also be escaping from its association of weakness. The strong drive to become my own unique individual drove me to seek the approval of men. That was my mistake: I got out of one trap and fell into another. By pursuing this approval, I was condemning myself to a dependency on what the “oppressors” thought of me. However, I was my own oppressor. By not being satisfied with just being me, I made myself unhappier as a person. As soon as I finally realized this self-deception, I decided to address it. I would not do things for the sake of another’s acceptance. From then on the only person’s approval I needed was my own.
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