I landed in a position in my life where people's expectations stopped mattering to me. I needed to do things solely out of my own desire to set goals, which even I thought were a little wild, to prove to myself I still had a pulse. So, I quit my job, walked into a bike shop and asked if they'd hire me as a mechanic. I didn't know what I was doing, really, but those guys didn't wince at my gender or my lack of experience, and I thank them for it every day. I realized a lot of things about how I perceive myself as a gendered being in that shop. Often times I'd quit before I really tried at something, believing I just wasn't strong enough. I'd become frustrated that someone wasn't guiding me through every step, because that's how people had always helped me before when I was doing something that obviously wasn't "natural". I'd smile and laugh instead of ask how I can do better. These are all ways in which women limit themselves, and these are all ways that we are taught to act, basically from birth. Instead of reinforcing these behaviors (and, partially, from my desire to be legitimate), the upstanding humans that I worked with simply told me to do things. They believed in my ability, demonstrated how to do something with patience, and asked why I was asking them questions instead of just figuring it out thereafter. In short, they treated me the way men are treated when they learn a trade: with the expectation that they have the basic wherewithal to complete the task at hand. I felt empowered as a woman the first time (and every time thereafter) that someone had enough confidence in me and/or my skills to tell me that I wasn't incapable, I was simply giving them excuses. They are harsh words to hear when you’re frustrated, but they show an esteem in your ability and a disdain for any limitation you put on yourself. In those moments I felt strong as hell, even if I wanted to cry from the frustration of not being given the safety net that I was so used to: the option to just let someone else do it for me.
Submitted by Anonymous, Edited by Arianne Keegan