Finding My Inner Rebel
Written By Yasmeen Lara Yahya
People have always described me as a “good kid.” Polite. Quiet. I have always done what I was told. I guess because I figured out that life would be easier for me if I followed the rules. As a teenager, I never snuck out of the house, I didn’t date, I didn’t even have a drink until my sophomore year of college. Most importantly, though, I always, always, always listened to my parents. Now, I’m 22, freshly graduated from college, and have found myself falling into my “rebellious” years a little later than most.
By “rebellious years,” I mean I am now discovering how to live for myself and not for anyone else. In other words, I am only now figuring out what I want and who I am without anyone else’s influence. As the only child of helicopter parents, I have lived all of my 22 years with the goal of pleasing my parents and my family. I have lived every day trying to get someone else’s approval. In turn, I have become a person who thinks too much of what others think of me. Sure, having a little humility never hurt anyone, but my humility has turned into anxiety, and it’s crippling.
I have been guilty of sending selfies to my friends before posting and saying, “is this ok?? Which do you like better?” More seriously, even as an adult woman who does not live with her parents, pays her own bills, and is a self-proclaimed Independent-Ass Bitch, I still find myself thinking, “what would my [insert family member here] think of me?” when making decisions about my life. I have considered my family’s opinions when making decisions about my education, career, living situation, body, and most everything else about myself. As you might expect, always thinking about what others think of you is emotionally exhausting.
I have based my happiness and self-worth on other people, so of course, it makes sense that when someone disagrees with me or even disapproves of me, my self-esteem shoots way down. I have spent a lot of time and energy worrying about what others think about me and ignoring the most important question which is, “what do I think of me?”
It is tough, though, to live “rebelliously” because I am tethered between wanting to make my family proud but also wanting to live my own life. Family has always been important to me. My family is mostly an ocean away, so time I get with them is often limited. Life as a first-generation American can be strange. I grew up with second-hand stress about immigrating and vague, yet ubiquitous guilt to match. I have lived not simply to please my parents, but to bring honor to their sacrifices. Although I am thankful for their sacrifices, I have recently realized that I have been living on someone else’s accord, and the truth is, no one ever asked me to.
So, I am finding my inner rebel. She’s buried down there somewhere, scream-singing Bikini Kill lyrics, covered in all the tattoos from my idea graveyard, rocking bubblegum pink hair, all while reading essays about sex positivity. She’s polite, loves without fear, and does not take other people’s bullshit. She does whatever she wants with a smile on her face. She makes her life decisions based on what is best for her. Wild, right? Most importantly, though, she believes in the power of herself.
Yasmeen Yahya is a writer living in Austin, Texas. She writes poetry, personal essays, and op-eds. Her work reflects her passion for social justice and her journey toward loving freely. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find Yasmeen around animals, listening to podcasts, or talking about astrology with anyone willing.