The Authentic Project

authentic

WHAT IS THE AUTHENTIC PROJECT?

The Authentic Project aims to allow women the freedom to speak from their hearts, encourage them in their femininity and vulnerability, and find beauty in both the individuality and common ground of women.

My goal: to sit down with women in all different walks of life and hear their true stories as they are their real, authentic selves.

Why? Because I believe every woman has a story and a longing for that story to be told. I’m willing to be the ears that hear it.

I aim to compile stories upon stories from women who are willing to allow the world to see them as they really are. By asking questions and diving deeper into the hearts of these women, I am hoping that both them and I would grow more confident and see more of the beauty many of us women have been hiding away for years.

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Meet Val

10423627_643093195822567_2694722509907739434_n“I feel like there’s a lot of pressure to be perfect and successful… You have to know what you want to do. That’s what you hear all through high school. You have to know where you’re going to college and what you’re going to do… But through this process, I’ve realized that it’s okay if you don’t know where [God] wants you to go to college. He’ll move you in the right direction and everything’s going to happen for a reason.”

“I feel like I see all these other people with their ‘group,’ those people they’re really close with. And I feel like I have a new person every year. And that really sucks because I feel like I haven’t been able to truly connect with anyone and have those close, intimate friendships. That’s why anytime I met someone this past summer, I was like, ‘Oh man, I love you! I’m so excited about our friendship! I want to be so close with you!’… I just want someone who would text me throughout the week or want to get together with me. I understand if you’re busy and you really have a crazy schedule, but if you actually do care, you’re going to find time to be with me.”

“I feel like my parents don’t really know me. When my mom and I get in fights, she’ll say stuff like, ‘You’re so selfish, it’s all about you.’ And I’m like, ‘I never want it to be about me, Mom.’ With the things that she says, I know she doesn’t know me. I should feel comfortable with my parents, but I’m not… And I think the biggest reason I stopped talking to my mom was because when I would come to her in middle school or in ninth grade, she would always say, ‘Well, what do you want me to do about it?’ And I didn’t want her to do anything about it. I didn’t need her to have an answer; I just wanted her to listen.”

“I’ve been really shy all my life… And I remember Sophomore year I had a class with a guy who was talking to this girl about someone he was kind of interested in, and she said, ‘Oh, yeah! She’s really fun and outgoing!’ And I thought, do guys only like outgoing girls? Since that time, I’ve been pretty much listening to the lies of this world and thinking, no one’s going to love you because you’re not outgoing and you’re not pretty.”… Confidence has been my biggest struggle my Junior year. I just don’t have confidence in anything — no confidence in my looks, no confidence in my singing, no confidence in myself anymore. Which isn’t like me, or wasn’t like me until this year. I’ve been really praying to God lately, ‘Please help me see me the way you see me.’ I’m not truly seeing me the way he sees me — as beautiful and as his daughter. I know all the promises he gives me, but it’s really easy to accept the lies of this world.”

Meet Jessica

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“In Slovakia, they’re very, very, very genuine, and we don’t see that in America that often… And when you come back here, you ask questions and you expect Americans to respond in the same way [as Slovaks] because you had been there for two weeks and you think that they will care like [Slovaks] do, but they don’t. I think the lack of kindness here really sucks.”

“I feel like women are always comparing themselves to other people. We’re just mean to other people. We can nitpick them so easily, like, ‘this is wrong with you and this is wrong with you.’ Women are really big on that because we do it to ourselves… I definitely struggle with the self-image thing, just comparing myself to every single girl I see. I wonder what her life is like, what it’d be like to be her. Anyone but me, which is crazy!”

“I think sex is a big problem nowadays. Especially with Fifty Shades, there’s so many things put in our heads that aren’t natural. Of course we’re intended to have sex, but in certain ways. There’s so much stuff filling our heads that are just lies… Even Nicholas Sparks movies and books, although they’re not over the top like Fifty Shades. The romance in them is not how real life is.”

“All through high school, [Katlyn’s] faith has grown so much and I feel like I’ve just stayed here. And I don’t think she know that. With some of the things she says, I’m like, ‘What? Do you even know where I’m at?’ (laughs). That’s who I’m scared of being open with and telling where I’m at and how I feel… I’ve let a lot of people come into my life who I think have slowed that process down, while she’s only accepted the best and the people she knows are going to grow her. I think she was able to grow faster by being in that environment whereas I’m hanging out with the people who do drugs and go drinking every night. It’s really hard for me to be able to grow when the people I surround myself with don’t challenge me and aren’t growing like that… And it’s really embarrassing for me to go to Katlyn now because she was the one telling me that hanging out with them would end up hurting me. It’s a pride thing.”

Meet Cassandra

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“I remember feeling like drugs were always [my mom’s] number one over me. I doubted I was capable of being loved. And I thought that if I just did well in school and became Student of the Month and got all these great achievements, she would love me and stop using drugs, which wasn’t the case. So I still struggled with feeling loved and feelings of unworthiness, and it all just kind of culminated when she turned us in to foster care when I was twelve… One day I was in my room and I was at rock bottom. I didn’t know where else to turn or who else to go to, so I was just like, ‘Jesus, if this is real, I want it. The way I’m living my life is wrong — these feelings of anger and resentment. I want you to take them way. I want to live my life with you.’ It wasn’t the magical moment we all envision, like ‘Oh, my life completely turned around!’ But it did make my life different in that I knew I didn’t have to go through it alone anymore.”

“I’m black, just in case you didn’t know (laughs). And I feel like in black culture, there’s this idea that you need to be that strong, independent black woman who don’t need no man… We’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s got to be me! I’ve got to strive to be that — have two jobs, work hard.’ And we don’t!… The only thing the Lord said wasn’t good was that man was alone. So why do we choose to believe that? I can embrace the fact that I don’t have to be that strong, independent black woman.”

“I need to be encouraged in what I’m doing because I often feel alone. I know some of it is by choice; I choose to not engage with people. But I feel so alone so I feel like, ‘Oh, I’m supposed to be alone and that’s okay,’ when it’s not. So I want to be challenged to pursue community so I don’t have those feelings… I wonder often if I’m doing things right, and I need to be affirmed in that.”

“I do not have a solid relationship with my [adoptive mom], but I want to. I want to feel comfortable in sharing the highs and lows of my life because I don’t talk to her often…  I know relationships take two people, and the Lord is continually showing me, ‘Cassandra, you can’t expect to have that solid relationship when you’re not taking steps to have that.’… And I believe she chose me, but am I willing to accept that?”

Meet Lauren

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“I dated one guy for three years, and I was like, ‘this is it. We’re going to get married in December 2016 and have kids in 2017 and we’re going to do this, this, and this’… And when we broke up, I was like, ‘well, that was my plan. What am I going to do now? When will I do all of these things?’ I had to realize that’s not always what God wants… and I’m not saying life is 100% perfect, but it’s turned out so much better than what I had in store for myself.”

“I identify myself as a Christian. I have a relationship with God. But I also view myself as a feminist. And I think a lot of the times, people don’t think those two go together. People say, ‘Oh, well, in the Bible, it says women should be subservient to their husband.’ And I agree with them, but I think it also goes both ways. I think in a relationship, you work together. You serve him and he serves you. He leads you and you can show him things, as well.”

“One of the biggest lies is that being attractive is one of the most important things you can be. Think about how much money we spend on makeup alone. I remember being at CVS, which is still pretty cheap for makeup, and I’m complaining to a girl there even though I’m the one buying the makeup. I’m buying the tinted moisturizer and mascara, and I remember saying, ‘Why is this so expensive?’ and the girl behind the counter was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t spend money on something I’m going to wash off of my face at the end of the day.’… That’s what my money’s going towards, and it’s because I want to look a certain way.”

“I had always been that bubbly, ‘Oh, everything’s fine! Sunshine and roses!’ girl, like nothing was wrong. But then my mom died, and when someone would be like, ‘Oh, how are you doing?’, I’d think they don’t really care because my mom just died like two weeks before. So I’d say everything is fine… I wasn’t really handling it. I acted like everything was just fine. I went back to school two weeks later and didn’t tell anyone… I thought that if I was vulnerable, I’d be looked at like I was weak.”

“I’m a very anxious person, and I feel like I need to be able to sometimes be that person… I remember talking to my dad about it and he’s like, ‘Oh, well, don’t be anxious.’ Okay, let me turn my anxious button off now (laughs)… I just need people to realize that I do have anxiety and I’m trying to work on that.”

Meet Jessica

11138551_336048809919186_129121481167456762_n“[My stepdad] threatened to divorce and it was really rocky having to deal with that… I had to deal with my mom crying all the time and my sister, who was five at the time and didn’t understand anything. So I prayed to God… and God did a lot of the work and he changed my dad’s heart. That was foundational for my faith because entering into college, I was into the drinking and partying scene yet I already knew my God and what he did for my life. I knew he answers prayer and he cares for me and he has done a great work in my life, helping my dad and my family… So I began praying, ‘This is so rough, God. I’m really in this scene. But God, will you take it away and do something? Because I don’t think I can do it on my own.’ ”

“There’s such an emphasis in the Western culture on logic, reason, and science. We have to prove everything. This culture doesn’t really believe in the spiritual things, and it’s almost dumb if you do believe in it and you’re smart if you don’t believe in it… There’s hundreds and thousands of testimonies of angelic activity and spiritual bad activity…  But it just gets filtered through our belief system, like ‘I choose to reject this because of what my culture has brought me up in. It’s not logical to believe these things.’ ”

“I love the feminist movement, as far as rights and voting and stuff like that. But I also think it can be very dark and pressure them to get a job when they need to stay at home with their kids. Their heart’s desire might be to stay at home, but society is pressuring them to be successful. There’s also women who really pursue business and leadership and they do really well, but they realize they wanted to have a child… It’s hard to be a woman when it’s almost like there’s women against you, trying to make you not embrace your femininity and desire kids and value that.”

“I think until I’m twenty-six, I want to just be in this stage of discovery and figuring out who I am, what I’m doing, what I love, my calling, the destiny God has for me… So I just need support and love. I know there’s a lot of pressure to know what you’re doing right away and pursue it and check your IRA super early. And I want to do that, but time is precious. I’ll get there eventually.”

Meet Lindsey

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“Seeing a lot of stuff such as people being bullied or people suffering from anxiety hit pretty close to home. Especially now, people are getting bullied, and I think a lot of that has to do with being an outsider.”

“I think the media puts a lot of stuff out there — that you have to look like this, you have to do this to get attention. But I think that God makes you who you are because he loves you and he knows what’s he’s doing… I think that [women] should not just focus on looks. There’s a lot more to us, like personality.”

“I’m a very blunt person. I know that gets me in trouble. I’m very honest, and people take that the wrong way. I’ve lost friends over that. And I don’t fit it. I know I don’t fit in. I think that’s another hard part about being me. You have to be strong and realize that not everyone’s going to like you… You’re going to bend, but don’t let anyone ever break you.”

“There were times with my now ex-best friend when she had made mistakes and I told her that she was going to have to live with the consequences. She didn’t listen to me, of course… I think she saw me as more of a parent than a friend, and that’s another thing about me that gets hard. I look at the future, not just the moment. And I think a lot of people now think only about the moment… YOLO (laughs). You do only live once, but I don’t think that’s something to live by.”

Meet Tori

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“Pressure from society is hard. [We have to] play multiple roles — to play the stay-at-home mom and raise your kids in a certain way. But also to play the wife. But ALSO to play the entrepreneur and businessmen. But ALSO to play the yoga instructor who’s making sure you’re working out and keeping off the baby weight (chuckles). Oh, and you also have to wear your makeup and your hair has to be done… It’s hard, keeping all that balance. And that’s something that’s hard for me.”

“I’m very intentional with people, and I always kind of feel like I’m the first one to reach out. And even if I’m not the first, I’m the one that’s continually doing it. ‘Let’s go to this event!’ ‘Let’s go to dinner!’ ‘Let’s go get our nails done!’ Or ‘Hey, how can I pray for you?’…  I need people to pursue me, and I don’t mean romantically. I need healthy relationships.”

“I have a dream for what [community] could be, and it’s hard when reality isn’t meeting that dream. I have a dream of constantly being around women and brothers, just cooking meals together and going roller skating together… just doing life, and doing life WELL. Because you can do life with anyone, believers or non believers. But are you doing it well? Are you really encouraging each other? What are you talking about when you hang out?”

“I’m in a season right now where I really want to start dating, and that’s been tough — constantly having these thoughts come at me… At first, they can be good, like ‘Oh, I want a boyfriend.’ But if I don’t take it and discern it, kind of wipe away to what it is really and dig into it, then it can plant itself into my heart like a garden and a weed will show up! I can’t have no weeds! (laughs) So I have to take it and give it back to the Lord immediately. And that can be hard.”

Meet Brittney

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“It’s interesting that in God’s Word, a lot of it is about our hearts and the condition of our hearts. And I feel like a lot of girls neglect that. We’re all about making the outside look good and we’re always comparing ourselves to one another.”

“The one thing I’ve learned in this battle with insecurity and comparison is that God is our anchor. I think about that verse that says, ‘we have this hope as an anchor for the soul.’… The reason we’re so insecure is that we put our hope in things that don’t last. We’re looking for something secure, whether in relationships or our appearance… and Jesus is saying, ‘If you look anywhere besides me, you’ll never be secure.’ ”

“The hardest part about being me is I’ve made decisions and choices that are different than what most girls choose… And just because I haven’t experienced certain things doesn’t mean I’m naive or don’t have a life. It doesn’t mean I haven’t had my heart broken or been hurt or struggled. For some reason, people think, ‘oh, you haven’t had a boyfriend. You don’t know what heartbreak feels like’… Actually, it’s the complete opposite. I know heartbreak very well. How would you feel waiting year after year after year and not having the desire of your heart met?”

“Growing up in church, I very much struggled with living under legalism. I just felt like I needed to do better and be better. ‘Follow all the rules, be the good Christian girl.’ And I’ve just learned, especially in the past couple of years, that I screw up all the time… And I need the Lord reminding me that it’s not about doing better and being better… Yeah, I’m going to fall. Yeah, I’m going to mess up. I’m going to stumble. But that’s why his grace is there. He knows what’s going to happen. It’s not an excuse to sin, but it’s there for when we do.”

“Sadly, I think a lot of us pursue Jesus because of what we think pursuing Jesus will get us… But when we pursue him to get something, we either quit pursuing him or he takes it away and we get mad. We turn our back on him. ‘Why did God take this person?’ ‘Why did God take my job?’ We start questioning him because somewhere inside, we think, ‘Well, if I’m pursuing God, I should have wealth, health, and all these things.’… He doesn’t have to [bless us]. Just knowing him is abundant life.”

Meet Sarah Beth

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“I think that most of us are trying to figure out who we are and where we fit in. I feel like as a woman you’re constantly wondering, ‘okay, where do I fit in here?’ Because you always want to be accepted… There have always been seasons where I’m searching and feel very alone… but I also feel like that was when I figured out my identity isn’t in people. It’s in the Lord.”

“I have a lot of anxiety. I’m a very worrisome person… ‘Oh no, they’re mad at me!’ I’m that person, as if I’m five years old. I worry about that. I’ll be with a person and think, ‘Did I say something wrong?’ I’ll go home and not be able to sleep. I constantly have to say, ‘Lord, take this anxiety from me.’… And you know that quote, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’? I really do believe that. I think it tries to sneak in, and then worry sneaks in, too.”

“Marriage has taught me that you’ve got to give a lot of grace. There are days where I’m like, ‘Oh, he’s going to hate me by the end of the day’ because we’re women and we’re crazy… Relationships are messy, but I just really feel like as long as you know that and you’re pursuing the Lord together, all will be fine… He loves me like Jesus loves me, and I think that’s what you should seek in a marriage.”

“It’s really hard for me to have surface-level relationships because I did that for so long. It’s shallow and it’s hard for me. We all have stuff, and for so long I acted like I had it all together. That’s not a fun place to be and I don’t recommend it to people… I feel like because of that, I just need authentic relationships where we can listen and talk to each other and pray for each other.”

“I’m learning that [community] is not just in the church. It’s in other things. And I can’t just keep myself confined to the four walls. All my life, we were at church anytime the doors were open. And I feel like that’s great, but it’s not the only part of being a Christian. It involves doing things outside of [the church] and being a light in the darkness.”

Meet Elyse

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“I’m so passionate about my major being Communication. It sounds so cliche and the ‘easy’ major, but I think that’s why a lot of relationships and businesses fail. It’s because at some point there was a miscommunication. I would really like to learn the tools and be equipped to communicate effectively and impact the work field. I’m really passionate about women in the work force.”

“I would love to see women’s worthiness redefined and beauty redefined. We hear the cliche, ‘oh, it’s about what’s within.’ And I do agree with that. But I think a beautiful woman is secure in who God tells her that she is and she doesn’t have to know all the ins and outs of her identity… I think a beautiful woman is confident yet she gives grace to her imperfections.”

“I had really bad body image issues growing up, ever since I was little. And it’s funny that now I have a scar going down my abdomen. It’s kind of an ironic situation (laughs). Now I have a reminder I am imperfect. And coming to grips with that is really tough.”

“I’ve learned to be fully honest with God. I almost felt guilty explaining my frustration or that I was mad to God, but over time, I learned that it’s okay to say, ‘God, I’m mad. And I’m really not sure if you’re here. I truly don’t know if you’re real.’ I think honesty is the biggest thing.”

“I really feel like I’d like [God] to refuel my passions and give me more direction of where to go. I know that our passions are not an accident. What we’re drawn to is not an accident. But to have more direction of who he’d like me to be would be very beneficial right now.”

Meet Dresden

10361443_592238230908064_375153988415649589_n“I want to get married and I definitely want to have kids. I go back and forth about the job thing, though, because I’m in the process of getting two really good degrees… I like the stuff I study and it’s a good fit for me. But it’s not something where I’m like, ‘I can go all in for this all the time.’ I feel like there’s something more out there for me, but I’m not sure of what that’d be.”

“One of the things I struggle with is finding peace in situations that are not necessarily peaceful situations and also getting people to understand why I act a certain way about silly things. It’s not even really the hard things in life that I get anxious about… I was kind of the butt of the jokes for a while, which helped but didn’t help at the same time… No one quite understands, I guess, unless they’ve dealt with it… ‘Oh, she has anxiety. What’s wrong with that?’ “

“I’m very private. I kind of just keep everything to myself… That was one of the hardest things about the discipleship relationship I had because I knew that was a requirement for it to work. It took her a really long time to be able to get in there because people see me as one way, like ‘oh, she does everything she’s supposed to,’ and that’s not exactly who I am.”

“I just need people to be supportive of what I’m doing. And of all the things I’m doing. There are some people who are like, ‘Oh, it’s so great that you’re in school. You better not let that boyfriend get in the way.’ And then other people are like, ‘When are you going to move back home to be with your boyfriend?’ I just wish people could be like, ‘You’re doing a great thing and you’re going to come back and do an even greater thing.’ Don’t question what I’m doing. Just be like, ‘Good job.’ “

“I struggled a lot in high school with my friends going to Christian schools and their families being like, ‘Why aren’t you doing that? That’s what you’ve grown up with and that’s where you should be.’ But I’ve learned that you don’t need light in a light room. My school needs light. My teammates need light.”

Meet Krista

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“After college, I plan on going to [International House of Prayer] in Kansas City… Perhaps I’ll stay there and be a worship intercessor for the rest of my life, or maybe the Lord will call me elsewhere. But I know that when I go to IHOP in Kansas City, it feels like home. I feel a peace there. And I know the Lord calls me to go where the peace is… People go, ‘Well, you can be a worship intercessor here. You don’t need to go there. There’s an IHOP in Atlanta.’ But that’s what the Lord has called me to do! I know I hear his voice. I know he speaks to me. And I can’t disobey him… They might not understand until they see the fruit of it.”

“I know I don’t need to fit in and usually I don’t try to, but it’s hard when you have that pressure from society. I know not everyone will understand my personality and creativity… I feel like sometimes it’s easy to cave, but I just ask the Lord what he sees in me and what my identity is in Christ. And his voice is stronger than any other.”

“I think [God’s voice] was always there, but my confidence in him has grown. The ability to hear it has grown because I remember, ‘Oh, yeah… that still small voice is his voice.’ And that voice still rings true. Not the loud clanging voice that says, ‘You need to do this. You need to conform.’ No. I’m going to do what the Lord has for me. Nothing else matters.”

“Society has a lot of expectations of women — to get married, to have children. ‘You should be dating. Why are you single?’ And I am single because I want to be single! I don’t want to be dating someone when I feel like I’m going to go off and pursue my dreams. I haven’t met anyone who I feel like is my future husband so why would I pursue a relationship that isn’t what the Lord has for me?”

“I feel like in the music world — even in the Christian industry or especially in the Christian industry — women are looked down upon. ‘Oh, well you play piano, but you’re not this guy. He plays piano, so we’re actually going to hire him instead.’ Women are back-up vocals in the music industry… When there are women’s retreats and they hire a male to lead worship, I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’ There are so many women in the Church who are gifted with the ability to lead worship and praise the Lord. I feel like their voices shouldn’t be silenced.”

“With my family and even my extended family, it’s hard to be who I am because I feel like there’s always this expectation. I don’t know what it is, but… (laughs). I have this fear of being authentic and real with the people who really matter because what if they don’t accept that? That could hurt, you know?”

Meet Sarah

10370967_305801336277267_175882643126935382_n“I want to do long-term missions, for sure. And that’s something that definitely has been growing in my heart more and more over the past three years… I feel very confident that I’m going to spend a good chunk of my life overseas… which is a really interesting 360 from what I thought I was going to do.”

“I think it’s going to be frustrating when we go into the work force and have so many things we want to do. What if I get into a job that I think I’m going to love, and I like it but there’s something else I want to do more? Am I always going to be unsatisfied with what I’m doing? A lot of times, I wish I had just one passion.”

“My biggest struggle is being insecure in my relationships… I get scared when I feel like somebody else is creeping in and going to steal the people close to me… I just listen to lies that satan tells me. ‘Oh, they don’t really care about being your friend. You’re not worthy of being their friend.’… I don’t always feel like I deserve to have good friends or be held accountable by people.”

“This morning I was reading in 1 Peter and I was thinking about how it says women should have a quiet and gentle spirit. And I’m not quiet and I’m not gentle… I look at people who seem so sweet and so nice and love everyone. That’s a gentle and quiet spirit. And I literally have no clue of how to do that. How do you become that person who’s sweet and loves everyone?… And then there are all of my friends who are feminists and even feminists who are Christian, and they’re like, ‘You need to be assertive.’ How do you balance the two? How do you be assertive and independent but also gentle and quiet?

“I’ve learned a lot about vulnerability and accountability over the past year and a half from having a one-on-one discipleship relationship. But before that, I had no clue of what it meant to be vulnerable with people and be honest and open with everything. I feel like in my relationships, I compartmentalize. I talk to this friend about what’s going on in my family and I talk to this friend about what’s going on in my spiritual walk and I talk to this friend about what’s going on with school. I compartmentalize, and it’s like you’re imperfect in this one area with this person, but everything else is good.”

Meet Megan

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“I never wanted to teach (laughs). I was a Social Work major… I wanted to see God make beautiful things out of really broken kids… But I didn’t ever want to [teach]. God led me to it and asked me to trust him with it, and I do trust him. It’s been a painful process, but probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because I was being obedient to the Lord. And that always turns out good for us. I don’t know what it’ll look like. I don’t know if I’ll get into the classroom and actually love it or if I’ll not love it and do something else, still knowing I did what God asked me to do.”

“I didn’t grow up with a dad so I just grew up around women. It was normal to share your feelings all the time and cry because we all did it. But as I’ve grown up and gotten into relationships with men, I often feel like I’m too much or too emotional… I don’t know how to not be a burden to other people in being me and just sharing what I think. I don’t know where that balance is sometimes. And I feel like the women in my life can probably relate.”

“For the most part, if people ask me things or the Lord makes it clear I need to share something, it’s not difficult for me anymore. I think a lot of girls just need somebody to listen to them, to ask them how they’re doing and really care when they ask. It’s easy for me to forget how shallow my relationships were before I met the Lord and before I got into this community. I would never want to go back to that. And to imagine that most people are in those kinds of relationships is really heartbreaking.”

“I think depression might be something I have to walk through my entire life. I mean, everybody wants that instant miracle. But so far, that isn’t how God has wanted it to look like for me. At first, I was really angry about that because I would pray for other people to be healed and I would see them healed. And I was convinced he could do it for me, but he was just choosing not to… But the Lord has healed my hurt and the anger I felt towards him for letting it be part of my life. I don’t know how to explain it to anybody who doesn’t deal with it, but you just slowly come out of it and go back to normal for a little bit. There’s that lingering fear it’ll come back, but for the most part, this season has been so much better and so full of exciting things… Just being able to be excited for people is a huge gift to me because a year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to celebrate with other people.”

Meet Megan

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“Working in ministry, you don’t really see a lot of female worship leaders… The worship leader is generally a male, and it’s hard for me to be that leader because girls are typically made to be the ones who harmonize and sing ‘Oceans.’ ”

“When I’m with a group of friends who I know really well, I’m known to be talkative and bubbly and fun. But I can’t be that around people I don’t know as well. And that’s something I really struggled with this semester — feeling like I was ‘less’ because I’m not as outgoing as a lot of people. It reached a point where I just felt trapped inside of myself, feeling like I had a bunch of stuff to say but couldn’t say it.”

“It doesn’t bother me when I tell people what I’m struggling with or tell people what I’m thinking… I know that if someone doesn’t agree with me, it’s not going to bother me. I’m validated in my feelings because it’s the way I feel, and I’m okay with that. I guess I’ve found over time that when you’re open with people, it doesn’t freak them out.”

“I don’t really know what’s going to happen past this semester. That’s about as much of my life I have figured out right now (laughs). I have no idea of what I’m going to do this summer or next semester, but I guess I’m excited to see what happens to me. I’m in a place where I’m ready to let go of other things and just move past them, to just say, ‘whatever you want to do with me, that’s fine.’ … I think that one of my resolutions is definitely to focus more on school and focus myself on doing all I can to prepare myself for what God is calling me to do in the future.”

Meet Tina

10846485_296590733864994_1898167636634757971_n“I helped at this call center and the calls we would get would be heart wrenching. Women would be beaten and calling for help, or young girls would be like, ‘My dad is raping me. I don’t know how to get out of this situation.’ It really broke me. And when I moved back here, I couldn’t find anything in the area that was like that. I think I went through a depression for a while just because there’s people out there who need help.”

“There’s so many things they say you can’t do because you’re a girl. You’re looked at differently if you want to do certain things. For example, I’m looking to go to Europe in September… I was planning on going by myself originally. I’ve been saving and I hit my goal last week, actually… But my parents were freaking out. And the people I told were like, ‘Oh my gosh, you can’t go by yourself!’… There’s so much fear because you’re a girl… It really shapes who we are as a sex. It’s very crippling, I think.”

“I think some people, like my friends and people who know me like my family, look at me and go, ‘Oh, she’s Tina. She’s got it. She thinks a lot. She’s set.’ But I think sometimes I am scared of making the wrong decision, and I think so much about stuff to make sure it’s right. I wish I didn’t do that sometimes… The trust aspect [with God] kind of goes away when I think so hard about everything and myself.”

“My boyfriend and I broke up three months ago and we were together for like four years. And he was the only person I was really vulnerable with because I was with him for so long… But I don’t feel like I can be that with anyone else… I’ve always felt like people are going through their own stuff so they never want to hear about my stuff.”

“I haven’t heard from [God] in a minute. It’s not depressing, but I… I feel kind of lost. And I’m not one of those people who’s like, ‘I can’t hear him. He’s not real.’ I think that’s stupid (laughs). That’s just not who I am. But it’d be nice to hear something and be given some sort of direction.”

Meet Caroline

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“I feel like people are always like, ‘You’re so bubbly and happy all the time!’… But I’m really not like that. And I feel like I have to be that for people just because that’s what they think I am… Recently I’ve started to feel things. I’m like the Grinch! ‘Ah, I’m feeling!’ I’m a very emotional person, and I’m just now finding that out about myself. Things make me sad and some things make me really happy, and I’m starting to be able to show that to people and express my emotions to people. I’ve never been able to do that before.”

“I’ve been in an awesome family my whole life, I’ve been in an awesome church my whole life, and I’ve been around awesome people my whole life. And I feel like I’ve just followed in that and never felt things for myself… Recently I’ve gotten to a place where I really need to seek God for myself and get some answers and find out who I really am.”

“I feel like God just made [women] really psycho (laughs)… Things tick me off so bad that should not. I’m really dramatic… I feel like a lot of girls are like that and I don’t know why.”

“I feel like a lot of my friends walk out when I need them the most, or they don’t really get it. They don’t really care about what I’m going through… I’ve had a lot of past hurt in relationships and stuff, so I really want a lot from relationships… Ask to spend time with me, ask how I am, ask what I’m going through! A lot of times I’ll tell someone something I’m going through and they’re like, ‘Oh, I’ll pray for you!’ But then I never hear from them again.”

“The beginning of the year, I was in a big mess. My life was just a disaster… And for me to come to people in the church and be like, ‘Help!’ and then have them be like, ‘Okay!’ was really awesome. I’ve come to a point where I know none of us are perfect. But I still feel like when people walk into the church, they’re like, ‘Oh, let’s put on our happy faces! Everything is perfect here.’ And it’s not.”

Meet Jennifer

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“I went to Kenya when I was nineteen for the first time, and I saw how little they have and how much they give… There was a time when we had to give out book bags with school supplies to kids who didn’t have school supplies, and getting ready for that was a pain… But then when we got to the place and pulled all of the book bags out, the kids started cheering and I started crying. I realized that giving all that I could to get there — giving all of my time and money and energy and emotions — was worth it.”

“One thing I think about emotions is… you don’t want to be lustful or jealous or bitter, and you see those in the Bible as sins. But it’s hard to tell someone, ‘You can’t feel that.’ I think I trip up on that a lot because you can’t just turn off feelings… We don’t really talk about jealousy besides to say, ‘It’s not good. Don’t be jealous.’ Or ‘It’s not good to lust, so just don’t do it.’… How do you actually do that? How do you actually not feel?”

“Sometimes there are people in your life who you don’t want to share with. They’ve criticized you enough to where you’re hurting from that. They’ll say, ‘You tell too much’ or ‘You are too open and too vulnerable. Stop.’… A lot of times people will say something hurtful and it’ll stay with you for a long, long time… It still hurts. But then you have to think, ‘Okay, maybe this person thinks of me this way, but not everyone does.’ Sometimes it will just take a lot of people encouraging you and saying, ‘It’s okay that you talk about this. It’s okay you’re still dealing with this although you feel like it’s been way to long. And I want to hear what you have to say even if they don’t.’ It’s sad that it takes one person to make you feel terrible and then twenty people to go over that.”

“I was a pastor’s daughter. My dad’s still a pastor, but I’m not there. Everyone knew who I was and what I did. I helped with youth so all of them were looking up to me to see what I was doing and all the leaders were making sure I was doing the right things. And I felt like I could never fail or mess up. I felt like everyone expected me to be perfect, and that was really hard. But then, after a while of not going to my dad’s church and not helping with youth, I didn’t feel as ‘watched.’ I didn’t have to put on a show or do everything right.”

“A lot of times, especially when you finish college and work is all you do, the years will go by and you’ll think ‘what just happened?’ … It’s really easy when you don’t have homework to waste your time. At night, when I get home from work, I’ll get on Facebook and play a game and watch TV. And then that just happens everyday until a month goes by and I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m on level 300 of Candy Crush and I’ve pinned 5000 things, but have I done anything else with my life? No.’ … I think about getting to heaven and God being like, ‘Let’s see what you did with your time. Let’s see what you did with your money. Let’s see what you did with your relationships.’ And I do not want God to be up there, saying, ‘Oh, you spent years on the Internet and years watching TV, and like one year on telling people about Me.’ ”

Meet Donna

10356421_566599220138632_8727151744441402181_n“I never thought I’d be a teacher… and then I ended up becoming one, and I love it. I can’t imagine anything else I’d want to do with my life. The rewarding part is just seeing the kids accomplish their goals… just seeing them do something athletically or getting into college or getting scholarships… There’s definitely some challenging students that make life interesting (laughs), to say the least. But also, I think the bureaucracy of it — paper-work and lesson planning and things you have to show to the administration that don’t make a difference to what you’re actually doing in the classroom — I think things like that are the most difficult part.”

“Media has told us that we’re not supposed to be [imperfect]. I think that what we’re shown all the time is that we’re supposed to be perfectly skinny, we’re supposed to be perfectly dressed and perfectly made up at all times, have it all together and have the good job and have the good man in our lives to take care of us. It’s everything we’re shown and everything we’re fed through social media and through movies and through music — that we have to be this petite little Barbie doll, which is impossible to be.”

“There are lots of different types of people in the world, and unfortunately some of the parents of my kids give them, my students, whatever they want without any real consequences. And once the real world hits, I worry for them. I’m worried that their expectation and what they’ve been taught doesn’t translate into the real world because they’ve been given everything they want or desire.”

“I’ve seen single parents so often criticize the other parent in front of [their child], and that breaks my heart because that child is part of both of you. So basically you’re criticizing fifty percent of your child. That upsets me so much because that child is going to feel that and act out later. Brandon was really young when my ex-husband and I separated… and I’ve always made it a point to not say anything critical about his dad in front of him because it’s still his dad and he still loves him. He deserves to have that good relationship.”

“I have a hard time accepting help, and I need it sometimes. I’m always that shoulder to cry on and that listening ear, and sometimes I need to receive that from people… Being a single parent and being a parent in general, you’re always the one in charge. Sometimes you need to take a step back and let other people take care of you.”

Meet Sehar

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“I feel like there’s a tendency for women to not be vulnerable… And it makes them feel alone. Sometimes I don’t want people to know I’m struggling with body image or struggling with this because it just makes me seem vulnerable to other people. Everyone wants to keep up that image of, ‘Oh, they’re doing well in life!’… As a woman, I feel alone just because I don’t want to be vulnerable.”

“I struggle most with being good enough for myself because I hold such high standards for myself. I just want to keep improving, and it’s hard because I do struggle with body image. I’m constantly beating myself up over what I’m eating, what I’m not eating, and what I’m doing. I take it personally, like, ‘Why can’t I do this right? Why can’t I be healthy and stay consistent?’ And I look at other people and I’m like, ‘Why can they eat whatever they want? Why does it not matter?’ But that’s just something I struggle with that I’m still working on — finding a good balance.”

“When you live with someone and you see them all the time, you kind of forget to appreciate them. Especially with a sibling, you go through different phases of hating each other and then spending less time together so you appreciate them more… With my brother, I feel like we’re at this place where we’re both really busy with our lives… And we hang out and we’re cool, but we don’t actually share our struggles or share our accomplishments as much, unless we’re like rubbing it in each other’s face (laughs). They’re just there. It’s easy to think of them as just your sibling living in your house. You don’t see them as a friend, and you have to break down that barrier.”

“I’m a very nurturing kind of person and I’m the kind of person who will do things for people. I’ll paint things and make things and bake things for them, and those are really time-consuming. I feel like people don’t really realize the effort I put into them… I want to know I’m appreciated for the things I do because with that comes other things, like knowing you’re loved. Especially in this stressful time of the year as I’m about to start studying for my MCAT, applying for medical school, and then doing research on the side, the last thing I need is to worry about if I’m loved or if people care. You want to have that good support system.”

Meet Grace

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“I think it’d be really cool to change what is going on in our society and in other societies with social justice issues. I’d love to see sex trafficking end in our generation and I’d love to see poverty be decreased and diseases like cancer be cured. I’d love to be a part of that change, to be able to tell my kids that this is what we did. This is why their generation is the way it is now. I want to make a mark.”

“I think that pressure to be the perfect woman in order to fit in with society and be a functioning member of society is really hard. It’s discouraging because, like, where is the room for imperfection?… Appearance, I think, is for sure one of the hardest things about being a woman.”

“I try to help people so much that I rob myself of joy. I have a really bad habit of wanting people to be out of pain and hurt and suffering so much that I make myself be unhealthy so they can be healthy. I’ll make myself a doormat so people can be happier than me… I’ve seen how with me having this Messiah-complex, it’s just not possible. I can’t fix people.”

“I don’t want people to worry. I don’t want to be a burden. In high school, I struggled with depression and stuff and no one would know because I just put a smile on my face every day. I didn’t want to have to explain myself to people or have them worry. I wanted to be the one helping them and being there for them… Still now, I hate asking for help, and that’s such a pride thing.”

“I think I want to be more authentic with my brother because I’ve shut him out for so long… I haven’t had as close of a relationship with him as I could have. I just put on this happy-go-lucky feel because he’s been through a lot and I don’t want my issues to burden him… I do want to break down the walls between us, but I’m so used to seeing him with his issues and not letting him know mine.”

Meet Bimbola

10801622_289510951239639_4342269214984368515_n“With photography, my goal isn’t to just take pictures, and I feel like people might feel that way when I have my camera and I’m clicking camera buttons in their face. But it’s not. I’ve sat and thought, ‘What is my purpose and my drive from the Lord, a Biblical drive, for why I take pictures?’ And I remember that I thought, ‘I want to capture beauty, not pretty.’ I feel like pretty is just face-deep and beauty is internal and external. I want people to look at their pictures and think, ‘Wow, I’m beautiful.’ And any hurt they may have felt… any verbal hurt that people may have told them about their physical appearance… I want them to look at those pictures and think, ‘That is not me. I am who the King says I am.’ “

“Some days I don’t feel like dressing up and some people may look at me like, ‘Oh, she’s a tomboy,’ ‘she’s a slob,’ or ‘she doesn’t take care of herself’ because I don’t fit the stereotype of how a girl is supposed to be and how she should dress… I have to get past that. People are people. They have opinions. And I can’t change people. I can just love people. If they’re going to judge me, that’s fine.”

“I don’t like vulnerability at all. I feel that if I am vulnerable, people have things to use against me… I don’t know if I should really blame it on high school, but… I just felt like if I said something in confidence, it could end up somewhere else. And that just made me terrified. My head will talk to myself and I’ll come up with these thoughts like, ‘No one wants to hear what you have to say. You just have to listen to everybody.’ ”

“I think I’ve relied on people for so much that I should rely on God for. I feel like I may rely on people a lot to tell me my identity and remind me of who I am, but that’s not their job.”

Meet Kristen

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“Just because I’m a petite, preppy, bubbly young woman, they go, ‘Oh, I can see you as a teacher!’ Well, I could also be a politician. I could be President, I could be a lawyer, I could be anything I want! I’m just choosing to be a teacher because I have a passion for it. I’m not choosing it because I’m a woman.”

“The hardest part about being a woman is the feeling that we have to be perfect. I’ve seen that time and time again. You have to be perfect, you have to look it, you have to be a certain size… and that’s not true.”

“For a majority of my teenage life, I was anorexic. I had a really bad eating disorder. But I didn’t tell anyone. I was alone… I have to remind myself that that’s not who I am now. I’ve overcome that. I’m so much better than that now. And it hurts because I have so many confidence issues that come back from my past, and the reason I have confidence issues is because of things boys have said to me.”

“I need [people] to be genuine with me. I need to be able to trust them. Because I have so many trust issues, if someone is not genuine with me, it can completely break me… There’s been so many people who have abused my niceness in some way. It’s not easy having a soft heart… I’ve been someone that people can push around, and I won’t say anything… At some point I just can’t take it anymore.”

Meet Victoria

10672435_562347597230461_1879741866435095561_n“Tap is my passion… I love music, and with tap I feel like I can put my own voice on top of the music. The music can be saying something, but you can be saying something different… It could be loud if you’re angry, or it could be soft if you’re just kind of mellow. And people understand.”

“The hardest thing about being a woman is having to fill society’s view of a woman’s role when you’re not like that. I’m a tomboy, I’ll admit that. And I love sports. But at the same time, I have to wear a dress and ‘be a girl’… Dance is very girly. Like ballet, pink tights, and leotards… Just being feminine is hard for me.”

“I don’t like college (laughs), but I don’t like school so I kind of expected to not like it. Living at home is hard, and I’m trying to transfer to another state. I’m kind of just here to get there. I’m kind of just seeing it as a transition when I should be seeing it as ‘let’s meet new people.’ ”

“I’ve had people I’m close to go to college and be like ‘Oh, we’re going to stay friends!’ No. Doesn’t happen… I put a lot of effort into friendships and I feel like I never get that back. It’s just something I’ve lived with and something that bothers me a lot.”

Meet Savannah

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“I really just want to lead worship and lead people to the throne on a regular basis. And be in the local church and know people’s stories and live life with them and be able to lead them in that. I think touring would be amazing… but I especially always want to be in the local church and know people and love people through that… I just want to live a big life. I want to see the Lord in all His facets I can possibly take in.”

“It’s hard being a girl… I want to be this career-driven, accomplished woman, but at the same time, I do want to be the mom and the wife and be the biblical woman… Women are like, if you’re a mom, then you’re not enough. And if you’re a career woman, then you’re coldhearted and not warm enough.”

“I’m not a really emotional person, I guess. And I think through a series of circumstances in high school, I became more and more closed off and I didn’t like anyone to really know what was going on with me… God has really revealed to me that it’s okay to be broken. It’s okay to not have it all together all the time.”

“I think community is something that is so important and I’ve lacked that for a while. I need community with people who really want to do life with you. They want to rejoice with your rejoicing and grieve when you grieve.. And I do have those, just not in close proximity.”

Meet Chelsea

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“I have encountered people who aren’t very fond of me because of my personality. I can be really harsh sometimes, not in a sense where I’m mean to people, but just in a sense where I don’t sensor myself… I would say men are judged more for their actions and women are judged more for their intentions and thoughts… And part of that may have to do with how women are just now learning how to speak and voice their opinion.”

“I consider myself a feminist in the traditional sense of feminism. The whole root of feminism is the fact that men and women should be equal. But I think that feminism is the same way I feel about religion — has good intentions, but is corrupted… People are starting to forget the meaning of feminism. Instead of seeing it as equality, some women take the extra step and they confuse people with what they actually want.”

“My mom and I have a very close relationship, but we’re very different from each other in the fact that she’s very traditional, very much a homemaker, and she looks at gender roles as very specific… I have quite an edgier personality and some things I do wouldn’t agree with my mom very much… Sometimes I think things that I understand she won’t understand, so I won’t be very open with her on that particular thing… I wish she understood me a little more and I understood her a little more.”

“I don’t think I really fit into one stereotype… If you want to stereotype me, then I guess I hang out with preps, really religious people, really atheistic people, potheads, druggies, and perfect valedictorian type of people. Anyone who is kindhearted I will hang out with. I think because I hang out with so many different kind of people, I adopt different mindsets… and it all kind of blends together in me.”

Meet Ryan

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“Women tend to make up expectations for themselves that they think society has for them, but it’s just kind of self-imposed. And that can look like a million different things. I think at twenty-four, a lot of people expect me to at least be in a serious relationship if not married. That’s how a lot of my family members have been. But I’m just not there yet. I like traveling and not having to worry about that.”

“I’m really hard-headed so I like to be able to do everything on my own and not really need any help. But that’s just not how life works. I think I learned that the hard way… Just walking through different things and losing my mom and stuff like that, I tried to be strong and not really need any people. I tried to not even rely on God for that… Eventually someone talked me into going to counseling and I discovered I was clinically depressed. But I hated that because it was something I could not fix on my own. I initially viewed it as a weakness and was kind of mad at myself for it… I just had to suck it up and deal with it and embrace it.”

“I don’t really follow the same life structure as the rest of my family… I’ve been in and out of school, working different jobs, but I love it… because of that, I’ve had the opportunity to travel and… I just love meeting new people and experiencing new cultures, even if it’s just in another state. My best friend and I just randomly bought plane tickets earlier this summer and flew to California and spent a week there. And it was so cool just to see how they do life there and experience a culture that isn’t Southern Bible belt.”

“I think that I have grown up a lot and that kind of helped change some of my views toward the Church. And some of that is realizing the Church is people and people are human… and you can’t expect perfection out of them. Church isn’t going to be perfect. That’s what Church is about — being imperfect people together, seeking Christ. I think that’s taken a lot of laying down my pride.”

Meet Tricia

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“I think that we take care of everything, we handle everything, we do everything and yet we don’t always get the credit for everything… I see that in the workplace and I see that in family life.”

“I’m pretty upfront and honest with people. You either like me or you don’t… I don’t want people not to like me, yet I don’t care enough to change it.”

“I would probably go back to school and choose a different career. I’d probably become a lawyer or an accountant… But at this stage of life with where I’m already at, it’d just be too overwhelming to put myself through it. I’m content with the way things turned out… but if I had the chance or if things were different, I would’ve done it.”

“I think that I care too much in the areas that don’t need it and I need to let go and enjoy life. It goes by too fast and before you know it, it’s gone. What do you have to show for it?… Did you have a good time? Did you do something meaningful? Did you have meaningful relationships? Did you laugh along the way? You know, because you’re gonna cry (laughs)!”

“I deal with my hurts in my life with anger (laughs). And when I don’t get my needs met, I get even more angry. I need to focus more on myself, even though I know that sounds selfish in a weird sort of way, and not to be so worried about everyone else. They’re going to make their choices and I need to focus more on myself, which is hard for me because I’m a caretaker. I guess I’ve got a lot to learn.”

“There is nothing in your control, and the minute you think something is in your control, you’re going to be proven wrong… Emergency surgery last year for myself, a broken leg for husband and out of work for almost four months… I can look at a friend whose dad passed away from a heart attack… It doesn’t always have to be bad things. It can be good things. But nothing is ever in your control, and stuff can get taken from you in a heartbeat… My personality struggles with that! I’m a control freak (laughs).”

Meet Janet

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“I like being a woman so I don’t see any of it as hard! Maybe trying to explain to a man what I meant (laughs)! Switching careers to being a full-time homemaker and mom — THAT was the difficult part. It wasn’t that I had to compare myself to other men. The WOMEN in my life didn’t see my job as viable or as important as what they were doing nine to five. And I had to do mine twenty-four seven!”

“In years past, I probably tried to be perfect, and now that I already am (laughs)… Just kidding! But now that I realize being perfect is not all it’s cracked up to be, I don’t attain to that. I’m the best me I can be.”

“Decades — each one is different. Just like there are different seasons in our lives. For me, now that I’m empty-nested, I’ve got grandchildren, believing and hoping for great-grandchildren one day (laughs), I have more time to be able to pour into the next generations. And that’s my sweet spot. Because of that, I can say no to all the other stuff I’m not supposed to be doing.”

“I wanted to sing and dance and perform when I was young. I didn’t get to do that, not in the platform I was hoping to. But when I taught, I did get to perform. And then I also get to do that in ministry. It’s there.”

“Stay in the moment. Stay in the day. We’re only given the day. I struggle at times to do that. I am a planner… One of the healing things for me was recognizing what my limitations are. If I get tired, I get cranky and I’m just not nice to be with!”

“One of the things that I would like to do in the last third of my life is travel… I want to see the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore… I’d like to see Europe and see all the cathedrals there… There’s just so much to see. But Israel’s a good start.”

Meet Mariah

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“When I got my hair cut recently, [my hair] was really short. I came home and my mom was like, ‘You don’t look feminine. What happened to your hair?’ … Excuse you. I could get a mohawk or shave half my head and I would still be adorable and still be feminine… This is not the only thing that defines me as a woman.”

“In middle school, for the longest time I would just binge eat. I was watching all my friends getting curves… boobs, butts, and hips. And I’m over here like, ‘I can see my ribs’… I cried in dressing rooms when I was a kid because I was fourteen and could still fit in the kid section. The ‘skinny bitch’ thing is something I’m accustomed to. Now its like, ‘Hey, we probably shouldn’t glorify skinny women, so let’s demonize them instead.’ And I can’t help it anymore than most people can help their weight!”

“It’s bad enough to spread hatred; it’s worse to spread hatred in the name of God… I don’t know much about religion, but I’m pretty damn sure that’s not what it’s about… You’re entitled to have your opinion. You can be against abortion… just as much as I can be be pro-choice. You can have those beliefs all you want, but that doesn’t give you the right to impose it on people who have made a decision opposing you.”

Meet Julia

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“The most frustrating thing for me about being a girl is… it would be so scary for me to just jump on a plane, go to a foreign country, and just travel on my own. I wouldn’t go to a concert all on my own or explore Atlanta all on my own. And that’s frustrating for me because I love to be independent, but you can only be independent to a certain extent before it becomes dangerous.”

“No one is exactly like me, which I’m learning is a beautiful thing. But it’s been hard to come to terms with the fact that no one will ever be able to be like ‘Oh, I understand that! I know what you feel’ with a combination of everything … I’m the only person who fully understands me.”

“I’ve had a really great support system throughout most of my life. In eighth grade, I made really great friends and we were just very vulnerable with each other as a friend group… And I think the Lord really blessed me with that… I never really got a lot of bitterness towards being vulnerable because in those formative times, I was able to ‘be’ freely.”

Meet Heather

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“I want to have a family. I want to be a stay-at-home mom. And I know with just the way our society is, becoming such feminists, everyone’s like ‘We can work, we can do this. We don’t have to be stay-at-home moms or that stereotype.’ But I want to!”

“God has been showing me that His plans for me are still true… Just because I’m not off married already or I’m still in school and things completely fell through and I had like five mental breakdowns (laughs) doesn’t mean that His plan isn’t there. His plan that He’s had for me forever is always going to be there no matter how my plans change.”

“If you’re a woman in a church, you have to be an administrator. That’s your role… And I hate that… It’s so weird when people are like ‘you can’t do that. You’re not allowed to do that. That’s not what women are allowed to do in churches. Women can’t speak….’ Well, then what are these passions that God has placed on my heart going to be used for if apparently all I can do is administrative work?… There’s not as many opportunities for women to step up and do more in ministry.”

Meet Angelyn

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“I feel like it sort of makes me a better person, but if I didn’t join a sorority, I think I’d be okay. I went to my first party because of my sorority… It wasn’t that fun… Everyone’s dancing and grinding. Drinks in the hand, beer’s flying everywhere (laughs)… Lots of new experiences. I’m not as sheltered anymore… I’m just getting the real world as it comes I guess.”

“I have to be put together all the time. And it’s because I feel like everyone’s constantly looking at me… Especially in my position, people have to come to me for answers and I feel like they will judge me if I’m not at my best… I wish I could be like other girls and, you know, just go out in yoga stuff. I don’t wear yoga pants… Some girls can go a day without makeup. I can’t do that.”

“What do I need from people? I just need them to be accepting… I like compliments about my clothes and my hair and stuff, but I like when people compliment my work… and just show interest in what I do rather than what I look like.”

“You should just not care what anyone else says. I wish I could do that. I wish I could be Angelyn who wears Keds instead of whatever I wear… I wish I could wear yoga pants without feeling like I’m not Angelyn. ‘Oh, what’s wrong with Angelyn today? She’s wearing a t-shirt… her hair’s not done. Something must be wrong.’ People just need to not care. Be yourself.”

Meet Jasmine

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“What do I want to do with the rest of my life? Well, you know I’m joining the Air Force. Growing up I lived in an Air Force family so travel was a big part. And I firmly believe that life is not meant to be lived in the same place. You’re not a tree; you don’t have roots… I wanted to do nursing, but I want a family and I don’t want to be in school for so long… And I just hate school in general (laughs). Air Force has just always been in the back of my mind so that’s why I decided to join.”

“With my parents there are some things I just don’t feel like I can tell them, which is sad… I’m at that stage in my life where I want my parents to be friends now… Right now I need guidance, not teaching… If I wasn’t afraid of being vulnerable with my parents, I would just tell them everything, you know? Nothing would be held back, and it’d be relieving to not have to worry about what I’m saying or how I’m saying it.”

“I’m a really good listener. I’ll sit and listen to you guys for hours and love it. I’ll take in every word and not care, you know? But I don’t get that as much and I feel like I need it.”

“I feel like what draws people away from religion the most is when we put them on the spot and make them feel awkward… I don’t want people to feel bad and not want to confide in me because I’m a Christian.”

Meet Whitney

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“I don’t think I’ll ever know what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I know I want to be a servant of Jesus Christ and work wherever he puts me… Children’s ministry is my heart and part of missions is my heart. So both of those together would be a perfect combination. I can’t tell you where I see myself after graduation, but it’s with a job (laughs).”

“We see all these celebrities and magazines and posts on how we should look one way and if you don’t look that way, you’re like a failure. So I used to compare myself a lot to other people, and within the last year I’ve realized, ‘Nope. I am who I am. God made me who He wants me to be and I need to accept that and embrace it.’ ”

“I have a twin sister, and for all of my life, we were kind of dependent on each other. It’s a little later in life, but I’ve learned that I am an independent woman. I can do it. I’m glad I’m not where I used to be two years ago. I’ve found myself becoming more outgoing… I’m more willing to try new things than I was, even without my twin by my side.”

“I struggle with a lot of people’s opinions. And if they’re negative opinions, I take those to my gut… I’m always trying to fix myself to appeal to others, which is a flaw in my eyes and is something I’m working on daily.”

Meet Allison

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“I think one of the hardest things about being a girl is being sensitive. I know that, particularly for me, that’s really hard because I’m extremely sensitive… I feel happiness really deeply. I feel joy, I feel love, I feel pain really deeply… It’s easily misunderstood and easily taken advantage of.”

“I firmly believe this: people who feel the most joy have felt the most pain. I firmly believe that every joyful person has a story of sadness and heartbreak… I feel like people don’t take me seriously and don’t get it. Like they don’t believe it’s true… I have a history with self-harm and a lot of my friends didn’t even know that until this summer… and it took them off guard… People just don’t understand that. They don’t want to take the time to understand that people are deeper than one-dimensional.”

“Whenever I’m alone, I know I’m with Jesus. Like when I’m riding in the car, especially on really hard days, I’ll move all the stuff out of the passenger seat and off of the floorboards so Jesus can have room for his feet and he sits there. And sometimes I’ll talk to him and sometimes I won’t talk to him, but he sits there… And when I grow up and have a house in the mountains with my family and my child named Obadiah… I want to leave a place for Jesus at my dinner table. I really want them to know that his presence is in our house and his presence is welcomed at our table.”

Meet Kayla

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“The hardest thing about being a girl is always getting so many messages of what you should be. And not even just image messages… how we should act, how we should be, what is acceptable, what’s feminine and what’s not feminine… I’ve never been the most feminine and… do you remember in eight grade when I would wear boys’ clothes all the time? (laughs)… I don’t need to wear makeup. I don’t need to wear skirts. And I don’t need to feel bad about that or try hard to be that person.”

“I wish I could change my family, like the way they act towards each other… that’s the one thing that causes me the most stress and the most heartache in my life… If [my parents] are not happy with each other, it’s hard for them to be happy with us… It’s just changed the entire family dynamics. Like I remember when I was little in Massachusetts in first and second grade, everything was good and then it all just sort of fell apart and it’s been falling apart ever since then.”

“I trust my parents, but I can’t have real conversations with my parents… I feel like if I can’t share something with someone who made me and gave birth to me, then I can’t really share with anyone else.”

“Whenever people tell me they love me, that doesn’t mean anything to me. They need to show that they love me… my parents say they love each other and yet nothing has happened. They say they love me and yet nothing has happened. I just expect more, I guess.”

“I’d like to have more friends, but I’m not a very open person so I guess that makes it hard. It’s kind of hard at, like, twenty, to try to insinuate yourself into someone’s life and be like, ‘hey, let’s hang out!’… And honestly I don’t put a lot of effort into it. That’s just my mentality. ‘It’s not going to work.’ It’s just a vicious cycle.”

Meet Ife

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“Once you get older, I think the hardest thing is other girls (laughs)… We kind of do things not necessarily to impress everyone else, but to kind of stomp on other people around us. I don’t know. You’ll have people who are all feminists and they can’t even get the ERA passed because women just can’t agree on things like that… A lot of things that have to do with image or worth we base off of ‘am I better than them?’ ”

“I’m black and I’m a girl, but I don’t have very many black friends. And growing up, I always felt like ‘black’ wasn’t like being ME in school… Being in college, it’s like “oh, I’m Christian”, but some of my friends aren’t and sometimes it feels weird… And then with some of my Christian friends, it’s like ‘Oh, I’m not really like you either. I’m not super hipster.’ (laughs) … I’ve kind of stopped trying to be in different groups all at the same time.”

“I used to want to go to the Olympics and want to be the girl Michael Jackson. Not in every aspect, but, like, musically (laughs). And I used to want to do medicine and travel the world. I actually remember when I was in fifth grade, I would make my brothers sit down in the basement and I would preach to them… I used to always want to do everything.”

“I always try to not need anything, but I think I need… to be appreciated. Not necessarily for what I have done, but for what I CAN do. I really hate being somewhere where I want to help but what I’m able to do is overlooked or something like that.”

“I can just be really distant sometimes or even seem secretive because sometimes I don’t want to bother anybody… But I think, as far as being authentic, there are things you need to just open up and be vulnerable with.”

2 comments

  1. Pingback: Why I’m Pausing from the Authentic Project | Jessie Nyland
  2. Pingback: The Authentic Project – Week One | Jessie Nyland

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