Don’t be too loud. Smile more. Don’t wear that. Show more respect.
Between the cacophony of being told what not to do and what to do more, it’s hard for women to hear their inner voices.
Growing up in a conservative Indian household, I was constantly scolded into doing the “right thing” for fear of “what others will think.” My parents and community meant well, since they truly believed that reinforcing gender norms would result in my future happiness. After all, conforming meant being accepted, and what teenaged girl wants to be outcasted?
However, promising happiness through fear and censure is counter-intuitive. And for what? The comfort of others? The weight of expectations is enough to drive a saint up the wall.
Women fear the male gaze, so we dress “properly.” We fear being disliked, so we constantly “smile more.” It took me a long time, but I eventually discovered that making choices to please others is deleterious.
Fortunately for me, my conservative parents had a liberal outlook for female education, so I was constantly encouraged to read. As an adult, I’ve challenged myself to read books that well, challenge me to see myself as enough. Simple, but easier said than done.
Here’s a list of seven books that will help women (and really anyone) appreciate themselves and in turn be confident in themselves.
How To Be A Bawse by Lilly Singh
YouTube personality Lilly Singh shells some tough love on how to be a “bawse.” That is, someone who owns up to her mistakes and pushes herself to be the best. Singh candidly discusses her struggles with depression and self-esteem, pushing readers to confidently pursue their dreams.
Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis
Running her own successful company and popular podcast, Hollis knows a thing or two about female success. Confidence is difficult to gain, but Hollis shells out some tough love and bluntly tells readers to wake up and stop allowing the possibility of embarrassment to impede them.
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Everyone and their mother wants the secret sauce to Rhimes’s blockbuster success as the creator of audacious shows. Look no further than Year of Yes in which Rhimes walks readers through (drumroll please) her year of YES. This book is perfect for readers looking for the confidence to finally break free from their comfort zones.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert charmed the world with her memoir Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, giving everyone a sudden itch to visit Bali. In Big Magic, she walks readers through her process of inspiration and enlightenment. In a world that’s constantly looking outward, Gilbert encourages everyone to look inward for confidence.
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
The title says it all. In her blistering essay, Solnit critiques the gender dynamics at play during conversations between men and women. Riddled with her own experiences, Solnit expresses what many women feel about mansplaining and gives readers the tools and confidence to speak up for themselves.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Don’t let this book’s small size fool you. Adichie digs deep into the definition of feminism in this deeply personal essay. Using examples from her own life, Adichie urges readers to glean into the issues facing women today, especially those faced by women of color.
Who can forget Wong’s iconic Netflix comedy special in which she delivers a hilarious monologue while eight months pregnant? In Dear Girls, Wong has written some truly comical and touching letters to (you guessed it) her girls. She discusses her life as a comic and delivers the pearls of wisdom she’s acquired over the years.