My dad and I were sitting outside about half an hour before the sun began to set.  The sun was cutting sharp lines through the trees in front of us.  After bouts of laughter, we settled into a comfortable silence for quite some time, a kind of silence that I’ve always relished sharing with him.  Something about that moment became instantly profound and beautiful, as if my father’s wisdom and kindness were shown to me in the serenity of our surround.  It struck a chord that caused my mind to churn with thoughts that had laid dormant.

My thoughts centered on the “pressures” on women today. Countless conversations with my beautiful-precisely-as-they-are-inside-and-out-girlfriends swirled over and around each other in my head becoming a symphony of false and dangerous thinking. I heard their voices :

“I’m 25, I should have a better paying job by now.”
“I’m 30, shouldn’t I be married already?”
“I’m 35, I’m supposed to have children soon… but I don’t have the job I should have and I haven’t found the right man.”
“If only I were prettier/thinner/richer, then I’d be happier/I’d be married/everything would be perfect.”

I’ve been guilty of mulling over similar thoughts in the past; however, something about it never sat well with me and, with my rejection of this mindset, I had begun to feel alienated in my way of thinking.  It was as if I had initially drunk the Kool-Aid, but then I decided to spit it out.  I owed this rejection of socially imposed desires {things that others tell us to want, but that we may not actually want if left to our own devices} to my father.  Without him, I, too, could have careened swiftly down that rabbit hole.

Eventually, it was as if my own thoughts were so loud that my dad must have heard them.  My father turned his gaze from the calm before us and looked at me.  I caught his eye and he raised his eyebrow.  With that simple gesture, he released all of the thoughts that were tangled in my mind.  I began to speak slowly then all at once.  Words began pouring out of my mouth, while tears stung my eyes {a vulnerability, be it human or just very female, that I find myself afflicted by at the most inconvenient of times}.

“You raised me this way,” I began, “And I’m grateful for it… so grateful for it.  But it feels heavy, as if I have some kind of an obligation out there.”

He nodded at me to elaborate.  I wasn’t making much sense and I hoped that if I continued to speak that the words would find their way.  I felt so much like a child.

“There is so much that I want to do, Dad.  It’s as if it’s tearing at me.  I love my life right now more than words can express so I don’t want to sound ungrateful at all…  but I feel like I’m living by a very different set of expectations than a lot of other young women.  You raised me to create my own belief system. You raised me to be curious and you taught me to question everything.  You’re the reason that I don’t do well with direction and authority…”

He laughed.  There was nothing condescending in it.  He laughed like he was proud.  So I continued.

“You raised me to think.  You raised me to be…” I began to falter, searching for the word, “You raised me to be myself.”

He smiled and said, with his gentle firmness, “You’re brave. I raised you to be brave.”

With those words, something in me untied.  The knot I’d been feeling, the feeling of being driven in a different direction, a direction charted by an internal compass that rejected external demands, the feeling of wanting to give that same freedom to all of my friends and all of their friends and every woman that I knew, completely made sense.  The pressure that I had been feeling was simple: it was time to be brave.  I thought of the Robert Frost quote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

My dad then discussed the pressures that he saw placed on me {and other women} and he began to absolutely demolish them… restructure them… and turn them on their heads until I was able to clearly see what he had already grasped about my life and the lives of so many women: the “expectations” were absolutely ridiculous.  He explained that it takes unwavering courage to walk your own path in life; to be yourself, you must first be brave.  I realized, through my father, that I was not alone in my thinking; if he understood it so clearly, there must be other young women who felt precisely the way that I had been feeling.  Through sage advice, he unknowingly gave me a new list of expectations.  They’re paraphrased, but I wanted to share them with you in the hopes that they can become some of your new expectations {or that they offer you the liberation to create your very own}.  The bottom line is clear, as each expectation could be rewritten simply: Be Brave.

5 Expectations That Have Been Obliterated, Restructured, and Rewritten for Today’s Independent, Intelligent, Driven, Funny, Curious, and Brave Female

Old Expectation: There is an appropriate age at which to attain certain goals. A lady ought to be married before she hits 30 and have children shortly thereafter.
New Expectation: There are no timelines or deadlines to apply to your life.  Your obligation is to live your life on your own terms.
Each and every person {male and female} on this huge globe of ours has a very different life path, so there’s no way to apply a one-size-fits-all structure to your life.  What if you want to make a huge career shift at 29? What if you want to travel until your head explodes with all of the rad experiences you’ve gathered along the way? What if you want to experience your second {or third or forth…} childhood and you don’t see it involving children of your own yet {or ever}? What if you’re entirely single… and entirely happy about it? Any and all of these attitudes are fine.  As are wanting to get married and having children. You have to listen to what is already engraved on your own internal compass.  It takes bravery to set your own timeline {or to throw any idea of a “timeline” out the window}.  I’ve always loved the quote, “Be the hero of your own story.”  Well, be the heroine.  This is your story.  Maybe your white knight will come galloping into your life, but maybe you’ll be surprised and be your own knight in shining armor. To be a heroine, you must be brave.

Old Expectation: You have to look like the women on the cover of Cosmo to be considered attractive. You look nothing like her at all, you say? Well, best of luck out there in the world because you must be one horrifying beast of a woman.
New Expectation: You are attractive when you possess internal beauty and come to the determination that you are beautiful.
It is only when you are alive, on fire, and ready to be a brave force of a woman that you become indescribably attractive.  The key to this kind of beauty is that it’s been brought to life.  Your face, eyes, movements and attitudes will become lit from within by your internal beauty and take on a power that they didn’t have before.  If you are not internally beautiful, anything externally attractive about you will be like the surface of the lake: beautiful upon first glance, but covered in ripples with the slightest disruption.  It is this inner beauty that will allow you to recognize your external beauty.  It then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you look in the mirror and recognize that you are beautiful, this beauty becomes instantly recognizable to the rest of the world. Your beauty can be found in the way you carry yourself with your shoulders thrown back and your head held high.  It can be seen in the quiet intelligent gleam in your eye. It can be the way that you walk, the tone of your voice, or in your mischievous smile.  When you let your inner beauty animate your outer shell, you will be more than attractive; you will be captivating and your beauty will stand the test of time. To be this attractive, you must be lit from within. You must be brave.

Old Expectation: You must have a large bust, a tiny waist, and curvaceous hips to be physically desirable.
New Expectation: An appealing figure is one that is strong and able.
A body that is being put to use, well and often, will end up finding its most attractive shape, naturally.  If you focus on your health, embrace your sense of adventure, and love the body you have been given, then you’re likely an incredibly sexy woman.  If you let society dictate whether or not your body is appealing, you are leaving your physical appeal up to the fickle hands of time and tabloids.  Use your body for all it’s worth.  Get outside and run.  Drag your friends on the dance floor until you’re all giggling and sweaty {hot} messes.  See nature the way it was intended to be seen and trek through some unfamiliar terrain.  Try something new, something that scares you, something that requires you to be brave. To do your body justice, you must explore and jump and run and dance.  You must eschew the lying voice of the media.  You must be brave.

Old Expectation: His interests should become your interests so that he stays interested in you.
New Expectation: Forget about whether or not he loses interest… You will lose interest in your own life if you don’t develop interests of your very own.
Do not change for a man.  Create your own world. A woman without her own interests, passions, quirks, and curiosities is not much of a woman at all.  Find what makes you come alive and do it.  You must first open yourself up to this world to find what makes you tick.  This is a wonderfully terrifying thing to do, so you must be brave.  Do you find yourself drawn to a time past? Rock some vintage clothing and listen to music from that era.  Do your fingers itch with the need to create? Grab a canvas/a pen/paper napkin and paint/write/doodle until the itch has been scratched.  Do you want to know about other countries and cultures? Learn a language and buy a ticket.  Do you like to get lost in the labyrinth of your imagination? Curl up with one book after another until your mind can take no more.  Once you have created your world, welcome others into your life with a kind of cautious invitation.  If you do allow a man to come into the complex, intricate, and varied world that you have cultivated {and, trust me, once you are this fascinating you will have your fair share of curious men and suitors}, only commit to him if he can commit to making your world larger, not smaller.  The human experience is far too grand to enter into a partnership that fails to expand the world of the other.  To create your own world, you must be brave.

Old Expectation: Do what others tell you.  Obey the mainstream.
New Expectation: Do what you tell you.  Be brave.

{image found via Pinterest}


  1. Kim Rector Rickard says

    As I have mentioned to you before, “Advice From My Dad” is a book in the making. I appreciate your sharing with someone of us who were not fortunate to have fathers in our lives and for us women who know that beauty, aspirations, and goals are ever changing.

    • Kiki E says

      Kim, thank you so much! I think that would be incredible to someday publish a book of that nature. I am so glad that you liked the article… I feel fortunate to be able to share my dad with all of you.

  2. allison says

    Your dad is awesome! Just don’t tell him I said that. haha! I love this and I’m going to share it with my girlfriends when I finish typing this comment.

  3. Nicole says

    Just a tear for such a post ! une belle leçon de vie…. be brave and do all what you want if you respect other people. Thank you