I’m sorry for all the times I wanted to tear myself apart. I’m sorry for all the times I wished I was someone else. I’m sorry for all the times I wanted to be skinnier. I’m sorry for all the times I let my mind win, and beat myself up because of my insecurities. I’m sorry for all the times I spent caught up on my appearance, and in my own head, rather than embracing the beautiful woman that I am.

I will never be just a trophy wife. I will never stand behind a man. I will never let anyone define who I am, because I know who I am.

I have spent 19 years molding, and growing into my own skin. It took an extensive amount of time, courage, and dedication, but I am the happiest I have ever been.

I’m sorry for taking this long to realize it, but know, I’m also so proud. I’m proud of all the leaps forward I’ve taken. I’m proud of all the times I’ve fallen, because I got up each and every time.

I am a woman.

I am a strong, driven, doting woman.

No one will ever take that from me, I promise. Life is going to get difficult, I promise.

There will be times where I will forget that I am beautiful, I promise. There will be times where I will want to remain in bed, tangled in my sheets, binge-watching an entire season of a show on Netflix, I promise. I’m here to tell myself, and whoever else needs it: don’t.

Life is about getting out of your comfort zone, embracing life, love, and happiness. Learning to embrace life, love, and happiness is a choice, and I chose it all. As William Shakespeare wrote, “To be or not to be,” meaning, there is no other time other than now, so now is the time to be. Do things you never thought you would. Meet new people. Make the first move. Smile more. Laugh until you cry. Live in the moment. Love yourself. Shine your light, because it’s only yours, I promise.

This opportunity, to write for the Women’s Republic, is another step forward I have taken to embrace my femininity, and learn about a movement bigger than anything I’ve ever tackled. Feminism is more than just a political idea. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, feminism is clearly defined as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,” and while this is clearly true, this movement is bigger than just wanting equality.

Feminism is a celebration of women, their beauty, and their contribution to society. With this movement growing each day more and more, the empowerment I have seen between women has been striking, and incredibly inspiring. We must celebrate each other; we must build each other up, not tear each down. The same principle follows within ourselves.

We must build ourselves up.

We must empower ourselves.

We must learn to love ourselves, including the things we wish we could change.

We must embrace the lives we are given.

To past me, present me, and future me,

I love you. Keep growing. Keep learning. Brighter days will always follow, I promise.