Secret Deodorant believes you should never have to sweat your identity. So to celebrate Pride Month, here are nine inspiring stories from women who learned how to embrace being uniquely themselves:
1. "For 18 years, I hid who I really am."
I was so afraid of what other people would think or say about me being a transgender woman. Then, one day, I finally realized that my opinion on myself is the only one that actually matters and focusing on self-love is far more important than focusing on the hatred from uneducated bigots. When I was in high school, I openly identified as a gay male. People admired me for my confidence in being who I am, but secretly, I was still hiding my true identity. I have always known that I’m a woman for as long as I can remember. I have always felt this sense of dysphoria in the fact that I was born in the wrong body. However, I grew up in a small town full of small-minded people, and I was too afraid of facing judgment from others, so I kept my true self inside for years. In my senior year of high school, I began surrounding myself with people of all different identities and backgrounds on the internet. I was in group calls with these people nearly every single day, and they finally helped me realize that being true to myself is more valuable than trying to be true to how others feel. I am now a proud trans woman of color, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. —Zaya P.
2. "When I immigrated to the US, I had experiences that made me feel ashamed of my culture and identity."
I was made fun of for my food, for the way I mispronounced English words, for having a green card (green card jokes were big in the early 2000s), and for a lot of other things. Because of my experience, I believed that being an immigrant was embarrassing, something to be ashamed of. But as I grew older, I met people who were proud and vocal about their heritage and people who were eager and open to learn more about my culture. Seeing these people made me realize that I should be proud of my culture and it even encouraged me to be more vocal about being Filipino. I’m proud of who I am and where I came from! —Anne F.
3. "I realized that I had been living my life for other people and not myself."
I grew up in a small town in Kentucky. I learned from an early age that to fit in, you had to suppress everything that made you different. I tried so hard to have friends and have people like me, but quickly became defeated because nothing I ever did helped me to fit in. It wasn’t until I was 14 and moved to Los Angeles that I realized that I was never the problem. It was the people around me who had such an issue with seeing someone different from them that they felt like they needed to tell me I was wrong for it. Being queer and accepting my sexuality has been another huge part in my journey to self-embrace. When I started seeking advice and friendships from people within the LGBTQ+ community, my mindset changed completely. Someone told me to think about the seconds as I take my last breaths on this earth. What am I gonna be thinking about in that moment? I realized I would be regretting how I didn’t embrace myself more, and that I had been living my life for other people and accommodating them. This single scenario has changed the way I treat myself in my everyday life going forward. —DeVore Ledridge
4. "Over the past year, I learned to stop compartmentalizing interests and hobbies with certain friends."
I mostly kept quiet about what I was passionate about, fearing they'd either have no interest or think it was weird. But to my surprise, everyone was supportive and even got into the things I cared about, which was such a good feeling. It helped me feel confident to dive deeper into my hobbies and grow creatively. (If you're wondering, the hobby was writing fanfiction!) —Emily C.
5. "When I first started dating women, it kind of happened by accident. I didn't ever have a major revelation of like, 'Oh god, I'm GAY!'"
Instead, I just had a ton of fun and didn't take dating too seriously. I took it slow and kept myself open to possibilities. The only times I would really "question" my identity or sexuality was when other friends would ask me about it or how I identified. I never knew how to answer and never felt comfortable with the question, because I just was being myself. I didn't need to slap a label on myself but for some reason, society needs us to fall into certain boxes or else there's confusion. So for me, I just didn't take things so seriously. I just did me! And if anyone was rude about it to me, I would understand that they couldn't be in my life anymore. Having family members who were accepting also helped a ton and for those family members who didn't immediately accept it, it just took time for them to get there. Now, I am the most open, happy, and free I've ever been since I first "came out" about 10 years ago. I love being a part of the LGBTQ+ community and I hope one day everyone can find a little more love in their hearts so that we can all have equality and inclusion in all aspects of our life. We're not so different from everyone else; we all just want love and to be loved. —Tara P.
6. "I had a hard time dealing with impostor syndrome for a period in my career."
I had this fear that my entire path had been some sort of string of good luck and "right place, right time" circumstances (and I sometimes still feel this way, TBH). Despite multiple people telling me I was doing a good job and how vital I was to a team, I constantly downplayed my successes thinking I wasn't deserving of praise or recognition. When I started revising my portfolios, job hunting, and selling myself to potential employers, I started to think to myself, I am capable of doing good work and I'm allowed to be proud of it. It's easy to be your worst critic and hard to be your own hype-woman, but sometimes you just have to keep reiterating things to yourself until you believe it and can finally say, "This is me. I'm that cool gal!" —Lauren S.
7. "I am not open about my sexuality publicly, but I have come to embrace it more with my school community."
I currently teach at a school that talks about safe spaces, and students are very vocal about their gender identity and sexual orientation. I have become close with my current advisory class and shared that I am bisexual while discussing trans rights. I shared about negative experiences in the past, including what it feels like to be bi in the Asian community, and the kids reacted with incredible support and kindness. Just being honest with who I am within my workspace has made me feel more positively about myself and accepted. —Alex D.*
8. "It took me years to even admit to myself that I liked women."
I grew up in a deeply religious household with a pastor for a dad. When I finally leaned into those feelings and dated my first girlfriend, I was terrified. I constantly struggled with my identity and how I could reconcile it with my upbringing. But after a lot of healing and soul-searching, I was able to free myself from all of those labels and identities. I truly realized that love is just love, pure and simple. Free of restrictions and labels. I forgave myself and told myself that I was made exactly how I was intended to be. My wish is for every person who is struggling with their identities to look within themselves, free themselves from what they have been taught, and just be who you truly are. Self-compassion is a breath of fresh air that we all deserve. —Caitlin S.
9. "I have always been a bit of an introvert, as well as a homebody."
I struggled with enjoying nightlife in college because I really just didn't enjoy going out to large parties, but I participated because I felt it was "good for me" socially. I equally did not enjoy the New York City bar scene when I lived there in my twenties post-college. But again, I forced myself to participate because my friends enjoyed it and I felt like I couldn't be a twentysomething in NYC without going out to bars! When I turned 30, something in my brain just switched and I decided to stop caring about socializing in a way I really didn't enjoy. And it has been truly liberating. Now I embrace spending time at home and with my friends and family in smaller settings without thinking I should be doing it any differently. —Victoria H.
Images via Getty
To celebrate Pride Month this year, Secret is helping raise over $4 million for LGBTQ+ organizations. Because Secret believes that no one should have to sweat their identity.
Learn more and donate yourself at Can't Cancel Pride.