I grew up posting everything on social media, compiling a collage of my perfect life.

Every photo is meticulously chosen out of hundreds taken, every smile critiqued, and every caption drafted and redrafted. Anything less than perfection simply won’t do—I have an audience to please, you see.

Women have fought since the beginning of time to have our voices heard and taken seriously. And now we have an audience, they’re out for blood. It’s the little things—misusing terminology, Facetune gone wrong, dating too many people or not enough—the list goes on. Our audience will fault us for anything in order to discredit us.

The worst part? Often, that audience is me. Sometimes it’s you. It’s all of us women at one point or another, not because we mean to, but because we are trained to. We are taught we must tear other women down in order to lift ourselves up.

When we let ourselves believe that our own success—or self-security, or popularity, or whatever validation we seek—is dependent on the destruction of other women, we all suffer.

We don’t have to be perfect to be valid. Our voice carries weight, even when it wavers.

By Bree Leitch as part of International Women’s Day 2021