“What was your high school like?” If you ask most people, they’ll respond with some variation of the typical neighborhood public, co-ed school with homecomings, football games, and the usual junior/senior prom.

Life at an all girls school, in comparison for some, was a whole different reality. Without a football team, it was impossible to have a homecoming. Without boys at our school, girls were forced to do the asking when it came to dances. Yes, you guessed it, every dance was Sadie Hawkins. No cute promposals at school, no notes snuck around during class or in lockers. With a strict uniform policy, we didn’t have to pick out a new outfit everyday or “dress to impress”. If a girl came to school with makeup or straightened hair worn down, it wasn’t the norm, and people would ask what event she had last night. Our school might have been one of the few without locks on our lockers. There was no one in sight who devalued the importance of education in enhancing our viewpoints on life. On days when we were permitted to wear “casual dress”, you would be amicably questioned if you were to wear anything but sweatpants and a tshirt as your chic outfit of choice. Undeniably different, it was beautiful to see a community that truly valued the comfort of every individual over the conformity to certain unattainable standards. But, of course, these weren’t the things that have been most memorable. The thing about an all girls school is that it’s a sisterhood, the biggest sorority you’ll ever see. One of the first things you’d notice when you walk though the rotunda are female bathrooms side by side. Finding a male bathroom in the school was harder than finding males themselves. No one was afraid to ask fellow students for a pad in the hallways, and, interestingly enough, everyone felt comfortable in their own skin.

There’s something about not feeling the normal pressures and drama of a coed high school, where girls are dread being left out in the upcoming dance, or wonder if they made weird eye contact with their crush walking through the hallway. It made me realize truly that regardless of my surroundings, I am entitled to that feeling of security, safety, and confidence being myself. There shouldn’t be such a large discrepancy between coed and single gender schools.

Why should girls feel more insecure or obligated to dress a certain way to be “accepted”?

It’s important to realize that regardless of the scenario, one can often feel societal pressures reigning down, judging, or criticizing. But you know what? Those insecurities you’re feeling, everyone else has felt them too. That uncertainty of the future, that fear of being left out, that impossible first step in putting yourself out there, it’s something that everyone around you has felt at one point or another. I’ve learned that it is not society that defines you, but, indeed, you who defines society.

Originally published at medium.com