Following this advice will make you stronger.

By Kim Bongiorno
Cultura/Seb Oliver/Getty Images

As I wait for the phone to ring, I need to tell you something.

I should have done it sooner. Not because a regular scan and then a specialized scan found something—somethings—in my breast. Not because the doctors agreed I needed to come back in immediately. Not because at that “immediately” appointment I had to sit very still and topless while medical professionals dug and scooped and scanned and took pieces of me out then away, down hushed halls. Not because now I sit and wait for my doctor to call me back to tell me what is inside me.

I know what it could be.

I know what could happen.

So before I either get good news and put this behind me with a sigh of relief, or before I get bad news and get caught up in surgery, treatment, and recovery, I need to tell you this: every single piece of you is important. Because of this, people will try to take a piece of you throughout your life.

The friend who won’t stay unless you follow her rules.

The crush who won’t look your way unless you pretend you’re someone else.

The teacher who says you aren’t going anywhere.

The teammate who talks you down in order to get your spot on the team.

The sweetheart who tries to get away with that slap.

The boss who suggests you wear a sexy outfit to the meeting.

The commercials, magazines, and brands that work to make you feel unattractive, inept, and not good enough, so you buy what they’re selling.

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They will have a selfish goal and believe it can be achieved by chipping away a beautiful piece of you for themselves. They’re good at what they do, and will try to make you think it’s the only option. These attempts happen so frequently that many women assume it’s the norm. They give willingly or allow it to be taken. Over and over again. Many become numb to the sensation of losing a piece of themselves. Sacrifice turns into a habit.

I know so many women who sway in the breeze of even the smallest of confrontations or persuasions, for they’ve lost so much of who they were. So please, please, if there is one thing I can hammer into your brain right now, it’s that they cannot take from you without your permission, and I give you permission to say, “No.”

No, I do not want to be your friend if you must be in charge of me.

No, I do not need you to look my way if I have to change who I am to get your attention.

No, I do not accept your lack of belief in my potential.

No, I will not fall for your tricks to steal my hard-earned glory.

No, I will not allow anyone to lay a hand on me.

No, I will not use anything but my brain to do my job well.

No, I will not devalue myself for your financial gain.

Doing this will make you get stronger. This is important, because there will be times you’ll want to give some of yourself away. Your time, heart, spotlight, and compassion. The curious shadows inside your breast. The difference is that when you voluntarily give pieces of yourself, eventually you get something else back that fills the space. Gratitude, love, pride, contentment. Resilience.

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Those who try to weaken your joy, confidence, heart, control, faith, drive, or pride do not deserve your time or attention. Hold true to yourself, hold onto yourself, then send them away.

I believe you are whole and incredible as you are right now. When you find love in friendship and romance, they will not be people who complete you; they will be people who complement you. The give and receive will happen so naturally, it will never feel like a loss.

As I sit here with the phone by my side, waiting to hear my test results, there’s one more thing you should know: I am scared, but no matter what happens, I have the strength to survive it because of all you have given me since the first day I gave you my heart, and that giving to you has never, ever, felt like a sacrifice.