“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.” - Ayn Rand
Women are often raised to be conscientious of others and themselves. Many of us were also raised to be high-achieving, self-sufficient leaders. It is no small feat to balance these influences -- with our characters and values and inner complexities -- and then take the world by storm.
Furthermore, just because we share our gender, doesn’t mean we’re not all incredibly different. “Strong” is embodied a million different ways by each of the millions of women in the world. That said, there are some traits that strong women share with all their sisters across the globe.
It’s not about ambitions, opinions or going with or against cultural norms; it’s about a core spirit, an ethos, that we believe is captured in these 5 distinct qualities.
Know Who They Are
Strong women are not afraid to spend time with themselves and on themselves. They cultivate an awareness of their values, inspirations, joys and purpose. They know what makes them tick, what makes them special, and they work to create their own well being and the well being of those they love. She hears her authentic voice through the static. As Eartha Kitt said, “My recipe for life is not being afraid of myself, afraid of what I think or of my opinions.”
Possess Self Respect
“Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.” - Janis Joplin
A strong woman has self respect, which means she can demand respect from others. When you know who you are, and are willing to learn and grow and love, there’s no need to be overly critical of yourself. We are all works in progress and being courageous means failing, picking yourself up with compassion and continuing on with grace. Loving yourself is hardly easy, but strong women are committed to self care, self compassion and self respect.
Build Up Other Women
Independent, yes? A lone wolf? No. Confident leaders of all genders give and get support. But women, in particular, are often not encouraged as much in this pursuit. We’re often spurred by our culture to instead focus on comparison and conformity. At some point, strong women see the shallow futility of these measurements. Self criticism and toxic criticism of others is revealed as a distracting and unessential racket.
Value Their Bodies
Respect for self naturally leads to respect for the vessel that carries you through life. It doesn’t mean you have to be in your weight range or do yoga everyday, but strong women bring an awareness back to their bodies. They learn, and make efforts, to be comfortable in their own skin.
The Maya Angelou poem, Phenomenal Woman, captures this with perfection:
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
“If I make a fool of myself, who cares? I’m not frightened by anyone’s misperception of me.” - Angelina Jolie
Strong women may feel the fear, but they walk forward anyway. The crowd pushes back with opinions and limits and, yet, she persists. She says, “No,” when she must. She takes action according to her values. She asks, speaks up, for what she needs, wants and believes without apology. She lives out loud.
To all the strong women in the world, we pay tribute.
Thank you for being you.