What Does “Strong Woman” Mean to You?
Last month, the month of May, of honoring mothers, I was having some conversations with various friends about what our own mothers or grandmothers were like while growing up. I was struck by a common theme that ran through the descriptions. Many described them as “strong”. Now I’m all for strong women. But I find myself in disagreement with what today constitutes strength in a person, especially a woman.
I wish for us to redefine strength for the sake of ourselves and future generations to come.
We know all about physical strength and plenty of women in past times had to endure much that required physical strength, from manual labor like washing clothes in burning hot water by hand to difficult labors without the pain relief we have now. My own mother was raised on a farm in Ohio which meant she had to slaughter and pluck the chickens and do the laundry for a family of 11 which meant an entire day’s work.
So I certainly give our female lineages due credit for physical strength. And this plays out in much different ways now in all the ways women have proven their physical prowess from Olympic record holders and marathon runners to veterans serving on the front line and mothers on the playground circuit.
What I’m talking about is the “strength” that is a product of patriarchy and what our overly masculine culture has expected and valued in women, especially in generations past. This is certainly changing quickly as we shift more into balance with the masculine and feminine, both collectively and individually. There has been tremendous progress in just the last year with valuing the feminine way of being in our culture, of women stepping up and out, and we still have much work to do.
Here are some examples of what I’ve commonly heard…
“My mother was so strong, she took care of a very large family and never once complained”.
“My mother was so strong that she’d be in physical pain, unbeknownst to anyone else, and would trudge on so as not to inconvenience anyone or have to change plans.”
“My grandmother’s strength was in always putting everybody else’s needs above her own. She was in complete servitude to others. She never asked for anything.”
My own mother lost four siblings and both parents by the age of 55 and I never saw her grieve openly beyond the funeral. I used to describe this as a strength of hers. She’s strong in many ways, but what I saw as strength then in regards to this, I now see as dismissal of self.
Is all this really how we want to be describing strength in a person? Is this the modelling we want for our future generations of women?
Now I’m not saying these beautiful women weren’t strong during the course of their lifetimes. This is not at all what I mean. We just need to be careful with the words we use and what scenarios or circumstances call for the use of the word, “strong”.
So here’s how I now describe a mightily strong woman…
Strong is a woman who says no, without apology, even when it may mean an inconvenience for others.
Strong is a woman who feels and expresses a wide range of emotions, no matter if it makes others uncomfortable or looks wild or erratic.
Strong is a woman who shares her joys, successes, and brightness, even if it will make others jealous.
Strong is a woman who takes responsibility for herself, especially when injured or in pain.
Strong is a woman who knows what she needs and claims them for herself.
Strong is a woman who makes her self-care a high priority.
Strong is a woman who weeps, who sings, who screams, who laughs out loud, as she is called to.
Strong is a woman who claims her own desires and goes fiercely after them.
Strong is a woman who listens to her intuition (one of her great powers), trusting and following through on it, even if it means making difficult decisions, changing plans and making others upset.
Strong is a woman who speaks the truth from her heart, even when she’s fearful.
Strong is a woman who does not put up with idle gossip, toxic environments, or harmful relationships.
Strong is a woman who stands up for injustices and mistreatment, even when others disagree.
Strong is a woman who lets her imperfect self show up without worry of what others will think.
Strong is a woman who can receive graciously the help she needs, trusting others are receiving too as they give.
Strong is a woman who leans on her sisters, not seeing it as weakness but just the opposite.
Strong is a woman who listens to her body’s signals for rest, even if it means responsibilities must be handed over to others or things must slide.
Strong is a woman who does not apologize for being who she is.
Strong is a woman who takes up her full space in the world.
Strong is a woman who serves others out of the kindness and generosity of her heart rather than from obligation or duty.
Strong is a woman who can be her true, most unique self, unabashedly real, unbound, nonconforming, and even untamed and wild.
I’d say this could be any and every WOMAN. This could be YOU!
Let’s go for it together! I can hear our future granddaughters now describing us, their grandmothers, as the most amazingly strong women.
Change what “strength” means today and we can look back and see strength in our mothers and ancestors in whole new ways, thereby lifting them up and honoring them for their strength like never before.
I would love shares on how you would describe a strong woman in the comments below. Then go Here to explore all the ways I could assist you in becoming the new strong woman.
Karen is an expert healer with 15 years of experience teaching Reiki, yoga and meditation. Her transformational program — Women Healing Women Through Sacred Circle — helps women awaken to who they truly are with compassionate, empowering tools and processes. Being a lifetime seeker herself, she’s able to help you dig deep into your body and soul to uncover your innate healing wisdom. You can find her Here.