What it Means to be a Strong Woman

Most nights when I’m bored and have nothing to watch on TV, I’ll turn on a Beyonce concert on Youtube. I probably do this at least once a week. So the other night I was watching Bey’s Made in America set (which is always a favorite of mine) and was feeling super inspired. One thing I love about Beyonce is the way she empowers women through her music. There is something about seeing a strong woman dancing and repeating, “Who run the world? Girls!” over and over again that makes you feel so powerful. The other thing I love about her concerts is that she shares a lot of powerful messages from other women alongside her music. In this particular performance, she played a clip of an Eartha Kitt interview that talks about compromise.

Q: But are you willing to compromise in a relationship?

Q: If a man came into your life, wouldn’t you want to compromise?

This clip has always inspired me and hearing it again this weekend was no different. I’ve always felt empowered after hearing this exchange on compromise. It makes me want to do my power stance in the mirror and take over the world. But really listening to the words and analyzing them made me realize how true they are. I think there often is a greater expectation on women to be the ones who compromise, especially in a relationship.

After this part of her performance came on, I had a moment of total vulnerability and started to question myself. I think we all have an image of what a strong women looks like in our heads. She is confident. She voices her opinion. She puts herself first. She protects her mental well-being. She is comfortable with herself. She is happy. And while I believe all of these elements can be true, I started to really doubt myself. Am I always modeling these characteristics in my everyday life? Do I put myself, and most importantly my mental health, first? Do I value myself the way Beyonce wants me to value myself?

I’ve always viewed myself as strong. People have always told me that I am tough as nails. Someone who doesn’t take shit from anyone. Someone who pushes other women to not take shit from anyone. But within the last few years, traits about myself started appearing that I never really saw before. I was more emotional than I had ever been. I cried through commercials or even just at the thought of something sad. I used to always hold in my emotions around others but was now very freely crying around family and friends. I used to process all my emotions internally but now had to express them to those closest to me so I could just get them out. I was vulnerable and it was raw. I didn’t feel strong and I quite honestly felt weak.

I think a lot of times society tells us to view our emotions as weak, especially as women. We hear the phrase, "She's too emotional," way too often in society. But being a strong woman is a spectrum. On one end is a woman in her cape taking over the world while the other end is a woman underneath her weighted blanket just wishing this day would end. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at both ends of this spectrum. How do I find strength in moments that could maybe be perceived as weakness?

I am now learning how to find strength in vulnerability. Strength in forgiveness, both personally and in relationships. Strength in feeling all of my emotions and processing them on a healthy level. Grace with myself when I don’t feel strong and quite frankly feel frustrated with how I’m feeling. There are times I have an image of the person I feel like I am supposed to be but she doesn’t quite measure up. I picture that woman in the cape taking over the world and that isn’t always how I’m feeling. I think there is strength in celebrating every part of you. The good, the bad and even the ugly. There is power in that. There is power in recognizing your emotions and honoring them. The emotions I feel are there for a reason. They are there to tell me something. And they are there to teach me a lesson. And that doesn't make me weak.

The image of a woman kicking ass still symbolizes strength to me. But it isn’t the only strength I recognize. I see strength in my mother for working crazy long hours but never complaining. I see strength in my sister for the emotional journey she’s endured. I see strength in my other sister for the unconditional kindness she meets everyone at. I see strength in my cousin for the selflessness she’s had to show through an often difficult journey. My other cousin has displayed a level of forgiveness that I find strength in. My aunt is always so selfless which is an amazing example of strength. I see strength in my friends who are on the same anxiety journey as me but are always a source of support. I am surrounded by so many strong women whose different examples of strength inspire me constantly.

Q: Isn’t love a union between two people? Or does Eartha fall in love with herself.

I know I sacrificed a lot when I was in a relationship and I think a lot of women can relate with that. But I’m learning it is okay to put myself first. That isn't selfish. That is showing incredible strength. There is strength in walking away from someone who has caused you pain even though you are in love. I am learning that it is important to love the person that you are and honor that relationship above anything else. I'm learning that it is okay to be vulnerable and to express your emotions. I still look up to that woman in her cape who is going to take over the world. I let that example of strength inspire me. So in moments of sadness and hurt, I remind myself that I am still strong even if I feel like the opposite.

I’m learning that there are levels to strength. Levels to who we are as women. There is no cookie cutter example of what a woman should be. And if you are putting yourself within a box, break those walls down. Embrace every part of who you are. Being a women is complicated. But I’m learning that every part of me makes me who I am. And that's a strong woman.

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