The label of “strong” woman.
Interestingly enough I have heard this a lot in my life, even though I have not always felt as such. Being perceived as a strong woman has made me reflect upon its meaning and watch my reactions to it. At times I receive it as a compliment and other times it makes me sigh. What does it really mean to be a “strong women”? Is it a compliment or the opposite? What makes a woman be a “strong” woman?
I’ve reflected upon what lays behind this notion or mask of strength. Which part is an authentic strength and a healthy power and which part is a self-defense mechanism, a mask to push through the harsh world we live in?
First of all, it seems the harshness of life, shocks, traumas, difficult childhood build character (strength?). Some of us create a wall of self-defense mechanism to deal with very difficult situations, and often times this creates this layer of perceived outer strength (which actually is a coping mechanism). This is precious, as often this mask of strength allows one to go through sometimes very intense experiences. It’s a survival instinct. Rather than allowing oneself to be annihilated by an experience, one pushes through it by building character and strength. You know the saying “ what doesn’t kill you…makes you stronger”. Sometimes it really does!
Often I notice that the women who have this warrior strength within them, have been through incredible challenges, have found their way out & around and have become some sort of “badass” modern-day warrioresses, capable of everything imaginable & unimaginable, multitasking and excelling at life.
I do also notice that, comes a point of collapse… a point where that mask of strength can also be exhausting, draining and suddenly what you felt was your asset, doesn’t sound like a compliment anymore. There is a part within that’s tired of carrying the role of the “strong woman”. There is that part within that wants to soften, relax, surrender into vulnerability and gentleness. And the truth is, society does not really support that so much. So here we are, women with power, strength, character, abilities, entitled to the label of “strong women”… and yet craving for more softness in life. I have found myself into that stage to understand that only at this point one can access the authentic power that lays behind the outer mask of self-sufficiency & strength. It’s by softening into admitting that “f… I am tired of carrying this mask”, identifying what lies behind it and integrating it, that one can access the most authentic version of being aligned with the truest form of strength. A strength that is not a defense mechanism, but your actual badass power.
I have wondered, what is it that people perceive as a strong woman within me when they say “you are a strong woman”. Is it limited to the looks? To the energy one emanates? The challenges we go through? The goals we achieve in life?
At the end I feel, it’s our ability to digest, process, integrate and ripe the gifts from the shocks and challenges of life… Our ability to push through, to hold space, to carry heavy loads and transform them with gracefulness into gifts, lessons & light. And yet, also our ability to allow our vulnerability & softness to shine through.
Strength is a quality, so is the vulnerability. And the biggest strength is to dare to show your vulnerability. That’s a place of exposure that often we don’t dare to be perceived in. Again, by fear of being hurt & being perceived as weak. Basically by fear of not being loved & accepted.
Next time you perceive a woman as a “strong women”, take a moment to feel what are you referring to? What are you perceiving? Is that her inner authentic power, or a self-defense mechanism that’s still in place because she doesn’t feel safe in this world? And maybe at times, it’s one and the other.
Interestingly enough I’ve felt criticism and judgment for both parts, at times for my strength and at times for the vulnerable parts within me. Criticism and judgment also from myself to myself. And you know what… now I can say I don’t care that much anymore: YES I am strong… and YES I am also vulnerable & soft. There will always be some for whom you will be too much or too little. And at times you can be “too much or too little” even for yourself.
What matters is how aligned are you within? How integrated are those aspects within you?
I encourage all, both men and women, to explore those qualities. I encourage everyone to explore deeper what lays behind your idea of strength & vulnerability. How are you with these aspects within you? Are you accepting & allowing them? Are you rejecting one of those qualities, judging them as a sign of failure or weakness? Are you allowing yourself to feel strong and empowered, but also vulnerable? Do you embody one aspect but lack the other?
If you feel the calling to dive deeper and explore this together, please check the Personal Empowerment work I offer.
Dare to shine!