Growing up with a twin brother, I was destined to be a tomboy. He and I competed at everything. Who could run the fastest? Who could play street hockey better? Who could win at an arm wrestling match? One time, we even had a race to see who could eat their dinner the fastest. This friendly competition enabled me to grow up feeling strong and capable of trying new things. It also taught me that losing was a natural part of life.
Unfortunately, this simplistic view of what it means to be strong and capable does not translate easily into the complex world of womanhood.
I believe our culture has warped what it means to be a “strong woman”. There seems to be two main themes out there:
- A strong woman can do it ALL.
- A strong woman is often aggressive and uncaring.
These ideas are constantly reinforced through magazines, television, the internet, and social media. I thought the pressure to perform was high as I entered into adulthood, but I think it will be even worse for my daughter.
It honestly makes me sad.
Yet, as her mother, I have a tremendous impact over her self-concept. This is a scary notion as I am far from perfect and do not have all the answers. The responsibility has forced me to examine and redefine my own definition of what it means to be a “strong woman”.
What do I want my daughter to learn through me?
I am unquestionably a work in progress but here are my personal beliefs I hope to pass on to her:
I believe that the concept “a woman can have it ALL” is misleading. There are only 24 hours in a day and the cultural bar has been placed too high to fit it ALL in. We are set up to fail. I feel that it takes strength to stay off the hamster wheel of over-achievement and make decisions based on passion and the well-being of family.
For every choice I make, there is a trade-off. Every activity added will cost time somewhere. I am trying to carve out time for what it most vital and satisfying and let the rest go. Eliminating the unfullfilling activities is easier said than done, but necessary for my sanity.
Sense of Self
In order to make wise choices for myself and my family, I believe that I must have a clear sense of self. I confess that I struggle with people-pleasing and this topic is tough for me. For example, I want to be crafty, fashionable, and on top of my resume. But in the end, the dollar aisle at Target is the extent of my family’s crafting, I wear yoga pants and a tank top most days, and my work resume has grown dusty over the past two years. However, these are the choices that I am comfortable with (especially the yoga pants) and best fit my current personal and family goals. I hope my daughter sees that I tried to be authentic in my decisions.
We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. We will hurt others and be hurt ourselves. This is a hard truth. I believe it takes strength to admit wrongdoing and even more strength to forgive those who have wounded us. Forgiveness is a journey and an often times for me has to be revisited again and again.
Treatment of Others
In the midst of trying to have it all, it has become culturally acceptable to treat others poorly. It takes a village to do life but how am I treating my village? Do I thank the people that have helped me achieve my goals? I definitely need to improve in this area. On the flip side, it takes strength and personal sacrifice to help others when time is already such a precious commodity. I hope my family can be more intentional when it comes to loving and serving others.
Each of us will uniquely define what it means to be a strong woman and pass that on to the next generation. I believe that we can do a better job than pop culture because actions speak louder than false images and words. I came across a quote last month that summarize my feelings accurately:
“Quit trying to be awesome. Instead be wise.” Jen Hatmaker
In the end, I want my daughter to gain wisdom rather than trophies.
How do you personally define “strong woman”? What do you want to pass on to your children?