The phrase ‘strong woman’ can conjure up images of the impenetrable action hero, or the stiletto-sporting executive. But strength comes in many forms–physical, mental, and emotional. In partnership with ABC’s Quantico, a new series that stars some badass female agents, we wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge all the strong women in our lives. To the moms and grandmas, bosses and assistants, best friends and college roommates who’ve led by example throughout the years, here’s a belated thank you note for all the things we tend to take for granted.
1. Thank you for advocating for us when we couldn’t do it ourselves. When we weren’t going to stand up for ourselves at work. When we were about to be swindled by that shady car dealer who didn’t want to give us a fair deal. When we were too embarrassed to ask for help. You asked for us, and in doing so showed us how it’s done.
2. Thank you for taking charge. Maybe you’re raising a family or leading a company. Or maybe you’re just always the one to reserve a dinner venue when no one else is willing to make a decision. Whatever the situation, thank you for being the one to step up. You know who you are.
3. Thank you for choosing to see yourself as beautiful. In a world where we’re bombarded by photo-shopped physiques and unrealistic expectations, you refuse to care too much about all that. The effect is that when others are around you, they find themselves not caring as much either.
4. Thank you for challenging us. You call us out when we’re getting lazy and refuse to let us settle for anything other than what we deserve, whether it’s a job or relationship. We might feel offended at the time, but it’s comforting to know that you hold us to such high standards.
5. Thank you for giving us little sound bites… like “you deserve better” and “forget them” that we replay in our heads long after you’ve said them. They may be cheesy but they work.
6. Thank you for broaching the subjects others don’t. When you know we’re dealing with something hard, you ask us about it and offer support. A less self-assured person might be too busy worrying about the potential for awkwardness to realize we’re waiting for someone to ask, but you aren’t.
7. Thank you for roping us into your obnoxiously good habits. The early-morning runs. The time you made us try the boot camp. We whined about it, and will continue to, but our bodies are grateful.
8. Thank you for not endorsing bad habits. You may have a few vices (who doesn’t?) but you don’t wear them like some kind of badge of honor or try to pressure us into having them, too.
9. Thank you also for not endorsing bad people, or at least, people who are bad for us. It makes it a lot easier to not go back to that selfish ex, for instance, when you’re openly reminding us of their shortcomings.
10. Thank you for not expecting us to be the same as you. Nothing reveals true confidence more than the ability to accept others for who they are. We know we say things sometimes that make you want to say “lol who are you, you weirdo?” but you don’t.
11. Thank you for making us jealous (for the right reasons). Not because you always look perfect, but because you’re so comfortable in your own skin that no one even notices when you don’t. Not because you’re showered in attention, but because you don’t need constant attention to feel whole. And not because you’re happy all the time, but because you have a deep sense of purpose that underlies the crazy emotions we all experience every day.
12. Thank you for reminding us that sticking to your values always works in the end. It’s almost shocking how normal it can feel to take the low road in adult life—just by cheating a little here or bending the truth a little there, you can get ahead so easily, and people do it all the time. But by holding your head high, and winning out in the long run, you remind us that those people only look like they’re better off.
13. Thank you for being you. It’s a cliché, but “leading by example” really is more powerful than any rules or doctrines could be. Just by living a purposeful life, by rejecting social pressures and sticking to your guns, and by treating yourself the way we all deserve to be treated, you give other people permission to do the same. Because confidence is contagious, and true strength comes in many forms.