Sometimes I don’t know what it means to be a strong woman. Is it standing my ground? Is it fighting back against stereotypes? Is it accepting my emotions and being comfortable with my ‘femininity’—whatever definition I choose?
Is it pushing to be even more equal, to be accepted for the traits of my identity that are more ‘masculine’? Is it standing face-to-face with a male and challenging his way of thinking? Is it following a certain path, accepting a certain truth?
Sometimes I struggle with the label of ‘strong.’ To identify as a strong woman, am I somehow saying, unconsciously, that there are women who are not strong? That there are women whom this label does not apply to?
And what if someone’s definition of strength is different than my own? Do I have the right to claim my own power when it is clearly matched, but completely opposite, in a woman standing next to me?
Is it strong to walk away from people who have hurt you? Is it strong to stay and fight and forgive? Is it strong to honor your body as a temple? Is it strong to embrace sexual freedom? Is it strong to be rough? To be soft? To be quiet? To be loud? To be tender? To be bold?
Is it, perhaps, strong to be all of those things, even when they are such different ways of thinking and believing and behaving? I say yes, but does that make me wishy-washy? Does that mean I am bending the truth to be all-inclusive, or does that mean there is no set definition?
And if there’s no set definition, then how do I know who I am and where I fit?
Honestly, I’m just trying to understand myself. I’m trying to figure out what I stand for, but not let my perspectives break down the ones I see around me. I’m trying to love other people, even when their strength seems to drown out mine.
I’m trying to find a place of acceptance, but not passive acceptance. I’m trying to discover what I hold dear to me and be bold in sharing that perspective, but not too bold that I hurt those who don’t agree. And yet, not too weak that they don’t hear what I’m saying.
I’m trying to be brave, but not step on anyone’s toes. But why, as a woman, do I have to worry about this so much? Why is it that I’ve been conditioned to be careful to not offend anyone whose perspective differs than mine?
Why have I been taught to be aware of my femininity and make sure that it doesn’t emasculate or overpower the males around me?
I’m trying to be strong, to be seen as strong. But I don’t want there to be a barrier between my presence and my heart. I want to intimidate in the sense that I am respected and honored, but I don’t want to be unapproachable.
I want to be powerful, but not so much that a man feels he loses his role when he’s around me. I want to be independent, but not push people away.
I want to be able to survive without a significant other in my life, and yet, it’s human nature to want to be cared for. And I desire that just as much.
I want to be indestructible, and yet, I want to be delicate, too. I want to be treasured, to be taken care of, to be looked at with reverence and awe. I want to be seen as fragile, but not breakable. I want a man who longs to protect me, and yet, I want to know, and for it to be known, that I can also protect myself.
I want to be empowered, but not so much that the people around me feel purposeless. I want people to know that they can lean on me, but sometimes I want a shoulder, too. I want to carry the weight of this life by myself, but not always. I want to be okay on my own, but still have people who will help me lift the burden when it gets too heavy.
I want to be force to be reckoned with, but not to the extent that people won’t want to weather my storm. I want to be desired, and yet, not objectified. I want to be attractive, but not beautiful, not valued for my physical body alone.
I want to be all the things that make me a ‘woman’ and yet I want to push back against all those clichés, all those conventional images of who and what and how I should be.
And honestly, this feels like a list of contradictions.
This feels like I’m trying so hard to be so many things that I can’t decide who I really am. This feels like I’m desperate to not be too one-sided that I’m claiming everything as my identity. But what if I don’t fall towards one way of thinking? What if there isn’t a place where I really ‘fit’?
What if ‘strength’ really can’t be defined?
I want to share my story, but not be seen as a victim. I want to be vulnerable without losing my sense of empowerment. I want to be a Feminist, but not wash out the male perspectives around me. I want to feel free to be myself, but not abandon all the things I know and believe to be true.
I want to love with a fierceness without that being labeled as ‘emotional’ and weak. I want to feel strong without anyone else believing that they are not in comparison. I want to be a woman without worrying whether I am too ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ for my sex. I want to be whole on my own, but feel complete with another person by my side. I want to be gentle, but not flimsy. I want to be understanding, but not so easily coerced.
I want to be okay—for who I am, for what I choose—even when I am not solely one perspective, one thought, one choice, one thing.
I want to be a woman, who, perhaps is not static, not always the same. I want to be a woman who, perhaps, is strong—not because that strength can be so easily defined—but strong in her complexities.
Strong, simply because that is how she sees herself.