~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #72
Alice Paul, Oprah Winfrey, Angela Merkel, Margaret Thatcher, Condoleezza Rice, Elizabeth Warren, Gloria Steinem and Ruth Bader Ginsburg appear on a long and growing list of women many people would describe as strong. And it was recently that an article in Sunday’s The New York Times Style section focused on two of these aforementioned women: Gloria Steinem and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Nearly every week, Table for Three (as journalist Philip Galanes orchestrates the meeting) is shared which pairs two individuals who are excelling in their particular field, each field somehow intertwining with the other. Sitting down for a meal, the two individuals carry on a conversation and readers have the opportunity to be the fly on the wall, so to speak.
Ginsburg and Steinem, meeting in the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court’s office in D.C., sat down for tea and reflection earlier this month. Without question, both women would be defined as strong. Regardless of stature (Ginsburg stands at 5’1″), regardless of age (both women are octogenarians), regardless of marital status or whether a mother or not, both women have continued throughout their entire adult lives to adhere to their values and convey enormous strength.
As I read the conversation, I began to wonder what constitutes a strong woman, and why should each of us strive to become one? With but a moment of contemplation, my first response, as is reflected in today’s title, was why not be a strong woman? But what does being a strong woman mean?
After all, becoming a Supreme Court Justice is not entirely in one’s control. Yes, anyone can pursue a law degree (although that is not a requirement), but a President must appoint each justice and then approval must be granted by the Senate. So much is dependent on timing and the state of the country. Similarly, we may not at all wish to be the spokeswoman for a movement regardless of how passionate we are about our cause. However, we each can be just as strong.
What exactly are the characteristics of a strong woman and how might we benefit by choosing to be one?
1. Have a clear goal that is tied to a purpose
Whether in her mid-twenties or beyond, a strong woman lives her life with a goal in mind. The goal which she is pursuing is tied to a bigger purpose, often to what she wishes her legacy to be long after she is gone. She understands hard work is necessary, she understands the importance of planning, setting goals (short and long term) and she isn’t deterred simply because others may not have her vision.
2. Willing to take risks
Great reward involves great risk is a mantra that a strong woman understands. Rest-assured, she does her homework, but not everything comes with a safety hatch. She accepts and understands that growth, progress, comes from stepping forward even if the step or path hasn’t been walked before or laid out for her.
3. Understand the benefits of being in the arena
Tipping her hat in agreement with President Theodore Roosevelt’s excerpt from Citizenship in a Republic, she is determined to get off of the sidelines, stop dreaming and wishing and get in the arena. She recognizes that people will always talk, criticize and comment, but it is the person doing the deed who makes progress, gains experience and deepens the quality of her life.
A strong woman is independent. She is resourceful, capable and competent. Because she has to depend on herself either as being a homeowner, traveling on her own or pursuing her dreams, she learns by doing. Need to clean a j-trap under the bathroom sink? She grabs a wrench. Need to commute using the subway? She downloads an app and stays alert. Need to build a website? She scours the internet and does her homework. The key is she is not co-dependent and rather wishes to work with others and excel together, rather than rely on them for her success.
5. Respect the gift of time alone
A strong woman gives 100% and is comfortable with her own company. Each woman needs different amounts of time alone, but every strong woman understands she needs time alone to achieve balance, unclutter her mind and care for herself.
6. Seek out fellow strong women
A strong woman desires the company of other strong women. Quickly letting go of needy, gossipy friends, she gravitates toward women who are also independent, curious about the world and helping each other navigate the journey as each strives to live their best life.
7. Value continual growth and knowledge
Endlessly curious about how the world works, functions and how to improve their role in it, a strong woman is consistently seeking out knowledge and a better understanding of how to become her best self. Whether it be attending a lecture, taking classes or challenging herself with a new hobby or skill, she is never a complete project.
8. Strong values
Similarly to Steinem and Ginsburg, a strong woman, due to her incessant quest for knowledge, comes to understand more about the world she lives in and develops a value system that is a driving force in her life. She picks her battles, but because she understands the issues revolving around what she values, she is willing to speak up and not cower. She is unwavering and always seeking to understand more about what she holds dear.
9. Intimacy is given to trusted individuals
Secure within herself, she does not seek validation from others by divulging all to anyone who will listen. Being her closest and trust friend, she trusts herself to discern if someone is trustworthy. This process takes time, and she is in no hurry.
10. Often misunderstood, therefore develop a thick skin
Depending upon her upbringing, she may face more misunderstanding or less about the path she has chosen, but in the twenty-first century more and more women are pursuing their goals, careers and dreams rather than a groom. Choosing instead to develop themselves, coming to understand themselves and standing on their own two feet, they then are opening themselves up to someone who they can share their lives with. Sometimes the strength we speak of today is stereotyped and labeled negatively by those who don’t understand or are fearful of what a strong woman might do. A strong woman, knowing herself and her purpose, allows these comments and ridiculing to be a reflection of the person speaking rather than hold any value on how she will proceed.
11. Exhibit perseverance
Not expecting a handout and certainly not expecting life to be fair, she weathers the storms, the obstacles and finds the courage from within to keep striving forward. While she may find her strength from the support of family and friends, it is her inner-strength and for some their spiritual or religious grounding that reminds her to not be deterred.
12. Know when to let go and move forward
While a strong woman is perseverant, she is also not a fool. She is able to leave a relationship, let go of a friend, put herself back in the job market or even move to a new zip code when the opportunity or a dead-end shows itself. She understands that everything is not meant to last forever and has the strength to move forward with grace.
13. Possess emotional strength
One of the hardest traits to cultivate, a strong woman recognizes the power of understanding her emotions and not being a slave to them. Either by learning from her own mistakes, the mistakes of others or reading books to better understand how to become the person she wishes to be, a strong woman respects the power of self-discipline and control and avoids letting her emotions dictate her actions. If need be, she will seek time with a therapist to strengthen her understanding of herself not out of weakness but out of her desire to gain knowledge about how to navigate life and her own mind.
14. Comfortable and prefers deep and thoughtful conversation
As mentioned in #6, a strong woman does not wish to engage in and does not see value in gossip; rather she seeks out conversations about ideas and new information to better understand whatever the subject matter may be. A strong woman is not afraid to strike up the conversation, but is also a wizard with questions as she wishes to learn from those who know more than she.
15. Understand the key to fulfillment
True success in life resides solely in each of us, and a strong woman is well-aware of this reality. As discussed in-depth in episode #70, the reality is, it is the person who must find the courage within themselves to live the life of their dreams. Knowing this fact offers a great relief but also much responsibility. The question then must be asked: But wouldn’t we want to be at the wheel of our lives rather than be at the mercy of someone else’s driving prowess? What if we don’t want to turn right, but instead turn left? Well, the good news is we can.
The capacity to be a strong woman comes from within each of us. It’s easy to stick to the path we have chosen when we were the one who made the decision to travel a particular route. It is much harder when we don’t know where we want to go or to find the passion each day when we didn’t have a hand in the path we somehow landed upon. The key to knowing where we want to go lies in listening to what piques our interest, finding the courage to stray from the herd and have an insatiable desire to forever learn and grow. Follow the breadcrumbs and eventually you will come upon the path that is ideally suited for you.
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~10 Differences Between Women and Girls (podcast)