Understanding the core strengths of a woman
Let us do a small perception test. Think of a woman who is beautiful, feminine, kind and graceful…
Now think of a woman who is strong, powerful, assertive and confident.
What are the chances that you thought of the same woman in both the cases?
Is this choice of yours rational or coming from a place of subconscious conditioning?
Women fight the battle of perceptions everyday:
Even though I didn’t list out a set qualities that are mutually contradictory, in our world, when these two sets of qualities are used to describe a woman, they are more often than not, considered as contradicting to one another.
Have you ever questioned why? Why can’t a woman who is feminine virtues personified be strong or a woman who is powerful be graceful and lady-like?
The answer to that question may lead you to another term that many have thankfully stopped using now – “weaker sex”.
Even though study after academic study has proven that women are in fact stronger in everything from life expectancy to survival to intelligence to emotional strength, this notion that they are “weaker sex” has unfortunately persisted since many centuries.
Understanding the term “weaker sex”:
If we contemplate on the reason why this misnomer has stayed for so long, we discover the bitter truth which is that all core feminine qualities of a woman are often considered weak!! In other words, qualities that define a woman are not considered as her strengths…
Nature has chosen women to give birth to and nurture life that by default defines her as caring, kind and giving. Nurturing instinct of a woman makes her gentle, sensitive and empathetic. Do these also make her emotional? Easily hurt? Vulnerable? Yes. But do they make her weaker? No. They should be as the matter of the fact, her core strengths.
Take the instance of birthing itself. After carrying the child in womb for 9 months, undergoing many physical and psychological roller coasters, women endure the kind of pain that most men cannot even begin to comprehend, to bring a life into this world. Even after birth, the kind of care and dedication newborns require is extraordinarily demanding to say the least. Yet women willingly take this journey of birthing fully aware that it is not the easy path to choose. If that isn’t courage, that isn’t strength, what is??
Understanding the inner strength of a woman:
Strength comes in so many different forms. Physical strength is not the only strength that counts especially in today’s world, because in day-to-day activities, we hardly ever use physical strength (with machines doing most of the heavy work for us). As far as emotional strength is concerned, any psychologist/counselor can vouch for the fact that vulnerability, sensitivity, and empathy are some of the greatest virtues of being human; because they help us handle our emotions better, help form deep connections with people and help us make peace with who we are.
Dr. Brene Brown, one of the leading experts in this area who has researched about and authored a book on vulnerability says “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
Vulnerability is a strength:
Are you wondering how sharing your weaknesses, fears and imperfections makes you stronger? Think of the most intimate conversation you ever had in your life; it may have been with a friend, a parent, spouse or sibling. This is probably when you opened up, let your raw emotions flow and expressed your innermost feelings. Do you remember how this made you feel? Even this conversation might have been so painful what with your heart and your mind at loggerheads with each other about whether to open up in front of another person?! The fear whether you would be understood; the hesitation about whether you would be judged; the anguish of laying bare your deepest wounds…
Yet, there is a strong chance it made you feel better, lighter, less burdened and also helped to develop a deeper bond with the person with whom you shared this conversation.
Most women bond in this way naturally with other women and also wish to bond this way with spouses, siblings and children. They are willing to put all the effort if an acceptance is shown from the opposite side. Can this be called for weakness? I still doubt.
Society and it’s biases:
Yet as a society we mock at these very instincts that women naturally seem to posses.
“Women are very emotional” we say as if being emotional is not preferable. What is wrong in showing our emotions if it is not hurting anyone?
“Don’t cry like a girl” we tell without understanding that this statement can deeply impact the psyche of both girls and boys who are growing up equally. Crying is a way of expressing deep feelings. Anyone who is crying in desperation is expressing sadness and is asking for help. How is crying bad? And how exactly does it signify anything derogatory?
“Mothers worry unnecessarily about kids” we say and in the same breath condemn another mother saying “Look at her, she just doesn’t worry about her kids at all”!!
“Women tend to get too emotionally attached” we say, as if it were a weakness. Isn’t emotional attachment the very core of meaningful relationships?
“Women need lot of care and attention” we often complain completely disregarding the fact that women also tend to generously shower that kind of attention and care on everyone in the family!!
Pushing women to shun their natural instincts:
By making such generalizations and blanket statements, we have pushed women into believing that their natural feminine traits are weaknesses; that strength is in embracing so called more “masculine” traits.
This battle of perceptions that most women seem to fight everyday, results in many conflicts and identity struggles. In their quest to prove that they are equals, in a world that has been shunning feminine traits, women are often forced to dress up, imitate, behave and lead like men to be taken seriously.
This is quite evident if we ask very simple questions.
Why is sari or salwar not considered power dressing while suits and trousers are? (Isn’t Mrs. Sudha Murthy powerful in a Sari?)
“She walks like a man” is supposed to be a compliment while “He runs like a woman” is supposed to be a joke!! Body language cannot be used as a tool to pass judgements against any gender.
When a group of women are talking “They are gossiping” no matter what the subject of conversation is but when a group of men are talking it’s always about something important.
“Women take forever to dress up” most people say at the same time expecting women to be impeccably dressed from top to toe, expecting them to look their best at all times of the day.
Conditioning that reinforces inherent societal biases:
This kind of deep subconscious conditioning since childhood makes it very hard for women to whole-heartedly embrace their true selves unapologetically.
How many women can freely express their original and authentic personalities in the world without the fear of being judged? How many women have a ability to disregard and negate conditioning of every kind and think with a clear mind?
Women are often forced to swim opposite the tide of preconceived notions to understand themselves and the world better.
Embracing one’s core strengths as a woman:
Strength is not a function of gender but of nature and character. We, as women, need to understand that the mind and body that we are born with are our greatest strengths and anyone telling us otherwise is not telling the truth.
There is a certain intelligence in nature, because of which men and women are designed to differ biologically, psychologically and socially. To call any sex “the weaker sex” is akin to insulting this deep intelligence.
So, let us come back to the same question again;
Can a graceful and gentle woman also be strong and powerful?
Yes, absolutely. Just like an influential and powerful man can be emotional and sensitive. Because who we are should never depend on our gender.
True equality is not in ironing out the gender differences but in embracing them with open arms and yet feeling valued, respected and cherished for our own authentic selves. Women don’t need any validation of their strengths from anyone, they must be self assured and confident because the qualities nature has blessed them with are what make a woman special.
True celebration of womanhood starts with every woman unapologetically celebrating who she is…and not who the society wants her to be.
About the Author:
Soumya Bharathi is an author, blogger and poet based in Bangalore. An Oral Surgeon by training, she is currently pursuing her passion of writing, full-time. Her short stories have been selected for various anthologies. She is also a self-published author. Her first book is a collection of short stories titled “Life blooms in Myriad ways” and her second is a poetry book titled “From the heart of a homemaker”.
About A New You:
We all deserve to have everything in our life exactly the way we want it.The first step begins with believing that every moment is bringing an opportunity to be a new you. As a founder, I provide tools to elevate all dimensions of your life and I teach you the art of writing to reach to your true potential.
Vandana Sehgal | Founder – A New You