What It Means (And Doesn't Mean) To Be A Strong Woman

I know a lot of strong women.  I mean, A LOT. 

They may be strong in very different ways but each one impresses me, none the less, by how they show up in their lives. They have certain qualities that reflect a person who is doing their inner work, taking risks and working on bringing more vulnerability and kindness into their relationships.

What’s had me reflecting on these women and this topic is a conversation I overheard the other day in a coffee shop.  Two women were talking (yes, when I hear “love & relationship” conversations, I eavesdrop – sorry) about a guy the first one was dating.  It was clear the other lady was married and trying to help talk something through.

What got my attention as I sat down behind them, was Ms. Single saying “You know, it happens every single time I begin dating a guy.  I’m a strong woman and they just can’t handle it!” 

My ears perked up and I’m sure I leaned backward at least a foot to try and hear what Mrs. Married would say.  “I totally get it! I scared away so many men I thought I’d never get married, remember?  Men just don’t know what to do with a strong woman.”

I sat there thinking.  I hear some form of this “strong woman” = “no relationship” belief so many times that I came close to pulling up a chair, ordering us all another round of lattes and asking them to give me more details. Thankfully they continued without me pulling out my wallet.

“So what if I told him exactly what he needs to do to keep me around?  I know what I want, I’m not gonna beat around the bush and I’m strong enough to speak up.  He can show me I’m that I’m number one or I’ll find someone who will treat me like I should be treated.

Whoa!  I strained toward Mrs. Married to see if she was going to say something about that attitude possibly creating some of the problem. 

Nope.

“Oh, my God.  I get so tired of being called “bitchy” by Dave.  Every time he wants to talk through starting his own business, I’m expected to listen and just support him.  I could take his idea and have it up and running in 30 days. I finally just have to say “Who cares? I’m sick of hearing about it. Just do something and then he asks why I have to get bitchy.” 

Women.  Strength.  Empowerment.  Boldness.  Action.

I love all these words. 

I also will tell you that some of the most challenges clients I’ve had over the last 20 years were women who had gotten stuck with the mindset that being “strong” meant it was OK to basically be a pretty damn unpleasant, short tempered person.

Truly strong women do NOT:

·       Control their men. (or others, for that matter) They don’t try and put on the mantle of “boss lady” for fear they won’t have it their way.  They have the skill and inner fortitude to speak up, express themselves fully and calmly, encourage collaboration and lead when it’s called for

 

·        Make everything about them. They understand they are not the center of the Universe, take responsibility for how they show up in the world and understand that others have differing opinions, ways of doing things and allow space for others to be seen and heard

 

·        Call forms of protection being “strong.” Defensiveness, avoidance, blaming and escalating arguments by finger pointing are not strong stances.  They are fear based reactions and ways to try and win what has become a power struggle.

 

·       Require a man to meet all their needs.  A strong woman meets her own needs, generously meets some for her partner because she loves to offer kindness and appreciates when a man does the same for her

 

·       Say / act like they can do everything themselves.  The distinction I’m making here is an important one, so listen up ladies. Be self- sufficient, take care of business, learn what you need to learn and don’t lean unnecessarily on a man.  But I can’t stress enough, that real strength comes from also being willing and able to be vulnerable, to ask for help, to share in the “doing” and by enjoying that kind of connection.  Love is not leaving someone standing over on the sidelines, feeling useless and not able to contribute in a meaningful way to the relationship

If at any point in your dating/relating/loving life you’ve said something to the effect of “Men don’t like strong women!” I encourage you to open your mind and heart and go exploring.  See where that story is coming from and what initial fear sparked the whole tale in the first place. 

There are certainly men out there who will be threatened by women who are awake, on a growth path and who are learning to stand boldly in their lives, claiming the kind of intimacy they deeply long for and not tolerating nonsense.  There are women who are scared of men who are taking this same kind of bold stance. 

But never, ever confuse the kind of strength that comes from loving, truly kind, authentic expression with controlling, bitchy, self- centered demands. 

BTW – insert “man” anywhere you’d like hereJ

Big love to you all ~ Bar