This is what an anonymous man wrote to me just the other day: “Being strong is not rewarded. Women are expected to be vulnerable. Being strong means that you’re inevitably bitter or jaded about something, and that’s just not attractive.”
Here is what being a strong woman means to me: It means standing up for myself. It means that I am a fully-functioning human, one who is independent and able to do things for herself. It means that I have opinions and beliefs that I stand for, and that I do not settle for less.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t ask for help. I do (often). Asking for help doesn’t mean I’m weak, it means I’m able to acknowledge that I’m not a super woman, and that I’m going to need other people sometimes.
Being strong doesn’t mean that I close myself off from others and act like I’m better than them. (Actually, I’m always striving to be better, live better, love better, which is about me rather than anyone else.) It doesn’t mean that I force my beliefs down other people’s throats, or judge them for how they think. It doesn’t mean that I’m ‘inevitably bitter or jaded’. In fact, a strong woman is a woman who loves herself and her world and is therefore positive, loving, and self-assured.
To be a strong woman simply means that I am grounded and confident in who I am.
I read this man’s comment. Then read it again. And resisted the incredible urge to reply and start a back-and-forth battle via computer screens that would end up going nowhere. But even after a few days, this comment has stayed with me.
See, this is the misconception about strong women: that we are difficult to love. But in all reality, it’s the complete opposite. Strong women are the best women to love. We are the women with fierce compassion. We know who we are and we are not afraid to embrace that. We love whole-heartedly because we love ourselves. And we are not only looking to better ourselves, but our partners, our worlds. If you’re a man that’s intimidated by a strong woman, perhaps it is because you know this woman will push you to be better, will make you see the world differently, will challenge you.
This is the misconception about strong women: that we are difficult to love.
Another misconception about strong women is that we’re incapable of being vulnerable. The funny thing is: to be strong, you first have to be vulnerable. You have to look yourself straight in the eye and acknowledge all the parts of yourself that need improvement, all the parts of you that you try to hide behind a smiling face.
Vulnerability means being brutally honest with yourself; it means setting aside your pride and being open with someone and letting them in. Do not mistake independence and strength with an inability to let someone in. A woman that is confident with herself is a woman that will face love straight on. She is a woman that can be vulnerable in a relationship because she knows who she is. And she will let her significant other discover that person by peeling back those layers, together.
The truth about being a strong woman is that the world sees us as a threat. We’re just ‘too much,’ ‘too intimidating,’ too ‘jaded’ and ‘miserable’ and ‘bitter’. But we are none of those things. We are women with backbones. Women who aren’t afraid to be proud of ourselves in a world that might not always support us. Women who know the value of our vulnerability, our passion, our strength. And women who will fight any anonymous man who dares to say we should be any other way.
Written by Marisa Donnelly
Originally published in Thought Catalog