I see women celebrating all of who they – strong and vulnerable and beautiful.
These three words, strong, vulnerable, beautiful, sum up what celebrating being a woman is all about.
We are strong. Some of us are physically strong while others are not so much. But we are all strong in character. Women can all bear with many things. We can face anything as long as we know what it is!
We are vulnerable. Being vulnerable doesn’t mean being weak. It means being open to being hurt. And vulnerability is about being authentic, allowing the world and other people to do their worst (if they feel they must!) but still showing up as the amazing women we are.
We are beautiful. Some of us are genetically blessed with physical looks that our culture deems as attractive. We can take no credit for that – it’s part of the gene-pool lottery. Regardless of whether we are physically beautiful, all women have an inner beauty which can be developed, and which doesn’t fade or stretch or sag over time!
I really get irritated by people who say that a woman is really strong. This infers that being female and being strong are normally mutually exclusive! In fact, I believe the opposite is true.
I believe all women are strong, innately strong but we, and the men in our lives, have been fed the line that men are strong and are the protectors and women are weak and need protecting. There is a modicum of truth in this. Men are physically stronger, with larger muscle mass and, in the past, the men have been warriors who protected the woman and children.
However, women also have a strength that men do not possess so readily. We have a strength of spirit that allows us to endure incredible hardship. We can put up with all types of abuse (to our own harm) for the sake of those we care for (namely our children and often our abusive partner).
Women are strong. They are just strong. Any woman who has carried and birthed a child knows that they are strong. And there is a physical strength given to women to birth a child – when I gave birth to my first-born, my then husband said that I grabbed the drip stand and bent it! I don’t remember doing that, but I don’t doubt it!
I am celebrating my strength and the strength of all women.
Synonyms for vulnerable are susceptible, weak, defenceless, helpless, exposed. Doesn’t sound very flattering does it?
Women are strong, but we are vulnerable.
We are physically weaker, which is why physical assaults on women by men are far more common than physical assaults on men by women.
We are financially vulnerable. Post-divorce, it is more common to see a woman in a precarious financial position than a man.
We are environmentally vulnerable. Women who have to leave a violent domestic situation, especially with children accompanying them, must find new accommodation and the means to support both themselves and their families.
We are vulnerable in wartime, as the use of women as bargaining tools (for example, the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria).
This is the reality of life for the majority of women around the world. But we survive and thrive despite that.
But vulnerability also means that we have an innate authenticity. This authenticity can be covered over, and it can be squashed by family and societal pressures. But it is there. It bubbles away under the surface waiting for the time when we can freely express who we are.
Vulnerability is also incredibly powerful, as the amazing Brené Brown expounds on in so much of her work. She says that “vulnerability is…the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love” and she promises that “when we dare to drop the armour that protects us from feeling vulnerable, we open ourselves to the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives”.
Vulnerability allows us to be real.
I am celebrating the authentic vulnerability that is part of being a woman.
Several years ago, I was in a new relationship. This was my first relationship post-divorce – it was four years after leaving that I even ventured back into dating. My new ‘significant other’ was quite a bit older than me. Wonderfully, I felt like I learnt more about being in a healthy relationship with this man, in a very short space of time, than I did in the 28 years I had been married.
However, that doesn’t mean the relationship was without its difficulties. One of these was my new partner’s tendency to depression and his subsequent withdrawal at those times, often without warning or notice. He would just stop answering my phone calls, or he would call quits on the relationship. And I took the responsibility for this on board, as if this was something I could ‘fix’.
My thinking went something like this: He says I’m beautiful, but if I’m so beautiful why does he withdraw form me? There really must be something wrong with me, otherwise he wouldn’t; withdraw. Flawed thinking, right? On lots of levels!
I’m a spiritual person, and I took some time one morning during one of these episodes to just sit with how I was feeling, and to allow my mind to spill out all its garbage. I then heard a voice – God (my faith view), the universe, my inner self, guardian angel but definitely a voice other than my own. The message was that the speaker was taking my old image of myself as not being beautiful and throwing it on the garbage heap, like a worn-out rag doll. The picture is so clear in my mind to this day.
My concept of myself as not being beautiful was challenged.
Growing up as a girl wearing glasses, I didn’t believe I was beautiful. After all, “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses!”. And ‘four-eyes’ and ‘goggles’ were common nicknames. My first boyfriend, who was six years older than me, once asked me, “Has any every told you you’re beautiful?” and when I responded with “No”, he replied, “Then I won’t either” and just laughed.
Of course, I wasn’t beautiful!
But…in the next few weeks, as I consciously embraced the idea that I really was beautiful, I was told more than once that I have a beautiful face. And even when I went to have an ultrasound of my abdomen, the radiographer said I had a beautiful pancreas! What is that? A reinforcement that I am beautiful inside and out!
I am celebrating my beauty, your beauty, our beauty.
Celebrating strong, vulnerable and beautiful
How do you see yourself?
Do you acknowledge your strength? How does that show itself in your life?
Do you celebrate your authentic vulnerability? Or have you tried to hide it under bravado and toughness?
Do you truly know that you are beautiful, regardless of your physical attributes?
Remember to celebrate who you are…all of you! I am celebrating with you.