“A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink.”

One of the business Instagram accounts that I follow posted this quote with an accompanying image of a woman flexing her arm muscles.

It made me think about all the other “strong women” tropes I often see as a businesswoman. Terms like boss babe, fearless, and hustle seem ubiquitous and while their intention is to help women feel empowered, they don’t feel that way to me. Oftentimes, they feel more like women just emulating men and patriarchal ideals of success.

In WomanSpeak today, we had a mock meeting for this month’s curriculum which was “Speaking Up in Group Meetings” where we had to come up with a women’s leadership conference. We landed on “Radically Redefining Leadership” and talked about how leadership is traditionally thought of and how we would redefine it. Some of the patriarchal ideas that we came up with were:

  • power and how it’s tied to the idea of scarcity,
  • hierarchy,
  • being loud/having to be in control.

Part of being on this journey of returning to our true selves starts with figuring out where we got our messages and beliefs.

We flipped these on their heads and redefined leadership in the following ways:

  • power doesn’t have to come from scarcity but can come from abundance and uplifting each other,
  • leadership doesn’t have to be hierarchal and can be collaborative and focus on consensus building,
  • instead of being loud and in control, leadership can be about active listening which leads to inclusivity.

Part of being on this journey of returning to our true selves starts with figuring out where we got our messages and beliefs. It requires us to examine how we see the world and ask ourselves the very important question, “Who got to define how we show up?”

When I saw the post with the saying about the “strong woman” winking at a challenge, my immediate response was to push back because what we consider our frailties aren’t flaws. They are what make us human. So a strong woman, to me, may do the following when faced with a challenge instead…

  • Feels fear but does it anyway.
  • Asks for help when she needs it.
  • Gives herself the grace and compassion to try another time.

Or maybe you are the strong woman who sees a challenge and does gives it a wink. The point is that all of these different approaches define strong women and all are valid. We are each individuals with different ways of processing the world and we can move beyond patriarchal ideals to embrace our feminine, soft ones too.

I am soft and that’s what makes me a strong woman. What makes you a strong woman?

Photo by Heather Ford on Unsplash