No Trophy For The ‘Strong Woman’!
Life has been a mix of good and bad times recently, and almost everyone of us has had their fair share. If hard times don’t bring out the best of us, they will bring out the worst of us. I only hope you get the latter.
My point is, regardless of who you are, where you live, or what you do for a living, we all go through motions at some point in life. The only difference is that when that happens, some of us face the situation squarely as others brush it off and pretend they have never been better. The sad truth is that society standards have taught us to pretend to each other and to the world, promising we are okay even when we are far from it. We keep smiling when everything inside us is just a bit of hell breaking loose. We have been taught that the world worships the strong, that if you show any signs that your life is falling apart, then you are only playing victim, to attract attention, or even worse, living in the past.
It’s even worse when it comes to women. You will often hear how she is a strong woman because of one reason or the other. Apparently, it’s something we earn. We have been taught that a strong woman is one that seems to have it all together amidst chaos. There are even stereotypes for that. So we all try to live up to the same, and keep wearing a bright smile, even when we are shattered on the inside. A woman will try their best to wear a smile just so they can exhibit confidence and a different image to the rest of the world, only for reality to hit once they are on their own. Unfortunately, for most of the times, behind that confidence and big smile, is a woman falling apart.
I have no idea when or where it all started, but women are mostly called ‘strong’ when they are going through the worst time of their life. Yet to my surprise, the moment the label is placed on their shoulders, it seems to dilute the weight of whichever load they are carrying around and instead increase expectations of how much they can do to hold themselves together. But just because she carries it well doesn’t mean it’s not heavy. Infact, behind that strength is most likely a tragic story that has not had a chance to be told. I have seen women that have stayed in broken marriages, loveless relationships or abusive and manipulative circumstances longer than they probably should. They know they are fighting a loosing battle but they will keep it going anyway. Some even go further to carry everyone else’s problems, like theirs were not enough. For some reason, all these end up rewarded with the same title, ‘strong’.
I don’t want to play judge here, but in my opinion, most of them go for it in fear of being called weak. I hate to break it to you but whether you like it or not, society will always have a say on what you do and how you do it. Look, it’s perfectly ‘okay not to be okay’, and it’s totally fine to let the people around you know just that. If you have children, let them know when things are a mess, atleast they won’t expect more if you are not at your usual best. Let them know how unpredictable life is. Let them know that there will be days that will start off so well, but everything may suddenly crumble away, and that’s not because they are at fault.
But most importantly, allow yourself to embrace the phase you are going through. No matter what you do, sometimes life will hate on you anyway, it will hit you hard in the face, knock you down and wait for you to show up on top again, just in time to kick you down one more time. Allow yourself to be a mess sometimes. Okay, maybe make it a hot mess! But the point is, you don’t have to carry more than you can handle simply because that’s everyone’s idea of being a strong woman. You don’t have to rush your healing from things that have ripped you apart, simply because you have a reputation to keep. Give yourself grace, and while you are at it, be completely honest with yourself about the state of things.
You don’t have to always have it all together, so you can drop your ‘perfect-me’ frame. You don’t have to be fine all the time, or have all the answers to the puzzles all the time, the hell no one can measure up to that! Unless of course, you are not human. If that’s all it takes, be vulnerable, even when it’s embarrassing. Vulnerability is often confused for a sign of weakness but it’s in most cases worth the effort. Infact a strength in its own. You never know, in your vulnerability, you could inspire someone to face their own ‘demons’. Don’t we all have at least one?
So, feel free to unplug everything for a while if that’s what you need. Disappear from your usual ‘streets’, your favorite circles until you are YOU again. It doesn’t make you less of the woman you are. It just allows you to bounce back even better! And in the end, you remain a woman. Whether anyone approves of your strength or not may really matter at that time.
Takudzwanashe Ndangana / 5 March 2021
A strong woman can also have bad days and be able to ask for help.This is a well written piece.