As we draw closer to Mother’s Day, I am thinking more and more of my mother. She was a remarkable woman and a great wife and mother. My family and I were blessed to have had her in our lives, even if the time was far too short.
I learned a great deal from my mother, through conversation and observation. She has taught me so much about what it means to be a wife, a mother, a professional, a woman. Of the many things my mother taught me, one of the ones that sticks in my mind the most is "Don't be afraid to be a woman."
It’s funny, the first time she said this to me, it was actually in response to my clothes. On the one hand, I was a parent’s dream come true – a teenaged girl who didn’t try to wear too much make-up or tight skimpy clothing. I was a total conservative preppy. My usual “uniform” was long skirts or pants and baggy sweaters. While my father was trying to get me to improve my style in general, my mother was trying to get me to embrace my emerging womanhood and learn to tastefully show my womanly curves.
Over time however, through observation of countless strong and successful women – my mother included – the phrase has come to mean so much more to me. To me it means don’t put limits on yourself. It means embrace your femininity, but don’t think that means you can’t also possess “masculine” characteristics too. Likewise, just because you have benefited from the new opportunities of the women’s liberation movement, doesn’t mean you have to “act like a man” in the workplace. It means you decide what it means to me a woman; not society.
In honor of the skill, grace, compassion and womanhood of my mother, I have asked a few folks to remark about what they feel the phrase means to them.
Author, Burdens Do a Body Good
I find being a woman is so much broader than the usual stereotypes attached to our gender. These days it's more about representing oneself in a variety of ways that are more authentic to the individual and not boxing yourself in. In short to be a woman is powerful and vulnerability simultaneously and beautifully balanced!
I think that being a woman means accepting your emotions, your body shape, your hair and skin types...basically just getting comfortable with yourself. That becomes a lot easier after you turn 50! It also means giving in to your urge to dress girly and to wear pretty shoes that hurt like hell.
Power Women Magazine and Radio Show
For me, "Don't be afraid to be a woman" means, among other things don't be afraid to dress like a woman. You are not a man. Of course, if you feel more comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt, by all means go ahead and dress that way. But if you like wearing skirts or dresses, wear them and expect to be taken seriously nonetheless. [It means] don't believe for a moment that you need to behave like a man to succeed in this world. You can be yourself and succeed. [It means have] confidence in yourself and your own abilities. Being a woman is not a hindrance, it's an advantage. Women have unique skills. They tend to be more emotionally developed creatures than men. They tend to have better people skills. Those skills can get you quite far in this world.
Freelance writer and Associate Professor
To me, being a woman means to inhabit my own skin from the inside-out rather than from the outside-in. What this means is, when others tell me "women should look like this" or "women should act like that" or "women should do this kind of work" or "women should think this way about that issue", I check it out within myself first. I don’t just automatically compare my preferences, appearance, behaviors, opinions, or choices to what women should or should not say/think/believe/do. This means that the most important meaning of being a woman -- to me at least -- is to remember that when I live from the inside-out, honoring and valuing and expressing my own unique gifts, talents, opinions, and preferences, I empower other women to do the same (ala Marianne Williamson), and I encourage the men in our lives to honor us for being multi-dimensional, creative, beautiful, individual, and unique human beings.
To me, being a woman means being strong, secure, independent, compassionate, responsible, and caring. Being a good listener, cooperating with others while holding fast to high ideals is an important part of being a woman. Being a woman means recognizing that outer beauty come from integrity, love, truth, and gentleness. Being a woman means becoming comfortable with receiving attention from others gracefully. It also means being willing to accept the power that comes from strong ideals and commitment to truth.
School of Metaphysics
To me a woman is someone who is comfortable in her own skin. It's one that knows what she believes in and is willing to stand up for that. It's one that has her own style. Whether it’s being comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt or all glammed up for a night on the town... it's being comfortable being you. I think being a woman is when you don't have to behave like a man to be respected like a man; it's being feminine with strength and grace. I think being a woman is communicating thoughts and feelings in an honest, open and appropriate. In a nutshell I think a woman has the grace of a duchess and the strength of steel.
Being a woman means being a member of the most amazing, powerful group of people ever assembled by God....Caregivers. We can't help it. It's in our DNA. I've heard story after story like mine....of well-meaning brothers who want to help with aging parents, but just can't find the strength inside. Enter....the sisters. Miracle workers. Angels. Goddesses. And we care for our children, too.......often at the same time. And we have careers, too, often at the same time. And we keep marriages and households going too......often at the SAME TIME! Beautiful, magical jugglers.....that's us. It's an amazing club that I am PROUD beyond measure to be a member of.
Grammy nominated Singer/Songwriter & Author
To be a woman means to be strong enough to stand up and express myself in the face of most anything, to believe that I can do whatever I set my mind to do, and to still be vulnerable enough to cry and laugh at life's comedies and tragedies.
Sandy Weiner, CPCC, ACC
Certified Professional Life Coach