A strong woman is one who feels deeply and loves fiercely. Her tears flow just as abundantly as her laughter. A strong woman is both soft and powerful. She is both practical and spiritual. A strong woman in her essence is a gift to the world. ~ Ritu Ghatourey
In my 20-something years on this Earth, I have learned that truth often exists within paradox.
Wholeness and healing come when we acknowledge that beauty can exist within pain. That growth can come through being limited. That aging and rebirth can occur simultaneously. That I can be both a student and a teacher of these things. And perhaps the most profound discovery for me: that, as a woman in my truest form, I can be simultaneously soft and strong.
As a woman, I am biologically wired to be a nurturer. I am quick to recognize pain, and even quicker to want to come up with a way to ease it. In high school, I wanted to nurture all the wounded girls and date all the bullied boys to make the world a better place.
In my role as a nurse, I have become emotionally involved in the lives of my patients—to the point that I have found myself sobbing uncontrollably at a number of funerals and memorial services, my heart on my sleeve, and an alarming percentage of my body’s water supply on my husband’s shoulder. In my role as a mother, I not only try to meet the physical needs of my children, but I also feel a profound responsibility for their emotional well-being and development.
I feel deeply, and have had to learn (and am still learning) that I am just one person, limited in how much I can offer both physically and emotionally.
This is my softness.
However, as a woman, I am strong. I have always been known to be strong, although it has been given different, and more negative, labels in the past. Stubborn. Hard-headed. A handful. High maintenance. I even dated a guy once (very briefly) whose female friend took me aside at a party to tell me, “It’s fine if you have strong opinions, but you should just keep them to yourself. Guys don’t like girls who think too much.”
So, from a fairly young age, I was confused by the different, and seemingly opposing elements of my character. I thought that soft and strong could not co-exist, and I felt I had to tone down and even turn off strong in order to make friends, in order to be desirable or date-worthy.
However, over the last few years, I have had the privilege of meeting and being in close relationship with women who, on either a small or a large scale, are world-changers. They are speaking to their communities with passion and compassion. They are nurturers. They are kind. Their hearts are soft toward those in need. They are spreading hope and healing into spaces of hardship and fear.
And even though some people still consider these women to be stubborn, hard-headed, a handful, and high maintenance, I know better now.
I’ve come to see that it is possible to be both: to be soft and kind and compassionate and caring, and to be strong and studious and influential and passionate. It is the combination of these things that make a world-changer.
Being a strong woman has not always been easy for me, or for many women I know. But I am optimistic that, in a time when what it means to be a woman is continually evolving and broadening, my daughters’ softness and strength will be celebrated, commended, and cheered on equally.
I will be their biggest cheerleader—standing not on the sidelines, but among the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of strong women who have both come before me and who proudly walk in the world today. The ones who both lead and clean, who both hustle and stop to hold and enfold. The ones who are changing the world one day at a time, simply by being who they were designed to be—kind and compassionate and soft, and fierce and brave and world-changingly strong.
Author: Laura Koens
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis