When I decided to put the hash-tagged affirmation “#leadlikeawoman” on my vision board for 2019, I didn’t quite know what that would come to mean for me. At the time, I was just combing through pages and pages of magazines looking for relevant content when the phrase just inexplicably caught my eye and gripped me. And even though the words were written in such tiny letters, it read loud and powerful. Bold and strong. And confident. And feminine.
I am what many would consider a late bloomer. I didn’t start coming into myself until I was somewhere around sixteen or seventeen years of age. In fact, for much of my teenage life, I exhibited behaviors and characteristics that were considered typical of a boy. Perhaps, it was my upbringing. I did, after all, grow up in a household with three older brothers, and I suppose in an effort to belong, I mimicked much of what I saw they did.
It wasn’t until I got to high school that I began to question my womanhood. Pondering what it meant to be a girl who was slowly transitioning into a young woman. I remember when I first got my period at age fourteen, and how I freaked out to my mother on the phone because this now meant I was capable of having a baby. I remember when I bought my first pair of fitted jeans from Old Navy and how uncomfortable I was because my hips looked so revealing in them. And then, there was the first time I wore a whole face of make-up for my high school prom and thought to myself, “Ugh, I am never going to be this type of girl.” I struggled with body image issues throughout the years. Failing to see the beauty in myself, due to having a huge nose, practically no boobs and being extremely overweight. I also didn’t know how to cope with all the emotional turmoil going on inside of me, stemming from the sexual abuse I’d experienced at a very tender age and going through much of my childhood without a present father. For me, this concept of womanhood was a difficult one to comprehend and as a result, I spent much of my formative years hiding from it.
It took several years for me to fully come into myself as a woman. And to be honest, I am not even sure I am one-hundred percent there yet. But at thirty-two years of age, the level of maturity, growth and healing that I have gone through have been so profound, that I am almost a direct contrast to the girl I was some fifteen years ago. While I still struggle with the idea of vulnerability and my ability to express my emotions, I have learned so much about what it means to physically accept myself and embrace the many qualities and characteristics that define me as a woman. And to do so in honesty. With conviction, passion, confidence and grace.
When I think about the affirmation, “lead like a woman,” I see it extending far beyond the context of just my professional environment. I see it manifesting itself in every aspect of my existence. To lead is to live. And for me, this signifies starting from a place of honesty and truth. And then allowing everything else to flow from that. Being true to who I am is paramount. It means embracing the woman God created me to be. Accepting all that makes me different and unique, and rejecting any and all desires to be like anyone else. It means loving myself and all my imperfections. Validating my emotions–all six thousand of them—and not suppressing them, hoping they magically go away. It means identifying my limitations and fear and being bold enough to openly acknowledge them. It means asking for help when I need it. Commanding respect without the need for force. Speaking up when my voice should be heard and knowing how to stand down when it doesn’t need to. It means crying when I feel like it. Laughing, even if it’s with myself. Blooming with grace, no matter where I’m planted. And perhaps the most fundamental principle of them all, allowing the men that are in and around my life to be well, men.
The woman has long been made to believe that she needs to compete with the man, and that in order to do so, she needs to emulate him. Or better yet, dominate him. Of course, this notion is largely owed to the years upon years of suffering and marginalization women had to endure at the hands of men and their societal standards. There are even books and articles and term papers promoting this concept of women thinking and behaving like men. But there is such a thing as extremism when it comes to the idea of feminism. I don’t subscribe to that type of philosophy. I’ve come to understand that being a woman means I will always think, feel and behave differently than my male counterparts. This is how God created me to be and I am perfectly okay with that.
Perhaps, when I chose to add the hash-tagged phrase to my vision board, it was my way of subconsciously reminding myself, and affirming to myself that I am a woman. And that I am bold, beautiful, strong, confident and unapologetically feminine.