Have you ever seen Brené Brown‘s Ted Talk on vulnerability? It is one of the most popular Ted Talks of all time. In it she discusses how increased vulnerability in social situations isn’t detected as a sign of weakness, but as a sign of strength, confidence, and connection. I couldn’t help but think about how this applies to women. Check it out if you aren’t already familiar with it.
I’ve had strong women on the brain lately. Several friends and I have been going through rough patches that require we cry out to God for strength just to get through the day. There’s no doubt in my mind that we are both feminine in our transparency with one another and incredibly strong in our dealing with these situations. But how do these two traits go together?
I studied film in college and worked as a filmmaker for several years. It was a very male-dominated field. I felt that I needed to “man up” in order to fit in. On several occasions I wished I had been born a man. Why would God make me a woman and then call me to this field where men get more jobs, better pay, and women are so sexually objectified? It is only in the past three or four years – basically since I became a mother – that I have fully embraced my role as a woman.
I don’t think it is an oxymoron for us women to be both feminine and strong. Women can be more vulnerable then men, both physically and emotionally. But like the Ted Talk explains, vulnerability is not a weakness. Vulnerability takes great strength.
Vulnerability doesn’t mean we submit ourselves to fear. Being more vulnerable simply means it takes more courage for us to do the same things as men. Maybe I have slightly more fear to overcome in order to bike to work alone than Josh does. Do I let that reality hold me back or control my life? No way! There is great joy in overcoming those sticky fears. When I ride my bike or go for a run at night I don’t feel vulnerable or in danger – I feel exhilarated, slightly rebellious, and incredibly powerful.
Women may show more emotion than men sometimes, but this also is a sign of strength because we are willing to face our emotions. Sharing and opening up are signs of confidence. Strength isn’t being emotionless. Strength is learning to handle our turbulent and confusing emotions with grace and steadfastness. Strength is listening and praying for one another when our hearts are heavy. Strength is staying the course in spite of our mood swings because we realize life is a marathon and not a sprint.
Additionally, women may not seem as strong as men physically. Our frame and muscle mass is pretty different in some cases. But then take into consideration what we are able to accomplish in spite of monthly cycles accompanied by pain, raw emotions, and raging hormones. Consider the sacrifices we make to grow children – the morning sickness and nausea, the sharing our bodies with them for nine months. The strength and inner drive it takes to labor and give birth is incredible, not to mention the nurturing, caring for, and sometimes breastfeeding on top of that.
We give up our personal space for not only the pregnancy but the first year or so that the child is with us. Our bed, our arms, our lap, our torso, and our legs are not our own – they are tugged and sought out constantly by little humans. While pregnant and breastfeeding, us mothers give up the best nutrients from our diets, and must take extra care that we’re eating well and eating enough.
Us women must handle the sleep deprivation of night wakings with a baby and then take care of our jobs and our other children by day. And we are somehow expected to do this with cheerfulness, savoring every moment with our little bundles of joy before they grow up.
It takes strength and determination to workout with small kids, which might make it even more impressive for a mother than anyone else. Even if our time on the track is slightly slower, or the amount of weight we lift is slightly less. Our weight training doesn’t end when we exit the gym. We’ve got a children and diaper bags to carry every hour of the day, that will gradually strengthen and chisel our muscles.
Women who stay home with their children all day, I applaud you. Those of us who have done it know how hard it is. The men who have done it would probably all agree that working full time is easier than staying home with young children. I know my paid-work is personally easier than my mommy-work. Rejoice in this task. It is a huge undertaking worthy of someone of strength, intelligence, and great patience.
Playing with our kids and providing for their needs daily is a sacrifice. But it can be a sacrifice of praise. We can tell God when we’re exhausted. We can praise him for his work in us. Does he give us more than we can handle sometimes? Yes! He does! It’s the only way growth happens. It’s the same as training for an endurance run or building muscle mass. He stretches the fabric of our being just like muscle tissue and we will come out strengthened.
God did not have weakness in mind when he created women. He knew she would need to be nurturing, yet powerful. Indeed, God has a feminine side. We believe he is neither male nor female since he created both in his image. In Luke 13, Jesus laments over Jerusalem and says “How I wish I could gather your children together like a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings but you were not willing.” This is just one small example, but I think it paints an exquisite picture of Jesus’ nurturing heart for God’s children.
The Wife of Noble Character in Proverbs 31 is strong, sufficient, and womanly.
She considers a field and buys it;with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.She dresses herself with strengthand makes her arms strong.She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.Her lamp does not go out at night.Proverbs 31:16-18
Verse 25 repeats “Strength and dignity are her clothing.” Strength. Women need not be masculine to be strong. Femininity is strong. Being exposed, being transparent, and showing emotion is strength.
Women, rejoice in who you are. Don’t compete and compare yourself with men. Don’t wish your emotions were less visible. Don’t regret the fact that you struggle with “woman issues.” Don’t think that you must act manly in the workplace in order to be valued. Don’t feel that you must apologize if something makes you cry. Don’t neglect your value and your contribution to society, even if you mostly stay home with your family. There is purpose and beauty and power in your feminine self.