I have a lot of respect for Beyonce. Even before Beyonce, though, I had a lot of respect for Destiny’s Child. When I think of “Independent Women”, I think about how Destiny’s Child was the group that taught me that phrase in the 90s. I think about their music, songs like “Survivor” and “Soldier” and lyrics like “I don’t like when I’m tryna get my groove/Is a partner that meets me only halfway” and “I am not the one/To sit around, and be played/So prove yourself to me”and “I don’t think you’re ready for this/ Cause my body’s too bootylicious for ya babe,” I just don’t think that I would have believed in being a strong, self sufficient woman without growing up with this group of women in the 90s.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a strong woman. Since getting married, I’ve wrestled with what I’ve perceived to be expectations of what woman is supposed to be. Thanks to Celine Dion and everything Disney, while I grew up with Destiny’s Child, I also grew up with a lot of fantastical, mystical ideas of the miracle that is romantic love. Merging these two worlds has proven to be an interesting task, and sometimes a seemingly impossible dilemma.
Some things that run through my mind that seem contradictory:
“Why can’t I just buy what I want? I earned this money.”
“We’re partners now and we should share everything.”
“I love all my hobbies. I should be able to hold onto all my various passions.”
“Our relationship is the priority, and this might mean giving up some of my individual activities in life.”
“I should always be able to take care of myself.””
“I should sometimes allow myself to be taken care of by my husband.”
Thankfully, these are entirely things that run through my head, and I have the most amazing partner in the world who supports whatever choices I make on a daily basis. I couldn’t ask for someone more perfect for the constantly changing organism that is everything me.
These are two things that I know for sure. I want to be a strong woman. I believe in love. I should be allowed to be a strong woman that believes in love.
I’ve recently been going to a dance studio where I’ve met the most amazing collection of women who know what they want, are not shy about exploring different aspects of themselves, and are all hustling hard to build lives that they are excited to live. I’ve never been to a place like this in my life.
Alongside this studio I’ve been frequenting since July 2018, I’ve somehow been lucky enough to snag the most amazing group of girlfriends I’ve ever had in my life. They are supportive, they are kind, they are never judgmental, and they are always seeking to understand me when I am in times of distress.
I have come to a conclusion about what I believe strong women to be. For most of my life, women have been people who judged me, my hobbies or interests, or made fun of them in what seemed like jokes at the time. Some of these women even talked about other girls to me, and so now I know that I was probably being talked about when I was not there either. I don’t believe (and I don’t want to believe) that any of these things were intentionally malicious. I think it was just what was portrayed as “girl talk” when we were growing up. It was just what girls did.
But now that I’m older, I’m seeing things much more clearly. To be a strong woman, you don’t destroy. You create. Strong women don’t nitpick at people. Instead, they lift other people up.
A total side bar, but I think an interesting one: Not all strong women become mothers, but I think this is why it is women who become mothers, and not men. Strong women carry others within themselves. Mothers are strong enough to carry the weight of another person’s darkest shadows and sins and their brightest hopes and dreams. Mothers might feel all this pain, but it never tears them down entirely. Instead, mothers work and work to help their children realize their greatest goals, and overcome their most difficult obstacles.
Strong women lift up other women. Strong women lift up other people in general. Strong women do not have time for the childish things like talking about others, making fun of others, or laughing at other people’s passions. They’re too busy doing the work of pushing humanity forward toward a brighter, happier day.
A shout out to the women pictured above who have really taught me what it is to have strong female friendships. I’ve had many wonderful girlfriends over the course of my lifetime, but this group above is the first time I’ve really had a girl group that I feel empowered by, encouraged by, and loved by.
The photo above is particularly special because it was at my very first dance show for my current studio. I haven’t danced in years and years and years. I thought very hard about this one day and realized that it was a group of girls in 4th grade who I had tried to enter a talent show with who looked at me after rehearsal one day and said, “You can’t dance. You look like jello.” After that comment when I was just 8 years old, I started to tell people, “I don’t dance” and “I can’t dance.”
When I bought a groupon for a dance studio this past summer, and realized that I liked it, I kept my hobby a secret for a good while. No one there knew I couldn’t dance. But it felt like a bit of a sham–I was dancing in there, and I was an imposter. I didn’t really belong there, I kept telling myself, even though I was falling more and more in love with dance. When I signed up to do a performance and my husband couldn’t come see me due to prior commitments, I told this group of girls what I was up to. Not only were they supportive and didn’t once laugh at me, they all came, Jessica even video-taped it, and we all went out for drinks afterward.
It took a group of girls in 4th grade to make me believe I couldn’t dance. It took this much stronger group of women in my late 20s to show me how stupid I was to believe those 9 year olds.
Thank you Jamie, Jessica, Carly, and Naomi, and every other woman in my life who has lifted me up. I am a stronger woman because of the strong women who envelope me in such strong blankets of love. And while I’m at it, Happy Galentine’s Day all of you!