Tuesday, September 14

strong women

i wrote recently about women and relationships between them, and last month on friendships. i was pondering this morning about this again. obviously it's a focus right now with spiral sisters launched.

so i was thinking that besides our many issues, our shadows, that get in the way of good relationships, that strong women can struggle befriending other strong women.

by strong i mean, opinionated, confident, assertive, healthy self-worth, those with a fire in their belly. they endure, work hard, make do, pick others up. well, at least some of those things on most days.

"The most beautiful discovery true friends make
is that they can grow separately without growing apart."
Elizabeth Foley

i live in a community of very strong women, so i knew last year that this was going to be a theme for me. something i needed to examine and discover. in this community, there are many hugs and smiles and much socialising. however, in the background there is the same amount of bitching, undermining, mocking. because i'm terrible at faking it, the irony is that i'm the outsider.

sometimes i have doubted myself. why don't i just fake it a little? for the sake of social cohesion, to oil the social cogs as it were?

it's just not in my nature. i have to have honesty. i have befriended very difficult people in my life - suffering depression, highly sensitive, obnoxious, plain weirdos. but the running theme has been honesty, and the willingness to put in the work in a difficult relationship. i'm not one to walk away when the going gets tough. i'm in 'the tough get going' camp. i work at it.

"You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back."
Barbara De Angelis

what has recently been highlighted for me is how difficult it isfor strong women to bond. even women very different from those described above. women who have love and kindness in their hearts. of course, they still own shadows and issues, like we all do.

the unique difficulties between strong women are issues of arrogance, needing to be right, needing to have control, hearing only one's own opinion, pushing others towards your perspective, needing to feel superior, wanting to be the leader or teacher but not the led or taught.

the most difficult are relationships where one or both women are semi-strong - almost there but with deep and lingering wounds. where need for control is coupled with low self-worth. where needing to push one's opinion is coupled with fear of being hurt. and so on.

“Men kick friendship around like a football but it doesn't seem to break.
Women treat it like glass and it goes to pieces.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

and as a strong woman myself, i'm learning gentleness every day. but i've also realised that it's important to not lose my voice. my strength. that is not what the best of womanhood is about for me. it's gentleness in strength and strength in gentleness. we ought not to have to treat each other like we're glass ornaments. and those that are more fragile can learn to breathe in some of the fire rather than hide in the dark.

i have a fire in my belly, it's who i am. and i know it scares the sensitive and wounded. i stand strong in what i am and that scares those struggling with arrogance shadows.

No person is your friend who demands
your silence or denies your right to grow.
Alice Walker

i need to believe that strong women, heavily shadowed or not, can make it work. that we can dig through the issues and nurture our way out of the mud. isn't that one of woman's unique gifts - to keep on loving through the muck? and isn't that what sisterhood is partly about? solidarity amongst women, however different?

and i want to support every woman's unique voice. for so long we fought to be heard amongst the voices of men. as long as our hearts are gentle, we ought not to lose our strong voices when others scare off. us women doubt ourselves enough as it is.



ps, Carin's doing a yummy crafty/arty giveaway!

30 comments:

  1. I have just emailled you, and the spirit within my words was very close to that which you have written here. And I know I should develop that idea (lol, I've been editing essays too much lately!) but actually that's all I have to say. A yes in agreement.

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  2. if those strong women can come together as *equals* then yes -- but as long as one or the other hasn't *seen* where the Shadows are, and that they need to be addressed, then it's like chasing your tail. and strong women chasing their tails is a formidable obstacle. ;)

    in general though -- yes.

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  3. Mel - i agree. obviously. lol
    although, i would add, that love and a willingness to work through obstacles can heal.
    it's when there is a running away, a refusal to budge, or, an unwillingness to 'see' even when faced with them.

    it's work isn't it? aren't all relationships work in some way or another. and the ones that help us grow the most are the hardest work. friendships between strong women will always instigate growth i think.

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  4. can't remember who said it, "no pressure, no diamonds"...

    Speaking as a strong woman, and I know I am - much more than I appear. I'm hell on 2 wheels, virtually indestructible ; )

    We strong women throw ourselves in there with courage, and open hearts, laying it wide open. We each are enough, and have enough, (power, equality, and the rest), without the need to struggle for it amongst ourselves.

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  5. ooh, so powerfully said.
    although now i'm wary of getting on your roads..... lol

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  6. you'd better be wary - I'm unlicensed : p

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  7. I’m that outsider too, i find i’m incapable of joining in with this stuff because it doesn’t feel right to me.. feeling deeply uncomfortable among it.. the dishonesty! mostly i just try to let the awareness of it, be there.. but at times it really gets me down.. that energy.. and i need to withdraw from it completely. funny thing is though, although i feel displaced among this element of life..community.. and i’m seen as the weirdo because of my lack of conformity to these standards - (lol that really made me laugh - your description of the kinds of people you have befriended) - i’m also the one who people (including the ones who call me a wierdo) turn to in what they see as their weakest, darkest moments..



    “what has recently been highlighted for me is how difficult it is for strong women to bond. even women very different from those described above. women who have love and kindness in their hearts. of course, they still own shadows and issues, like we all do.”


    You know, when i was younger i used to wonder why it was me who people came to when they needed an ear or a shoulder.. i later realised it was because they knew they could trust me.. in a way this used to hurt me a little, because that trust didn’t work both ways.. i just didn’t get it! It's taken a long time to learn to accept that this is the way of things. i think, this is perhaps where some of this strength is developed from.. a sense of deeper self reliance, and also thinking about it now.. perhaps where the difficulty to bond comes from.. trust can take a while to build.. especially if you keep giving it and its continually misplaced.



    “and as a strong woman myself, i'm learning gentleness every day. but i've also realised that it's important to not lose my voice. my strength. that is not what the best of womanhood is about for me. it's gentleness in strength and strength in gentleness. we ought not to have to treat each other like we're glass ornaments. and those that are more fragile can learn to breathe in some of the fire rather than hide in the dark.”

    just beautiful, Mon.


    “Lao-Tzu (600 B.C.)
    Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.”


    i like strong women and i love how they challenge me to think, for myself…

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  8. oh sue such great insights and thoughts.

    as i'm feeling rather vulnerable this morning, it was balm to hear that i'm not alone, in disliking dishonesty.

    i’m also the one who people (including the ones who call me a wierdo) turn to in what they see as their weakest, darkest moments..

    yep, i've always played the Listener role. but as you also say later, trust needs to work both ways.

    i think, this is perhaps where some of this strength is developed from.. a sense of deeper self reliance

    food for thought!

    ahhh, you quoted the tao to me. :)

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  9. OMG - I have so much to say. I absolutely love this post.

    ( I have also been writing a long email to you per your considerate offer of your email address - will get through it one day !!).

    This is so friggin insightful, it kind of scares me! and I just want to talk about it so much.

    I feel as though I fall under the category of almost a strong woman, but with some hurt stuff, or maybe some self-doubt. It seems a contradiction but I have good self image, for the majority of the time, and I feel very comfortable with my body and I have good self-worth. Yet, I feel I often have that self-doubt which sometimes leads me to give my very strong opinions in a need to be right. Not always, I often analyse why I am sharing something of a strong belief, especially regarding childcare and attachment parenting. I am often concerned I am motivated for the wrong reasons, and sometimes I am, in a need to defenc co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, and the like. However, often times, I find I am doing it because I feel it will benefit the child or spread awareness etc etc.

    I find that my strong minded wonderful female friends. Who never in a months of Sundays would practice co-sleeping or even breastfeed for even the first six months, or think positive discipline in a load of crock, have been extremely extremely respectful. I find, like you, my strong femal friends, are honest and open and I love them for it and love theuir acceptance and often praise of living my beliefs, albiet different to theirs.

    I used to walk away, concerned, I had 'gone over the line' and would regret offering my opinion, but I have found I am dealing much better with this and usually - usually, I am offering it upon request or probing of curiousity.

    Anyway, I am maybe free associating here a bit between all these subjects, but I love this post and Love these insights.

    I hope to write more soon.

    I also love Spiral Sisters, and will try anc check in more often.

    Reggie x

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  10. Absolutely love this post Mon!

    Right now, that's all I have to say lol. My mind is buzzing with thoughts on this subject, but I can't seem to formulate them.

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  11. This got me thinking a lot. I always find it interesting to observe how women become friends and maintain friendships. I think I am similar to you in that I don't fit in. I don't know why that is for me, maybe because I grew up wih my dad and don't care about girly stuff because I'd rather watch a football game, or it's because I don't feel like doing the fake thing (trying to please). I'm not sure why women are so harsh to one another. It seems like the bonds should be greater and it would be easy to make friends with any other women just on the fact that we are both sharing in the experience of being a woman.
    I'm not sure if that makes sense. Thanks for the post!

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  12. I think a big issue for many of us in this regard is our socialization. We are socialized into niceness, into smoothing things over, not into owning our power or constructive conflict. It's taken for granted that part of becoming a man is owning your power, and competing. But we women are never quite comfortable with it (I say 'we' perhaps generationally, as I do think this is changing.)

    I have seen this play out in so many ways. I studied martial arts for a long time, and this is the issue us women always had - not being able to hit each other in class and just get over it like the guys! We would either always be apologizing, or we would secretly hold a grudge. I saw the same thing in my corporate career - men had an easier time disagreeing, even vehemently, and then letting it go later, but for women it became wrapped up in power issues, one party or both feeling that certain social 'rules' between women had been violated, etc., and holding a grudge for it.

    And I've seen that subtle sense that we should be 'nice' come into play in spiritual circles too. Women tend to gravitate much more towards the ideas of peace, light, compassion etc.. Which is of course good, but then there is a tendency not to face our dark side, the ways we want power, the ways we use it, etc. And then there is a denial that takes place, and we can only harness part of our power, or our power gets twisted and expressed unconsciously at times, rather than being controlled and properly directed.

    Haven't been around much, but looking forward to getting back online and visiting SS too! - Lisa

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  13. I find this to be an interesting debate in that so many women tend to want understanding, compassion, love, kindness (indeed, we all want this, it is a very natural human and spiritual desire), yet we are so quick to cast judgement and to lay blame.

    To call those who are having difficulties in life (as most of us do) weirdos, obnoxious, or highly sensitive is casting judgment, which I find myself feeling uncomfortable with, if only because it seems unfair to those who are living life the best way they see fit. We all do what we can, and we MUST learn to accept each other in this way.

    We only feel we are on the outside when we feel our opinion is very individual. However, to move away from individuality (control also related to the sense of individuality some people feel the need for) means to move TOWARDS community, which in where we find compassion, etc.

    But to emphasize being disconnected, to embrace it, in fact, is to do a disservice to those who do belong, to those who value community, and believe in positivity and human good.

    If we are to embrace sisterhood, then we must learn to keep from using words that are hurtful (such as weirdo, etc.). We must learn to deliver messages kindly and in a gentle manner. We must learn to be a "part of." To be on the inside or outside should not be an issue -- in fact, these words suggest inclusivity and exclusivity, which is, after all, illusion. No, the phrase we should consider using is "part of," which suggests we are all, in the end, a part of humanity.

    Otherwise, we are being dishonest with ourselves and with others.

    Much love and light.

    Juliana

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  14. Juliana, you've read those words too earnestly. i consider myself a weirdo. sorry for the misunderstanding there.

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  15. Reggie darlin' i MUST teach you how to use the name/url thingy. lol

    I feel I often have that self-doubt which sometimes leads me to give my very strong opinions in a need to be right. Not always, I often analyse why I am sharing something of a strong belief, especially regarding childcare and attachment parenting. I am often concerned I am motivated for the wrong reasons, and sometimes I am

    wow, that's some real self-honesty going on there. you've just given me a great gift. i renewed faith that there ARE people who truly move towards honesty of themselves. (it's been a tough day)

    you are truly fortunate to have such friends. that is the type of friendship i seek out all the time. because that's who i am - be fully myself and accept others fully themselves.

    Carin that's just fine. rest and cook your 'bun' darling.

    Cassie
    It seems like the bonds should be greater and it would be easy to make friends with any other women just on the fact that we are both sharing in the experience of being a woman.

    i'm an idealist, a blind one sometimes. this is my wish for us.

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  16. Lisa
    We are socialized into niceness, into smoothing things over, not into owning our power or constructive conflict.

    brilliantly put - constructive conflict.
    in my recent move into gentleness, i found i doubted myself - was i not doing this right? lol
    fluid, gentle, flexible, loving, is NOT the same thing as tiptoeing around fragile personalities. and as i said in my post, about losing your unique voice.

    We would either always be apologizing, or we would secretly hold a grudge.
    man, that is SO indicative of the general condition between us women.
    us women are locked into many social expectations for each other - such and such wasn't said the right way, so and so didn't do x the right way.

    and we are superstars at holding grudges. where does this stem from?

    great points about the spiritual circles and styles too.

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  17. I often find myself on the edge of things. I look at the photographic lives of good friends on facebook and somehow, I am not there. I never committed to one group so I was somehow never there when the camera was around. The diversity of people I have known is also very apparent on facebook! but this diversity comes at a price, I often find myself moving on, to different parts of the country when I was younger, jobs and hobbies now I am more tied to one place.

    One thing I have found, amongst all these women I have met over the years is that women are often the first to rip down other women. Men don't care if men are fat, wear too much make up or if their hair needs re-dying. Women like to pick at those who start to rise and if you give some women a little power, they become very damaging to those women they have power over.

    I have many women who are not like this and I guess that some women are like this is much on my mind as I have a Boss right now who is a manipulative bully, who likes to have all attention on her. If any other woman shines she cuts them down. If the woman in her team become friendly, she plays them off against each other.

    I think power is new to the sisterhood and like the nouveau riche flashing their cash, women can be a little over the top in flashing their power. Some women manage it perfectly but this often comes from the experience of having gotten it very wrong! I think we women need to learn to be easier with ourselves and others in many ways!

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  18. Juliana
    my own unique 'voice' is that i don't take life too seriosuly. even though i take a lot of specifics seriously, i tend to joke a lot too.
    and my humour is British, which means we aren't earnest and we call people 'nutters' and 'weirdos' without ANY malice.
    hope that's cleared up.

    i'm sorry for not quite grasping your 3rd paragraph.

    But to emphasize being disconnected, to embrace it, in fact, is to do a disservice to those who do belong, to those who value community

    i'm not sure who was embracing it??
    but the community i spoke of was a false community. that is, based on false smiles, false friendship. in that case, yes, i embrace being apart from that.

    these people aren't seeking 'community', not in the way you and i have spoken of it before. they are seeking support for their own malicious thoughts, and someone to get drunk with. i struggle being any part of that.

    We must learn to deliver messages kindly and in a gentle manner

    i agree, to a point.
    i'm more in line with Lisa's perspective.

    we women place too stringent social expectations on each other. it should be said gentler, kinder, nicer, more gracefully.
    completely wipes away every woman on this earth who has a strong, blunt, sarky, loud-mouthed, sassy, opinionated, or 'masculine' style.
    i LOVE such women.

    i think that i can love them because i see behind the words into the heart.

    me? i think things should be said authentically. and sometimes that means brutally honestly even.

    the spiritual growth, the sisterhood growth, is to speak FROM love, FROM a gentle heart. NOT the same thing as speaking meekly, gently, and worrying you'll tread on every sensitive soul's toes.
    and for the receiver, being able to meet that head on, see the love behind the words, heal, and then move on.

    as Lisa said, us women aren't so good at moving on.

    also, i can guarantee that a woman can say things perfectly fine by the majority's consensus, and some other woman will take offence. while we can be sensitive towards other women's issues, i believe strongly we should not compromise who we are, because you can't please everybody. it's impossible to do so.

    i am not a gentle speaker, and i'm not a gentle soul. i'm a dynamic firey force of nature. but i am also very calm. i get things done, i speak my truth.

    i am gentle in my heart. that is very different. i express this through the way i give generously of my time to anyone who wants help, i give a listening ear, i stand up for the under-dog. i can work diligently and quietly without credit. i jump at the chance to help others, as long as it doesn't stand in the way of my family. and otherthings...

    but, my unique voice has a kick to it.

    i admit, doesn't always translate well online. :)

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  19. Hi Mon~

    I have missed your posts for sure. This was an awesome welcome back for me.
    Beautiful New revamp~ :) Carla

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  20. Thank You Mon, and yeah, this whole selecting profile thing is just not a good area for me, plus I am being lazy...

    but P.S being even more honest, I sometimes share this stuff to say actually, I know the research and I think/know I am right. However, when I am burnt out, sleep deprived and trying to catch a bus and my sweet Pixie-Angel is studying the sandy road (we live in Brazil, although I am English... looong story) I often forget - she is magically discovering texture and feeling the warmth of the sun.. and can be, well, rather un AP!!! so, I then feel like a hypocrit, so I own up as quick as possible, when my friends say, Are you always this patient? ... aaaah, that would be a No! (unfortunately, but humanly so).

    ALthough, to completelt free associate.. patience with people has always been what I considered 'my gift' and comes quite natural to me... but sometimes, I have been tooooo patient and have been learning to say, ya know what matey, this crap jusy ain't gonna fly - usually with my hubby - but that too is a whole other story.

    OK, so, jumping off the metaphorical couch - I will say an almost night night and get one with some very important Facebook updating and Celeb magazine reading... its deep, really deep...

    Reggiexx

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  21. wow, you describe so many friendships gone right an wrong! i used to consider myself a strong woman, with the recent separation and plunging into 'single mom'hood, i'm beginning to feel all my insecurities and weaknesses. i have been hurt in the past and am really bad at making new friends; i'm one of those people who find some way to disappoint the other very soon in the relationship just so there are no high expectations. like shooting myself in the foot, its not very healthy. i will work on this, with help from your wise words. again, thank you!

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  22. Right, I've been thinking of this some more overnight. I couldn't understand why, even though I loved the message of your post, I had such a strong negative reaction to some of it. Suddenly realised it is because 98% of the strong women I know have serious control issues, talk down/ undermine as a matter of course and just don't listen/ care about other women's truths. I realised I have equated opinionated and assertive (as mentioned in your definition of a strong women) with these women, so those words have ended up having a very negative meaning to me. Hope that makes sense.

    I know that is completely my problem though, due to my demons/ shadows. I consider myself a pretty strong woman, and know that one of my major lessons in life is to make my voice heard. It's something I've worked on all my life.

    Friendships between strong women with gentle hearts though would really be something special!

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  23. hi mary, such big changes in our lives will alwasy poke at out tender bits. emotionally speaking! lol
    finding healing and searching for little bits of who we really are, little bits of our strength... and we build ourselves back up.

    Carin, ah yes, they are trigger words if your experience of them is negative.
    i've been lucky, to know lots of opinionated women with good hearts. and i've also known lots of opinionated women without.

    perhaps there's a more reflective word than opinionated? not sure. but opinionated actually used as a derogative anyway. like there's somehting wrong with having opinions.

    the difficulty lies when those attributes are used to bully or push. to not allow others their own opinions.

    and yes, that's part of the problem with strong women befriending each other. some cannot own their strength and allow others their own.

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  24. I sometimes wonder what others mean when they say "strong women." No one has ever called me a strong woman (in fact, I've been labeled as "weak" before), but I believe I am strong. I also happen to be very sensitive, and I tend to break a lot. But I am always putting myself back together, and that takes strength. I am very determined, but also flexible. I don't know what others would call me...

    So I guess I don't know where I fit into this topic. I know that I am able to be friends with all sorts. It takes a certain amount of humility to befriend someone who is very different than yourself. It's knowing that each person has value, and each person has their strengths besides their weaknesses, and if we are willing we can learn from them.

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  25. Wow, Monica, what a first post for me to read here, not sure I am as eloquent as the others in my response.
    i feel so many similarities in everything that has been said. I was always the outsider at school. I tended to have less stressful relationships with males than with females at school. Then when boyfriends came on the scene I was betrayed by males as well. I found it easier to just retreat into my family and my own space. Looking back now I realise I wasn't very strong at all. I kept flitting from one person to the other trying to fit in but so concerned with pleasing everyone else(for the wrong reasons) that I never pleased myself. hence now I am not a person with hundreds of friends. I have a close circle of friends that all enrich my life in different ways. I never really thought of myself as strong.
    I looked at all those other groups of girls at school, some who are still together on facebook now, some 20 years later, and wished I could have had that bond. I had to give that up when I realised that maybe that wasn't what was meant for me. So many expectations on yourself and others aren't there that end up getting in the way. My past experiences have definitely shaped the way I struggle to make friendships with stronger women.
    I am at the moment struggling with a family relationship with a strong woman(read into that, aggressive, so strongly opinionated that you feel less than, controlling)that reading all the perspectives on it here as given me some food for thought as how to look at this relationship.Unfortunately I have had a negative experience with this sort of relationship. I much prefer your definition of strong.
    You have made me see another way of looking at it. Really, defining her as a strong woman is the wrong word for me to be using. My definition of it comes from trying to be "nice" about it and treating it like glass that might break and not speaking the truth. Not standing up for my own beliefs for fear that someone might not like me, I suppose.
    I find now that I am quite distant when making a new friendship, waiting to see whether people will hurt me or not. I sometimes end up hurting others by letting them down somehow before they hurt me. Lots of shadows to work on here. I have also been doing an eleven eleven around self acceptance so your post has got me going even deeper into thought.
    Well, I hope this is not too disjointed. I'm really not used to putting this down into words or discussing these things with others.
    Thanks
    Lee:)

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  26. hey lisa
    But I am always putting myself back together, and that takes strength.
    yes it does!

    i think the term can be a problem, because i don't see the opposite as 'weak'. it's perhaps that strong women are consistently so?

    hi Lee! good to see you here,welcome.

    the woman you refer to is strong, but i like to use the term for something positive. that is, a strong woman has a good sense of self-worth. anyone who has that doen't have the need to bully, manipulate, or control others. they are weaknesess, not strengths.

    thank you so much for sharing your heart here. very inspiring.

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  27. But I am always putting myself back together, and that takes strength.

    I liked this a lot! Thanks Lisa.

    After an awful year for me and for my marriage, I really thought I'd never put myself back together and here I am - doing it! feeling more like myself everyday and my marriage is healing too... slowly, slowly... time will tell, but I liked this.

    I also really liked this quote, Mon.

    "You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back."
    Barbara De Angelis

    I really needed to read that. I had started becoming bitter and don't want to be.

    Anyway, Thanks Ladies...

    Reggiex

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  28. Wow. I really enjoyed this post. I have so much going through my mind in response to it, but have a cat on my arms, making typing difficult and a mind that needs time to try and get all those thoughts into some order and into words that make sense.

    But I want to say, I am also very impressed by all the thought-filled and open responses happening here. It's beautiful.

    I need more of this in my life.

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  29. the comments around here are my favourite part of my blog! :D

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  30. A strong post by a strong woman.

    Hey Mama, it's your birfday soon :)

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