I am proud to be a woman.
But I’m not going to lie: it took me a long time to appreciate my womanhood.
The single most influential event in my identity journey was . . . well, I’ll share it later. I am getting ahead of myself.
First, though, I wanted to talk a little bit about my journey as a woman who never fit the traditional mold.
I have always identified more with boys than with girls.
I grew up with two older brothers and was definitely a tomboy. As a girl, I was always following them around and trying to do what they did, from climbing trees to catching grasshoppers. I loved baseball and knives and action movies.
As I grew older, I found I had a deepening desire to impress boys. But I didn’t want to impress them by being beautiful or girly. No, I wanted to impress them by being like them–by being just as good as them at every activity. I wanted to hang out with them and be included. The trouble was, I was often barred from doing so because I was a girl.
I became increasingly bitter and discontent within my own skin, wondering at times why I had been born a girl.
As a Christian, I dug into the Bible to find some of the answers.
And I found some surprising things. That men were not superior to women, but that both were created in God’s image and have unique roles. Men and women both display different aspects of God’s character. I found that both had meaningful work to do. That women were valued, and important. So I began to look around me at women I loved and respected and began to see the beauty in womanhood.
I began to see the lovely, deep tenderness and nurturing that women display, along with hard work, fierce devotion, strength, and loyalty. I found courage. And I found strength.
It took me a long time to learn to love myself. It took me a long time to carve out an identity that I was satisfied with.
To learn that my tenderness allowed me to nurture and care for people–which brought me deep fulfillment. I could love flowers, and also be interested in knives. And I could enjoy a good chick flick and love to play Halo. I could have heels and wear a baseball shirt. In short, these are all aspects of me. And just because many of them aren’t typical for a woman, they are still a part of me–and that is okay. They round out my circles of interest. They are good. I don’t have to feel insecure. I can embrace the person in my skin–the girly side–and the not so girly side alike.
I used to feel that my girly interests made me weaker, and I tried to hide them. In doing that, I was doing wrong by my fellow women and hiding a key part of who I was. It threw me into an identity crisis it took me years to resolve. On the other side of that struggle, I have come to realize that womanhood (in all its forms) is not something to hide–but rather, to embrace.
The single, most impactful event in my identity journey was giving birth. I remember a long-ago conversation I had with my brother, all but forgotten over the years, that came back to me recently. We were talking about whether men or women were stronger, and he expressed his view unhesitatingly and respectfully: women were stronger. I asked him why, and he had a simple answer: “childbirth.” I didn’t understand this then, not until I got to experience this for myself.
That experience, giving birth, is hard for me to encapsulate . . . hard for me to explain. It was the hardest, most painful physical experience of my life. By far. It was so much more painful than I ever could have imagined. And yet, I’m glad I went through it. I’m glad I was the one who carried our son–who gave birth to our son. My husband will never experience that.
I have the privilege of giving birth to new life. It is the most incredible, empowering, miraculous experience. And I got to have it. Because I’m a woman.
Women are amazing because they have the strength to do this. To give birth, and then–no, not forget about the pain–but it no longer really seems to matter. And they will do this over and over again. The level of self-sacrifice and abnegation in the act of giving birth is mind-blowing.
Not all women can give birth. I want to make that clear. I know reading this is painful for some. And some choose not to. In no way do I wish to disparage that decision. Giving birth helped open my eyes to some things, and it is a truly amazing, miraculous act.
But what makes womanhood so beautiful is that every woman has that strength in her–whether or not they have born a child.
We see it in the ways women fight for their families, in the fierce protection, their ingenuity, their tenacity, and their tenderness. That beautiful strength that reaches out and beautifies everything around them. And this is something to be celebrated – and embraced.
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