Can I Be Strong and Tender?

Women in today’s world seem to be caught between two, diverse camps–the be-tough-like-men group and the keep-your-femininity-at-all-costs. I’m not sure why we find ourselves at either extreme, or why anyone is trying to tell us that we have to choose one or the other to be “real” women.

I, for one, am not buying that. I think it is a dangerous concept and does not take into consideration all the varieties of women who are different ages, at different stages in life, have unique or diverse circumstances, have different needs, talents, likes and dislikes, and hopes, desires and dreams. In short, one “size” does not fit all, and the same is true for one right answer to this question.

Have you ever purchased a clothing item that claims “one size fits all”, and found that you aren’t one of the “all”. I have. I think, somewhere in very tiny print, it also says, “well mostly it fits everyone who is within the size range we have declared as ‘average’”. My question is–what is average? It’s all relative, and when I find that what I’ve bought is too tight, short, skimpy, etc., I feel like I’m not part of that group–the “all”–that can buy such items and wear them well. I feel out of it, at odds with who I want to be, pure and simple.

So, how can I choose my “group”, my “all” and avoid the label of extremism, make my choices based on what I feel is right for me, for my family (now all grown, married and living a plane ride away)? How can I take the best of both sides and everything in between, and make it my own, a pleasing mix of strong and tender?

First, I believe that being tender does not preclude also being strong. By strength, I mean having principles and standards, well-thought out opinions and ideas, expressing those opinions and ideas in clear, non-threatening terms, acting on what I believe, while allowing others in my circle of family and friends, colleagues and acquaintances to do the same. Having tender feelings and acting on them are essential to a successful relationship, whether that relationship is family, personal, professional, neighborly, casual, or the stranger we meet at the grocery store, who needs help reaching a can on a tall shelf, or just a smile. Tenderness is not weakness. It is the opposite of that. It requires strength to curb physical or verbal impulses and to offer someone what he or she needs most in a kind and gentle manner. It is the essence of respect, and respect requires great strength.

Second, I believe that we can maintain both tenderness and strength through the feminine side of our personalities, what we feel represents the self we want to be. There is definitely no “one size fits all” here either. And the best thing is that we don’t all need to fit into a mold of someone else’s vision in order to be the kind of women we admire and want to emulate. What is more, like a beautiful bouquet of flowers, it takes all kinds of colors, shapes, sizes, scents, and greenery to make that bouquet appealing.

Develop tender feelings, couple them with your brand of feminine strength, and you will become a unique work, a self unlike any other–one that is true to what you want to be.

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