“Womanhood is a whole different thing from girlhood. Girlhood is a gift . . . Womanhood is a choice.” ~ Tori Amos
I’ve been a little behind in writing for my blog, and I had not focused on anything inspiring. This morning, I checked my inbox, and got my wish for inspiration. My friend Jonathan linked me to Steve Pavlina’s article, How to Be a Man, which contained within a challenge to write an article “How to Be A Woman” I had inspiration.
In writing my essay, I focused on what being a woman meant to me, and while I write to “you” it is mostly to myself. I don’t think this list is going to be a good match for everyone, so instead I wrote a piece to the part of me that is a woman open to her more feminine side.
1. The Relationship with You comes first
Women value relationships. Historically, women are the glue of family and social networks– it was valuable for women to build them so if their partner should be unable to care for them, others in their network could pick up the slack.
Women tend to value cooperation and do well when supported by and are supporting their social and familiar networks. This involves being in tuned with the needs of others and nurturing relationships with others.
However, the relationship with you comes above all other relationships. While it is very natural for women to work on their relationships with friends, their partner, their children or parents, it is also important to keep the self in perspective, to be kind and compassionate, starting with self.
Being conscious of who you are and what you want, and being confident that you also deserve the kindness and compassion from yourself that you show others is integral to a good realtionship with yourself. Honoring who you are, your values and feeling proud of your identity and knowing how to take care of yourself is another part of this relationship.
Taking care of yourself physically may mean taking self-defense courses, taking care of your body through good diet and exercise, not through fad or crash diets. Financial self-care means knowing how to make a budget and manage money. Taking care of yourself emotionally is how you value yourself in relationship to your actions and relationships.
Rarely, it is worth taking care of others before caring for yourself– especially if it is a part of who you are.
The other reason this is important is because if you don’t take care of your self well enough, it makes it hard to take care of other people well enough.
2. Give from a place of Self-Fullness
Being able to give to others is a wonderful feeling, and something that many women are good at and enjoy doing, especially in a relationship with a man. While many women enjoy giving and helping others, sometimes they over give to the point of harm to the self, the relationship or the other person.
The harm to self may be physical, emotional, financial, or harm to their self-respect because sacrificing self fills another need. Perhaps it is the need to be liked or loved, to feel like a good person etc, or meet a cultural value and that is giving from a place of need or emptiness in the hope that giving will “fill one up.”
The harm to the relationship may come when a woman gives too much too soon or helping when help was not asked for. When you find yourself doing a lot for a new person in your life, something that you wouldn’t do for a good friend of a few years, you may be doing too much for them. Or hurting them or making them feel uncomfortable in the process.
Over investing your time and energy in someone you don’t know well signals that you don’t value your time, and teaches them not to value it either. It would be helpful to look at why you are doing so much for them. If help was not asked for, you run the risk of resenting the person you are helping for not being grateful, or they will resent you for smothering them. Or they may feel uncomfortable with what you are doing for them. Is giving about making you feel a certain way or them?
Giving to oneself comes before all others so that when one gives to others, one can do it from a place of love and fullness, and be able to let go of the outcome of that giving. The giving is not from a place of need fulfillment, because you are already fulfilled.
3. Ask for what you need or want
Other people are not mind readers and you are not a martyr.
Being able to ask for what you need or want, is a sign that you have a good relationship with yourself– you know yourself well enough to know what needs you have that are not being met and asking for it signals that you value yourself and others.
Asking for what you want does not mean you will get what you want. The point is not the outcome. The point is being an active participant in your own life, respecting your values and needs, the act of cherishing your heart.
Asking for what you need or want may include telling others when they are doing something that is hurtful or upsetting to you– in the form of “When you do ___, I feel ___” this again, is a signal that you cherish your heart and gives others the choice of changing their behavior, or not. If not, you may add what you will do if a behavior does not stop. Then, be sure that you do it. It doesn’t require any bitchyness at all.
Asking for what you want includes acknowledging that you are also a sexual being and asking for what you want and need sexually. You’ve lived in your body since you were born, and have been the one person with access to your particular turn-ons, mood-makers, and physical stimuli that make you go crazy (in a good way!) Tell your partner what these are – he or she can’t be expected to guess at which particular way you like to be stimulated (mentally and physically) from all the myriad potential options
Be prepared to get what you want and don’t hold it against others for giving it to you.
4. Receive with Grace
As often as women give to each other, you would think it would be easy to receive.
For some it is easy to receive and accept the good will and love of others for them, not because they are entitled to it, but because they deserve the gifts of others affection, whether material or emotional.
For others, especially those that may not have a good relationship with self, it may be difficult to acknowledge that one does deserve kindness from others because one may not yet cherish oneself as much as another does– thus making it difficult to receive kindness without shame.
A woman who is able to receive graciously will feel honored but not indebted for kindness behind the action or gift or sentiment.
A man’s desire to do this does not mean she need to accept it– simply accept the love behind the gesture graciously and ask for what she wants or needs.
Every gift, hug, or sign of genuine affection is an honor to receive not an expectation.
5. Do not acknowledge the trivial pettiness of others
What you focus on grows. If others are being petty or if you are obsessing about a problem, you are spending your valuable time and energy on something that probably won’t matter given enough time. Shift your focus to solutions and things that bring you joy.
6. Feel your Feelings
One of the blessings is that women have more freedom in this society to feel their feelings in a social context. Feeling deeply means you are alive and human. Knowing your feelings is one of the ways that women stay in touch with themselves. Feeling your feelings does not always mean acting on them, simply acknowledging them and not judging yourself for what you are feeling. Our feelings are our guideposts for what we want and who we are in life.
7. Enjoy other Women, Enjoy Yourself
There is something very healing about being with other women you can trust and feel at home with. Women can give to each other things that men cannot give to us. Just like men hanging out with other men is good for them too.
When we bond with other women, we can relate to each other in another way– there is a strong sense of closeness you can have with other women without it being sexual. Women are smart, funny, charming, kind, giving, intellectual, thoughtful people. Taking a moment to enjoy women means taking a moment to enjoy yourself as a woman.
Are their hardships that men don’t face? Of course. There are also many joys women experience because of being a woman than men cannot. What those joys are is up to individual to determine.
Women have more freedom in the roles they can choose than men and still be thought of as feminine, where as many men are culturally limited in the family roles they can choose and still be considered men. For example, culturally we do no respect the male kindergarten teacher, despite ~200 years ago most teachers were male only.
8. Value other Women
Too often women look down on other women for making life choices different from theirs. Feminism was supposed to help us have more choices, so that we could get out of abusive marriages and have more ability to pursue our lives as individuals, or in mutually fulfilling relationships and have opportunities to contribute to our society and surroundings in ways that men are able to.
However, sometimes it seems like feminism has divided those who choose to or must work from those who choose to or are able to stay at home. Some women who choose careers look down on women who choose to be stay at home moms, or vice versa. Neither choice is wrong. Each woman feels fulfilled differently and it is more useful to support each other in our individual needs than to criticize each other for honoring ourselves, even if that means leading a non-traditional life.
Additionally, value their relationships with their men. If you meet a man who is troubled in his marriage, do not add to the trouble by becoming sexually or romantically involved with him– you deserve someone who is able to enter an honest and open relationship with you. You show that you value other women, and yourself when stay out of it.
9. Only be romantically involved with men whom you respect
Romantic involvement is not the same as sex, but often tied to it. Romantic involvment invovles opening your heart and connecting on a higher level than lust and infatuation. However, often for women, “just sex” leads the heart into places where it may not have gone. If you choose to have sex without love, be sure you can truly disconnect the two and not be attached to the outcome.
Being with a man you respect means you have confidence in his ability to make decisions for himself, even if they are not the decisions you would make. You know he is a man because he has proven to you through his actions that he is responsible for what he does.
When a man is worthy of respect, it is easy to follow his lead, not because you are abdicating yourself to him, but because it is enjoyable to be led by him.
Respecting a man means when you do for him, you do from a place of self-fullness. You respect him and want to give him the best of you that means treating yourself well so that when you are together, the time is of high quality. This may mean making time for you to be away from him.
A man who is worthy of your respect is also a man who will care for you when you are down, who is capable of and willing to cherish your heart and self. A man who is worthy of respect will do kind things for you because it pleases him to please you, not because he thinks it will make you love him.
You cannot respect someone you do not know. You may feel inspired to respect him, but this is different from actually knowing him, witnessing that he walks his talk, like a man.
Some men and women confuse fear and respect. Fear means you are kind to a person or do as they wish because you fear the consequences of not doing so. Some confuse a controlling man for a man worthy of respect. If you allow yourself to be controlled by a man, it may look like a form of respect but is an abdication of your cherished heart and adult self to another, you do not have a good relationship with yourself if you do this.
10. Rejoice in the Differences Recognize the Commonalities
Everybody is different. Men and women are different. And of course we all have overlapping similarities. The combination of similarities and differences is a factor in our attraction to each other. Our differences are not something to be scorned or hated. Our differences do not make us better or worse. They make us different, and complementary.
That was my approach to being a feminine woman. What’s is yours? Guys, what makes a woman feminine to you?
With love and respect,