What defines a strong woman?
Think of the strongest woman you know – what makes you think she’s so strong?
For me, I have two categories of strong women.
One is someone like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. She goes through so much emotional turmoil and still pushes on with nothing but sheer determination.
The other is the character Lisa Kudrow plays (also known as Denise) in the movie PS I love you. She has high standards, takes the lead, and doesn’t compromise on what she wants for anyone or anything.
And Denise’s kind of strength is the thing we’re going to talk about today.
A strong woman with values that she won’t give up – no matter how much she loves someone or what other people think of her.
If Denise was a real-life person (which I’m sure there are many people like her), here are the 7 aspects of her life I’d bet she wouldn’t ever compromise on!
1) Seeing friends who support her
I’ve known many friends who stop going out when they get into a relationship. And I don’t mean “out-out”. I just mean meeting up with their friends.
Sometimes it’s because they’re busy. But sometimes it’s because their partner doesn’t like them going out.
Which is (by the way) known as a toxic relationship.
But as many experts have researched and discovered, friendships have a huge impact on your mental health and happiness.
As one report expertly puts it: “Good friends relieve stress, provide comfort and joy, and prevent loneliness and isolation”.
Of course, it’s important to always evaluate whether your friendships are still serving you positively. And it’s never too late to cut people off if they bring you down or you’ve grown apart.
But a strong woman will never let go of friendships that benefit her for the sake of someone else.
She may cancel plans occasionally to help someone or stay home with her partner.
But she’ll never let it become a habit. And she’ll never let people take advantage of her good heart – leaving her without any free time to see her friends.
2) Continuing hobbies that benefit her life
Change happens all the time in life. I know I’ve seen my fair share of changes throughout my twenties.
And it’s very easy to stop doing the things you enjoy when life changes.
Like when you move to a new city. Or enter a new relationship that sweeps you off your feet. Or even when you have kids.
All these life changes can throw your routine out of sync – some more dramatic than others (ahem: having kids).
And it takes strength and discipline to hold onto your hobbies or start them back up again when your life looks a little different.
Especially if people have opinions about what you should and shouldn’t be doing.
I remember a story my friend’s mum told me once. She said she stopped all her old hobbies when she had kids.
She said the other mums in school used to make her feel guilty about it – like she was being selfish by spending time doing things she enjoyed without her kids there.
Looking back, she could see those thoughts came from either jealousy or just a different opinion on motherhood (with neither one being incorrect). And she regretted nothing more than not holding onto her hobbies.
And she told my friend and I to never do the same. Which, as I get older, I can see that takes a ton of strength to do.
3) Keeping up with physical fitness
Some people get jealous in their relationships. While jealousy is a normal human reaction to many things in life (as experts have found), it should be controlled.
And some people aren’t so good at controlling it.
Have you ever seen those movies where a guy tells his girlfriend he doesn’t like her going to the gym? And his reasoning is something along the lines of:
“I don’t want other guys looking at you”
“Who are you trying to get fit for – you already have me?”
These thoughts, feelings, and statements only come from people who can’t control their jealousy – and so they try to control your actions instead.
And it’s hard to be in a relationship with someone who gets hurt by these things. When you love someone, continuing to do something that you know upsets them doesn’t feel good.
But the truth is, they shouldn’t be asking you to compromise on bettering your physical health if they truly love you.
And it takes a very strong woman to continue her fitness journey even if others don’t like or agree with it.
4) Following her cultural practices and beliefs
Unfortunately, you may encounter people in life who don’t hold the same values as you.
If you have strong faith, cultural practices, religious undertakings, or other beliefs, not everyone is going to understand them as you do.
And while it’s always good to form your own opinion about things (and consider other people’s perspectives – especially if it confirms a gut feeling you have), it’s also important to stand by what you believe in.
Compromising your deep, personal beliefs because someone else doesn’t think you should believe in them isn’t fair.
And a strong woman knows not to listen when someone tries to peer pressure her out of something she believes in deeply.
5) Loving and looking after herself
I feel like the saying, “Letting yourself go” is never a positive one.
It has a negative connotation, often used critically when you change your lifestyle, body, hair, or something else in a way that other people don’t like.
But there’s a difference between growing older and switching your priorities to – essentially – giving up.
Or as some people like to say, “Letting yourself go”.
I remember I stopped looking after myself in a toxic relationship once (emphasis on the word “once”).
I told myself it was because I was comfortable, so I didn’t need to make as much effort as I used to. But, looking back, I can see that wasn’t the real reason.
I was giving so much love and effort to someone else that I had no time left for myself. I was so busy looking after everyone else that I stopped looking after myself.
I was compromising on my own self-care for the sake of other people’s.
And, while it’s easy to do, it’s not something I’ll ever do again. And it’s not something a strong woman will ever do.
6) Putting herself first when it matters
Sometimes in life you have to put other people first. In relationships, you occasionally have to compromise on what you want for the good of the relationship.
Because no matter how compatible you are with someone, you won’t always agree on everything.
But that doesn’t mean you should stop loving yourself or putting yourself first in the moments that matter.
It’s like when you go on an airplane and they tell you to put your own mask on before helping others secure theirs.
Because you can’t pour from an empty cup.
And no matter who it is – a parent, friend in trouble, partner, sibling, or even your boss – sometimes you have to put yourself first when it matters.
Running yourself into the ground doesn’t do you any favors. And a strong woman will happily give to others, lend a hand, and put others first sometimes.
But when it matters most, she’ll do what’s best for her.
7) The individuality of herself
No matter how much you love and connect with someone, it’s always important to maintain your individuality.
Experts frequently cite the importance of maintaining your own independence and sense of self outside of a relationship.
It makes your own life more fulfilling, authentic, and meaningful. And it also strengthens partnership, personal growth, and connection within a relationship.
Plus (something I learned the hard way), if you ever break up, you’ll need to get back to living life without that person.
Which will always be hard, but it’ll be even harder if you’ve neglected your entire sense of self during the relationship.
Unfortunately, not all relationships or friendships will work out.
Even if you think you’ve met the person you’re going to marry, you never know what the future holds.
People change – including you.
While there’s nothing wrong with building a life with someone you love, or thinking a friendship will last forever, a strong woman will never let go of the person she is for anyone else.
And who you are often boils down to your beliefs, aspirations, hobbies, friendships, and sense of self.
So, if you want to maintain high standards in relationships and stay true to yourself, never compromise on these things (and anything else that’s important to you!) for anyone else.