9 traits of strong women who aren’t afraid to break societal norms, according to psychology

Social norms have their place. They help us navigate the world and give us standards of behavior that can be useful.

But that doesn’t mean we should blindly follow them, especially when many are outdated or irrelevant.

The truth is that doing what everyone else thinks we “should” can be detrimental to our well-being.

Strong women respect those around them, yet are free-spirited enough to make waves when necessary.

Let’s consider the special qualities they embody that help them to do this.

1) They don’t equate their value to their productivity

Women who will break BS social norms know their intrinsic worth.

Don’t mistake that with arrogance or feeling like they’re special. It’s not the same thing.

The truth is that plenty of us have lost touch with the fact that our value isn’t directly linked to what we do, create, or have in life.

We’re called human beings, right? But so often we end up feeling like we need to be “human doings in order to feel good enough.

So-called internalized capitalism is the concept that our self-worth is directly linked to our productivity.

Licensed clinical social worker Nikita Banks says burnout, depression, and overall dissatisfaction can occur when this happens.

“There’s never just a time where you’re able to sit back and smell the roses or even give yourself grace for the accomplishments. The things that you achieved are not enough.”

2) They embrace their flaws

Society wants to keep us self-conscious.

It is in the interests of a capitalist structure and here’s why:

The more inadequate we feel, the more they can sell us the solution.

That may come in the form of new designer clothes, a miracle face cream that’s the answer to eternal youth, or perhaps the latest celeb-style treatment that costs an arm and a leg.

Actor and model Pamela Anderson, who was always known for her sex appeal, broke free in recent years from stereotypes of what’s attractive by going makeup-free.

She declared at Paris Fashion Week:

“I’m not trying to be the prettiest girl in the room. I feel like it’s just freedom. It’s a relief.”

It’s incredibly empowering to say to yourself, you know what, I’m not perfect and that’s okay because it’s human.

That way we can take control of what we want to change and the parts we need to accept. Because as we’ll see next, self-responsibility is the key.

3) They own their own destiny


By carving it out.

Of course, no one can control fate, but we can focus on the elements that are within our grasp.

Alex Lickerman M.D. speaking in Psychology Today, argues that means fully owning your thoughts and feelings.

“So what does it really mean to take full responsibility for your life? It means, in my view, to take full responsibility for your happiness. It means recognizing that how things look at the outset doesn’t determine how things will end, and that although we can’t control everything (or perhaps anything) we want, we all have often enormous ability to influence how much happiness or suffering the events of our lives bring us.”

4) They are resilient in the face of rejection

One of the reasons we are tempted to try to blend in is because rejection hurts so much.

Toeing the line and doing what is expected becomes a strategy to avoid disappointment and disapproval.

It’s not just your fragile ego that’s at fault. This protective stance makes sense when we realize that the brain feels rejection in the same way it does physical pain.

So we’re hardwired to avoid feeling rejection.

That’s why it takes plenty of mental strength to overcome this fear and push through it.

Because getting knocked back is also an unavoidable side effect of growth, advancement, and taking chances. 

5) They are rebellious enough to play by their own rules

pic2604 9 traits of strong women who aren't afraid to break societal norms, according to psychology

A little bit of a rebellious nature can pay off.

For starters, research has shown that rule breakers earn more. They’re also seen as more powerful according to some studies.

Psychotherapist Amy Morin says being prepared to break a rule or two can stand in your favor.

“You don’t necessarily need to break laws or official policies to get ahead or live your best life, however. Perhaps you just need to ditch a few gender norms or quit following advice that doesn’t work for you. So worry less about doing what everyone else says works for them. Experiment to learn what works best for you and don’t be afraid to go against the grain.”

6) Being true to themselves means more to them than being liked

What we’re really talking about here is the self-determination to decide how to govern your life, rather than blindly follow someone else’s version just to fit in.

True authenticity is important to our happiness, but it’s not easy.

It demands vulnerability.

As vulnerability researcher and author Brené Brown reminds us:

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

This is why authenticity takes plenty of internal strength.

Psychology says it demands that we’re introspective enough to understand our motivations.

That way we can still stay true to ourselves, even if it means ruffling some feathers along the way.

The next trait on our list is going to help you do this.

7) They have the healthy self-esteem to back themselves

We’re far less likely to look to society for approval when we know how to seek validation within.

That relies on a very healthy dose of self-esteem. Confidence is essential when you want to break away from societal norms.

But as Psych Central reminds us, that doesn’t mean thinking you can do no wrong, it’s just about dropping perfectionist standards.

“Building your self-esteem and creating a positive self-awareness comes from taking an inventory of your own strengths and abilities as a human being. Being at peace with who you are and what you have to offer the world is a major part of having high self-esteem. This “inner peace” does not mean that you are unaware of your weaknesses; it merely means that you accept who you are and genuinely like the person you have become.”

8) They stand up for what they believe in

Strong women aren’t afraid to be assertive when they need to get their point across.

Sometimes this can be misinterpreted or held against them because of double standards and sexist expectations that women should be more “nice” or agreeable. 

Executive coach and author Antoinette Dale Henderson sets the record straight on what it means to be an assertive woman.

“Assertiveness is not about being overbearing, bossy or pushy, even though many assertive women are labelled that way. It’s about using your mind, body and voice to command the spotlight and stand up for what you believe. It’s being honest, direct, clear, expressive, persistent and respectful. It’s knowing where the line is and calling out anyone who crosses it. In short, assertiveness is the secret to powerful communication and the key to getting what you want and deserve.”

9) They create strong boundaries to protect themselves

Stick your head above the parapet and there’s going to be people out to get you.

It’s an unavoidable part of refusing to stay small and silent. The more invisible you are, the less attention you will attract.

The reverse is also true.

So when you speak up, contribute, creatively think, propose new ideas and thoughts, or generally refuse to dim your light — it won’t go unnoticed.

You know what they say, haters gunna hate.

To stop themselves from getting derailed by those who only seek to drag them down, strong women have clear boundaries.

According to psychologist Olivia Brouillette:

“Boundary setting is an essential part of self care and maintaining happy, healthy relationships. They’re our way of showing others the limits of what we can take and accept from them, professionally and personally.”

Final thoughts: Trust yourself to free yourself

The more we can grow to love and respect ourselves, the easier it is to leave behind the social norms that restrict us.

Becoming more open-minded allows us to consider other ways of doing things. It demands greater mental flexibility, but the rewards can be great. 

We can explore not only new sides to ourselves but also carve out new norms that allow us to step outside the box and away from how it’s always been done.

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Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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