What does it mean to be a woman?
I have been thinking about this question a lot lately. Unfortunately, we live in a culture where women often feel like they are defined by their physical characteristics. We live in a society where it sometimes feels like who you are is tied to how you look. Often, individuals feel trapped trying to meet all of those standards.
I know I did. In the 7th grade, I was diagnosed with a condition called Alopecia, which caused me to lose all of my hair. After the sudden loss, I felt like I lost a piece of my identity because in my mind long hair equated womanhood. At the time, as a 7th grader with no hair, I slowly started to feel my self-esteem crumble.
So many questions ran through my mind: Will I ever be good enough? Will I ever feel beautiful again? How will this affect the way others look at me? The most difficult question of them all, though, was: Will I ever feel like a woman again?
Even though my mom always tried to remind me that being a woman means you are strong and brave, the media I consumed left me feeling confused. Did being a woman mean looking a certain way? If I tried to be bold and courageous, would I come off too strong? What are the qualities of a true woman?
As I lost my hair, these questions resurfaced on a new level. For the first time, I truly thought about what being a woman means to me. I realized that being a woman is so much more than the way you look or the way you are told to act. Being a woman means being imperfect and unique. It is something to be proud of. To me, doing something “like a girl” means doing it in a strong, confident, and empowered way. Each woman is unique, and it’s these unique traits and strengths that make women and girls everywhere completely amazing.
I really wanted to share this thought process because, from an early age, my mind was filled with messages telling me who I was supposed to be and how I was supposed to act. I was never really given the space, freedom, or confidence to just be myself. I encourage women out there to be who they are — do not let anyone or anything make you question your worth.
When I was losing my hair in the seventh grade, I wish I knew this. I wish I knew that there is no single definition of being a woman. Being a woman doesn’t mean looking or acting a certain way, it means being who you are.