Strength is not a male word

A year ago I was battling some serious insecurity. This was deep stuff: body hatred, negative self-talk, social anxiety and isolation. But something has changed since then and I think I finally put my finger on what it is.

It all started with an epiphany that occurred while I was talking on the phone with my little sister.

“I don’t really know why I even went out with him,” I said. “If he would have asked me out today I would have said, ‘No way.’ But I think I’ve become more confident since then.”

“You’re definitely more confident,” my sister said, “Honestly, I think you’ve gotten a lot more confident since you started doing CrossFit.”


“Yeah, I mean you used to be one of those girls who thought you had to be gentle and quiet all the time. Now you’ve realized you can be athletic. You’ve realized you can be strong.”

My sister was right. Working out my body has given physicality to a change already at work inside me. I used to believe that my highest calling was to be a wife and mother, and that left me feeling extremely depressed in my singleness. I used to believe that a gentle and quiet spirit meant being seen but not heard. I used to feel “one-down” for being a woman.

Sometimes we foster this kind of thinking in Christian culture without realizing it.

Why is it that strength (whether physical or spiritual) and gentleness are often viewed as mutually exclusive traits, especially in women?

Why does the command to “be strong and courageous” feel like it has been reserved for men only?

I’ve come to realize that at my best I am gentle, soft-hearted, meek and kind. But I’ve also realized that at my best I am strong, determined, passionate and brave.

My friend Karissa told me recently that I am the bravest person she knows. My friend Sarah told me she saw a picture of me doing CrossFit and thought, “That is a strong woman.” Not just because I can lift weights but because of the way I live my life.

A year ago I would have brushed off these comments and thought, “They’re just being nice. That’s not me.” But you know what? Now I think I believe them.

I’m still growing, learning and changing. I hope that soon I’ll be able to jerk more than 55 pounds. Six months ago I could barely lift an empty barbell! I hope someday I’ll be able to speak in front of people without my hands shaking, that I will share how I feel even when I’m afraid. And I hope I’ll never pretend to be someone I’m not.

I’m not perfect, but I am strong. I’m claiming that word for myself.

You can claim it too.


Photo (Flickr CC) by Runar Eilertsen.