I would be honest. So many times, I wish I were not a woman. But more about that later. I always though if I am destined to be a woman, I would rather be a strong one. What do you mean by a strong woman? I always had this obsession to know. I would carry a mental diary everywhere and make a secret list of qualities of a strong woman. So, by my mid-twenties, I had the following list:
A strong woman:
- Never cries in the public
- Works, in other words, has a 9-5 job, is financially independent
- Always smiles, never cribs about her problems
- Excels at everything, from academics to house chores
- Never takes herself too seriously, physically, mentally or emotionally
- Is like a perfect bahu from a daily soap, liked by everyone around
- Never says no to any task and complete them with swag
- Is humble, takes everyone’s bullshit
After all, all these adjectives like hatt ke (different), sarva-guna sampan (bestowed with all good qualities), susheel (simple), sanskaari (cultured) are made for strong women like me.
I wish my fascination was limited to that. I often scored other girls on the checklist and found one or the other way to rate myself higher. No other words could make me blush more than the words “you are so different from other girls” or “you are so genuine, not like other girls”. Though I was never told who were the girls I was competing with, I assumed I was a part of a bigger race. Sometimes I felt I connected better with boys because girls are always jealous of one another you know.
Thankfully, this bubble busted one day. I was diagnosed with severe depression. I pushed myself so much hard in the so-called race that suddenly I found myself retired hurt. Remember the list I mentioned earlier, I was doing everything just the opposite. I was crying in office, in bus, on road. I could not concentrate on anything, not even drafting a simple mail. I was out of job. I was pre-occupied with myself, sitting quietly in one corner of the house and staring the wall or complaining about life at top of my voice. Everyone around me hated me, accused me of being lazy and dramatic, called me crazy and insane. And of all the accusations I received, the one that hit me hard was being called “weak”.
Yes, I was out of that mad race and I was out for good. The women who I always looked up to as inspirations, wrote me off as another weak woman who is a “housewife”, doesn’t earn and doesn’t have a control over life.
I never thought I would ask for help, but I am glad, I did. And I got the support. Who supported me? I was helped and supported by a woman who was classified as a weak woman, my mother. A very caring and loving lady who was never appreciated for everything she did for the family because she didn’t have a job outside the house. She was called lazy because she chose to invest her time in her children. And who were these people who called her weak? People like me, who compete with one another and maintain a checklist.
Honestly, my illness cured me of my sick mentality. I found my pillars of support in other women. I was able to draw parallels from their own suffering. Finally, I found people who I could relate to. And I realised one thing, women truly belong together. They feed on each other’s pain. Female bonding is the most beautiful relationship I have ever seen. And probably that’s why it’s forbidden. Afterall, divide and rule really works. Doesn’t it?
So, what did I learn from my duel with depression? That there is no one called a weak woman. Everyone is strong in their own way. It’s just the situations who bring out the strength. Rest everything is just a choice. And we had enough of shaming women for making choices. I have never seen men being classified into weak men, strong men, confused men, vain men, self-obsessed men. Then why do we choose to be compartmentalized?
I tore off the old diary a long ago. Now I have a new diary which makes notes of strong women. And who is a strong woman? Everyone. Here’s my observations:
- A woman who gets over whelmed and cries in public is a strong woman because she is able to be true to herself. She is able to express herself irrespective of other people judging her
- A home maker is a strong woman. She chose to invest her time in building a home. She got over the insecurities and fear of not being financially independent.
- A woman who leaves her job coz of an abusive boss is a strong woman. She had the courage to move out of an abusive relation.
- A woman who stays in an abusive marriage is also strong. She sacrificed her own happiness for the welfare of her family.
- A survivor of mental illness is also a strong woman. She fought her demons and emerged successful.
- A working mother is a strong woman. It kills her everyday to leave her children at home. But she is working for a better future.
See, the same people but different perspectives.
How do you find a strong woman?
Simply, stop judging and start appreciating.
Happy Women’s Day. Cheers!