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I am so inspired by strong women. The women who have had to overcome many of life’s challenges without much help from their male counterparts; they have my respect. More so because I am fully aware of how difficult it has become for us to have a voice when it goes against the conversation society has on our behalf.

My mother is one such woman. She lost her husband and the love of her life and had to raise two kids by herself. Shortly after his death, she was ostracised by his family, who found it comforting to blame her for his murder. She’s also been diagnosed with cervical cancer, a brain tumour, a heart condition and some or other ailment since then. On top of all that, she’s had to deal with me, her rebellious daughter, who made her life more unbearable than was necessary. I honestly don’t know how she survived it all, but she did. If I were to go through the same challenges, I would have lost my mind by now, literally.

Her story is not so unique in the greater scheme of things. There are countless other women out there who go through their own individual difficulties: women who have survived death at the hands of their partners, women who were brutally raped and mutilated by the people they thought they could trust, women who are outcasts in their communities because they’ve been falsely accused of crimes they didn’t commit, women who are victims of human trafficking and women who have to do whatever it takes to provide for their families, even if it’s at the expense of their own wellbeing. Those who survive have to live with a different kind of survivor’s guilt – the kind that makes it damn near impossible to go back to living a normal life.

These women become so numbed by what they’ve gone through that they rarely ever allow themselves to breakdown in front of an audience. We often confuse that for strength when in actuality, their hearts have been hardened. They refuse, to some degree, to expose themselves to any kind of emotional or psychological pain. That is not strength, that is self-preservation and it is toxic.

The strong woman is not the one who is loud and abrasive, nor is she the one who refuses to show any emotion or thinks that crying is a sign of weakness. The strong woman struggles, she endures, she survives, and she’s okay with being vulnerable because she knows that this is where her strength comes from.

Yes, it’s hard being a woman, but we ourselves don’t have to be.

“Here’s to the strong women. May we know them, may we become them, and may we raise them.” 

Image courtesy of Huffington Post

#Onique

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