For a long while, men’s societal definition has defined women, and other women have been using this definition comfortably for quite some time, too. From the pressures of meeting beauty standards, relationship expectations, or choice in career, women have been expected to fit into the mold created for them by societal norms. Women also worry about attracting the deserving mate, as the right woman must represent perfection to find the right partner. Sigh, so many “normal” expectations for women to fit into as a perfect woman. It is no surprise that women, such as me, end up feeling exhausted and cannot keep up. Many women end up with low self-esteem and depression, putting on a face to fit in when inside, the whole time, they are feeling left out.

Each woman is so different and unique, yet societal pressures often tend to group women into similar identities and follow the cookie-cutter standard of being a woman. I wonder if this makes it easier to define us as we can be known to be “complicated?” Women also set standards for each other as no one judges a woman more harshly than another woman.  However, at the end of the day, what is a perfect woman?

When I think of the strong, impactful women I have crossed paths with, only a handful of names come to mind. The women who I have come across as seeming to have the courage to own their truth has made me wish so much to be one of them. It took me a long time to stop seeking others’ approval and accept myself and my truth. I have been a spiritual person on the inside with an empathetic soul who has always spoken the truth politely and longed just to be herself rather than a doll on display. Other girls my age were always looking at beauty magazines while I used to read books with female heroes. I didn’t particularly appreciate dressing up to be pleasing to someone else’s eyes; I wanted to dress like a hero. A hero was never on display, but they show up when he/she is needed. A hero got attention, but he/she never sought it.  

Every time someone told me how beautiful I was, I wished people took time to know the person behind the face. I had to dress up to go out and be presentable for parties and awards; in order to be among a group of people giving me compliments about my hair, clothing, and shoes, rather than my talents, wins, publications and my achievements. I wouldn’t say I liked that no one noticed the expertise of a woman who fell under the “beauty” category. I felt my accomplishments were being overshadowed by my looks and I was not having this.

I have always been a simple person, but I continued to meet expectations because of the fear of rejection. I remember daring to dress the way I wanted to sometimes, completely covered, because it felt empowering. Ironically, women made fun of me while some men seemed to have admired my modesty. I remember my friend Eva’s boyfriend telling me once, “Your man will be so lucky to have you; he will know his girl took care of herself.”

I loved dressing modestly and covered. I just felt free knowing I took power away from anyone looking at me as an object and it caused others to look beyond the face. I felt it enabled me to direct people’s focus to who I am rather than how I look. However, fear of being judged, excluded and not approved stopped me from embracing my truth for so long.

Nonetheless, I finally took my power back and embraced myself. I accepted that I do not need to be included everywhere. I stopped following society’s definition of which woman is more appreciated and how she needs to present herself. I no longer wanted to listen to other people telling me how to be. I know I have fantastic hair, beautiful clothing, fabulous shoes, and besides, I am so much more than a woman on display. I now dress how I love, and I am so happy being me!

I want women to know it isn’t always about who will accept us. It is also about what is allowed by us. We are essential and we have to be honest with ourselves. It took me long enough to learn my lesson. I want to talk about, “What is a perfect woman?” Who is she? Women come in so many beautiful shapes, colors, sizes, talents, skills and so much more. More and more women need to own their truth. However, some have yet to leave the mindset I was once a prisoner of.

I have just shared one part of my story. Women, including myself, wear so many different hats and are given a set of expectations to meet in every area. For example, when we speak of couples, how is she supposed to be perfect when it comes to the partner’s expectations in a relationship? We are all flawed in our ways. What makes an ideal woman, partner, spouse? Judged for being widowed, divorced, and not married soon enough, and not having kids, having too many kids, there is just so much she has to bear.

Body shaming is always an obstacle that a woman must suffer with and I believe this is a conversation that needs to get out there. We have women measuring their purpose by how others view their worth. They are putting up with body shaming and developing low self-esteem, looking at photoshopped images for beauty, but why? What is a perfect woman?

Imagine working-class women now, younger girls, older women, and their many dilemmas. Who decides what a perfect woman is? I sincerely want to extend this invitation to you, everyone reading this, and everyone hearing about this panel. Enough is enough, and it is about time we answer, what is a perfect woman? I have invited three of my Sheroes to join me as we break down societal expectations and unrealistic comparisons.

The answer is straightforward: I am a perfect woman, and you are too! We have to be different to be us! 

We are not a product of a cookie-cutter manufacturer; we are one of a kind! We are precious and priceless. We do not look to impress others. We show up where we want to be present. Our love is earned. Care and compassion are our gifts to give as they are all collected by the right people. We are the ones who accept, and we should not worry about being rejected. It is for us to live our truth and not worry about who notices.  

Women are so much more than an expectation. We must be different to be unique and live our truth.

I look forward to having you join me on Wednesday, August 26 at 7 pm CT for this virtual Zoom gathering and having a mindful discussion about What is a Perfect Woman? All women who are working hard to be the “perfect woman” need to sign up to hear the real, mic-drop conversation. You can register here.

The Future of Connection for Women

Nida Jawed
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