‘The world kills a woman’s heart when it tells her to be tough, efficient and independent.’
John Eldredge, ‘Wild at Heart’.
As a two year old I made my mum wait painstakingly long while I refused help putting my socks on because I was convinced I could do it myself. Now I lift weights and insist on carrying my own luggage no matter how heavy it is. When I train, I push myself to the limits because I get a kick out of the pain. If I’m told I can’t do something then I’ll be even more adamant that I can.
Is there any problem with being independent? I so badly want to say no: I am who I am, I don’t have to change for anyone, and it doesn’t bother me. And to a certain extent that’s right! But the truth is that we weren’t created to fend for ourselves completely – we were created to live in harmony with others: each of us contributing what the others cannot. We’re bombarded with the message that being strong means being driven and not needing anyone else, but real strength is found in being humble enough to accept other people’s gifts.
Deep down we want to be seen as feminine, we want to be cared for. But we’re scared of what that means. We’re terrified of making ourselves vulnerable, so we push ourselves to keep up with everyone else. I tell myself it’s because I don’t want to be patronised or feel like a burden to anyone. But if I’m honest, it’s because I need to know that I can do it on my own. I don’t want to admit that I need anyone else, because I’m scared of what will happen if one day they’re not there anymore.
The world – my world – has taught me to be tough, efficient and independent. It may have had a good go at killing my heart, and for a long time I let it win. But no longer. I’ve decided to take back my heart, even if that means being vulnerable. That doesn’t mean changing who I am. I have a need for adventure, I love to try new things and challenge myself physically and mentally, and to challenge the boundaries of what I can learn. But not at the expense of letting others in.
There’s a fine line between capable and stubborn, and it’s a line I’ve been treading dangerously for years. My thirst for excitement is a gift from God, but my need for control is not. By learning to separate the two, I can begin to step into the character that God so delighted in when he thought up who I would be. I can accept help without it being a sign of weakness. I can refine my attitude without restricting my dreams.
We’re called to clothe ourselves in ‘strength AND dignity’ (Proverbs 31:25)! The two aren’t mutually exclusive, and I’m SO glad about that.