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The ugly side of being “strong” as a woman

At what point was it decided that there are either strong women or soft women in this world? This categorical taxonomy is naïve, if not even dangerous. We are humans and all our traits are better depicted as dimensional scales. In other words, we are both strong and soft at different times in our lives. And this variation is what helps us to grow.

Female empowerment versus emotional hardness and its consequences

We live in an era of female empowerment, which I get and I endorse. But not a day passes by in which I don’t see empowerment being confused with emotional hardness. Moreover, the unhealthy pursuit of becoming very independent, capable, and resilient leaves many of us dissatisfied, isolated, and exhausted, as I often see through my work with clients. This can have devastating consequences on both mental and physical wellbeing, and may even affect fertility.

The need to be empowered can make us feel like a failure because of our own unrealistic expectations. We are lonely because we push people away. We feel tired because we don’t accept support. We keep partners or potential partners at arm’s length despite our inner need to connect and belong.  We try so hard to keep up appearances and we pay the price for this.

Yet, my main concern is that this emotional armouring, regardless of whether it results from social expectations or is self-imposed, affects our ability to cope with life’s challenges and creates barriers to support. Simply, it leads us to mistakenly think that if we don’t live up to being this strong woman every day of our life, we have failed.

So, we can be afraid to admit that we too, like everybody else, are affected by everyday stresses and pressures for which we need to reach out for help and support. In this way, we miss the opportunity to learn something new about ourselves and gain valuable coping skills. In exchange for this, we suffer in silence.

Redefining strength

When facing challenges, and planning goals and aspirations we can muscle through, fight back, and push forward. This is undoubtedly an adaptive way to claim our space in this world. But we need to remember that it has its limitations and it is not sustainable.

So, if this strategy is not serving us anymore but we still try to hold on to it, we continue to cause ourselves harm in a daily losing battle. The time comes at which we need to change our strategy and let our soft side come forward so that we can submit to the situation, accept it, and when necessary ask for help.

This is where real strength lies because it requires accepting the mindset that has held us hostage to our challenges. In other words, having the clarity to objectively assess our situation and having the intelligence to reach out for help before things get worse can enable us to keep progressing, developing, and achieving. This is something I can help you with. 


Dr Patapia Tzotzoli

Dr Patapia Tzotzoli founded My Psychology Clinic where she gained her reputation working as Clinical Psychologist with clients on one to one basis in London and worldwide via online therapy. She specialises in adult mental health and couples therapy. Studied at the universities of East London, Oxford and Cambridge and trained at the Institute of Psychiatry where she worked across world-renowned NHS Trusts.

Dr Patapia TzotzoliMedical LiveWire Award Winner

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