Throughout history, woman have shown courage, whether in daring and dauntless fashion or quietly behind the scenes. Granted, life is not without its setbacks for us all — men and women alike encounter challenges, and yet, for me, there are few things as inspiring in life as a woman who displays her courage and determination in breaking down barriers.
In the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers found that exposing women to highly successful female role models helped them overcome gender negative stereotypes related to their own performance. Perhaps I had some sense of this early on and this is why in high school I had a Rosie the Riveter poster hanging in my bedroom...to gaze up and bask in her courageous strength when needed, letting the words, “We can do it” settle into my being.
J.K. Rowling lived on welfare as a single mother and was rejected by countless publishers before Harry Potter made her one of the most famous and successful authors in the world. Her courage to press on in the face of these challenges is profound. Or Lyudmila Pavlichenko, World War II sniper, credited for killing hundreds of German soldiers and in a speech to the American military, famously said, “I am 25 years old and have killed 309 fascist invaders by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?”
Whether we want to sign up for a Spartan Race, leave a miserable career, or simply get out of the bed in the morning, time and again, women have tapped their innate wellspring of courage to press on and find strength in struggle. And when you do this, you give other women permission to do the same. I believe one essential ingredient of courage is to face our fears; choosing love over fear. Regardless of the outcome, if we have done this at some point in our life, we have a life well-lived. Chances are, you don’t have to look too far in your immediate circle of friends and family to find equally exemplary woman as J.K. Rowling and Lyudmila Pavlichenko. Courageous women are in and around us.
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Mary Starks, MA, is an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor #5828, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT #50732. Mary specializes in child and family counseling and has extensive training in the field of infant mental health.