Strong women. Strong words. Strong hearts.

We have much to learn from women up close and in the world. Women lead every day. Not all of them stand at a podium or direct the machinations of a thriving business.

“Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes.”
—Margaret Wheatley

Strong Women

Many women who lead rarely realize their own significance and contribution. They live ordinary lives with extraordinary grace and wisdom. If you look around, you can see them on the streets, in the stores, hospitals, schools, and your own home.

The first strong woman in my life was my Mother. I watched her lead at home, at the office, church, and in the community. I learned how to support a political candidate stuffing stickers and letters for John F. Kennedy. She taught me to stand up to the world.

You won’t find her name in a list of famous female leaders. That doesn’t make her any less a leader. She was, without a doubt, “a person who has commanding authority or influence.”

Strong Words

I’m a venerate collector of words, phrases, and sentences that can stir the soul or spark the imagination.

I’ve read several articles about why people harbor the words of others, reaching for hope or guidance. My obsession has as much to do with the sound and a turn of the phrase as does the meaning of the words themselves.

Like everyone, I search for inspiration and encouragement. I cling to the relief of the lighthearted words that sweep heaviness away, or at least under the rug so you can breathe.

I have curated many words from strong and wise women. You may find them equally interesting and a source for reflection, encouragement, or a push toward action.

I will start with three lessons from my Mother that guide everything I do. Her words echo in my mind daily.

“Do your best.”

“Be yourself.”

Whenever things didn’t go my way, she considered those as opportunities to “build your character.

My mother filled my mind, and now others add to her wisdom.

Be you.

“…True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance…Belonging to ourselves means being called to stand alone—to brave the wilderness of uncertainty, vulnerability, and criticism.”
—Brene Brown, Braving the Wilderness

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
—Maya Angelou

“Believe in yourself. Never bend your head. Hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.”
—Helen Keller

“…Everyone’s got some greatness inside them… But in order to really mine it,  you have to own it. You have to grab hold of it. You have to believe it.”
—Shonda Rhimes

“There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And here’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.”
—Michelle Obama, Becoming

Be brave.

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”
—Louisa May Alcott

“You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”
—Rosa Parks

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
—Marie Curie

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
—Mother Teresa

“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?… What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail? What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant? …The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”
—Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

Be your best.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
—Anne Frank

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”
—Eleanor Roosevelt

“The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is. It’s to imagine what is possible.”
—bell hooks

“Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”
—Grandma Moses

“Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.”
—Mary Oliver

I have so many more words from women who guide my choices and teach me how to stand strong and love strong. If you have a favorite, add it to the comments. Your words and thoughts may be the ones we all need to take the next brave step.

Strong Hearts

Brené Brown uses the term wild heart and describes “the paradox of  love in our lives.”

It’s the ability to be tough and tender, excited and scared, brave and afraid—all in the same moment. It’s showing up in our vulnerability and our courage, being both fierce and kind. Braving the Wilderness

I don’t know any woman, personally or through their writing, who doesn’t show up vulnerable and courageous. That doesn’t mean fearlessness. When you belong to yourself, fear nips at your heals every moment.

Fear always shows up, but its arrival signals your own leap into innovation. Elizabeth Gilbert warns that “fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter the realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome.”

To All Leaders

You are stronger than you think. You, too, have a wild heart that shows up with vulnerability and courage. To ALL leaders, I encourage you.

“The only safe ship in a storm is leadership.”
—Faye Wattleton

We need leaders. We need you.

Be you. Be brave. Be your best.

And always—

Be kind. Be brave. Be you.

Photo: © Kathryn LeRoy