Dear young woman,
“Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.” – Pope Saint John Paul II, Letter to Women
What does it mean to be a woman? Womanhood is beautiful. We as women are the ones who bring life into the world. This is a unique and special role that cannot be shared with men. Though we cannot conceive a child without man, we bear that child within ourselves for nine months, sharing our very life with them. God has designed it so that women are specially connected to the children they bear, which means we are created for the conceiving and raising of children in the very fabric of our being.
The natural vocation of woman is to have children and be a mother. Sometimes God calls us to sacrifice that vocation so that we can do another work that he has planned for us, but the ability and capacity to have children is hardwired into us. God’s very first command to mankind, which he spoke to Adam and Eve, was this: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28).
So claim your femininity! Don’t be afraid of the womanliness which God has bestowed on you.
God created us beautiful. Mankind was created in God’s own image; this means that both physically and spiritually we are objects of beauty. Also, as women, we appreciate beauty in a different way than men. We see things that men do not. While a man may build a house, a woman will make it a home. She knows what is pleasing to the eye as well as to the heart.
Since God created women to be mothers, he gave them an intuitive awareness of the needs of others. In this we are called to be gentle and tender. I was speaking to my oldest sister about this, and she said, “Gentleness is not lack of strength; gentleness is strength under control.” Being gentle is not about being a doormat. Being gentle is being strong in the face of adversity, whether we are facing our own trials or the hardships of others. Why do children go to their mother when they are upset? Because there they can be sure to find consolation and comfort.
Yes, we can play sports and be competitive. We can rough it and be adventuresome. We can go rock-climbing and stack wood. We can (insert tomboy-ish activity here) . But we can’t let these things take away from our femininity. God created us different than men, and not just so that we can spend our whole time trying to prove that we are just as strong as men. We have a different kind of strength. Men are given more physical strength. That is just a fact of nature. Oftentimes, women are more sensitive. But we have a strength in that sensitivity. JPII says,
“Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty—not merely physical, but above all spiritual—which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women.” (Letter to Women)
How we act and present ourselves in public is an important part of our feminine identity. We must respect, and take pride in, the dignity of the beautiful bodies God has given us. This means that we should dress well (and comfortably!).
I work in a gift shop. Every day I see customers come in—summer tourists for the most part. Am I struck by how well they’re dressed? No. Usually, it is just the opposite. They are dressed shabbily, and with too much makeup. And they would not even realize how they look. However, when someone is well dressed, I notice.
In today’s society, most people don’t make the effort to dress well. Story time: for a piano exam a couple of years ago, I wore a 1950s-style, blue and white flowered dress. Pearl earrings and necklace completed the ’50s look. I ended up in a Home Depot with some of my family after the exam, and there was a random man walking past me and my sister. As he passed us, he said to me, “Nice dress!”
People notice when you’re dressed nicer. They may not always mention it, but they will notice. I often get the sense that I’m treated better when I’m dressed well in public. I might receive better customer service, or be more likely to have a stranger hold the door open for me.
Why? Because when I myself respect the dignity of my body, others around me will recognize the dignity of my body and show me the respect that every person deserves.
As I grew older into my teen years, I began to take on my feminine identity more. I like to wear jewelry and makeup. Cute dresses? You betcha. Yes, I still wear jeans. As I write, I’m wearing sweat pants and a hoodie. But the trick is knowing how to be tasteful in our clothing, makeup, and jewelry, and what attire is appropriate for each occasion.
Also, if we’re dressing modestly, there is nothing objectively wrong with dressing to attract guys. It is part of who we are as women.
Sisters in Christ: be gentle, be strong, be beautiful. Be the daughter of the King that you were made to be. You will be a beacon of God’s love for those who need it.
“You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.”
— Song of Solomon 4:7
This is Part Three of a four-part blog series. The first two parts were entitled “Dear Teen” and “Real Manly Men.” The final part will be titled “Don’t Let Your Age Define You.”