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Dr. F. Emelia Sam Headshot

The Grown Woman Series: Defining Womanhood

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What makes a woman? What is considered womanly? What does womanhood look like today?

These are impossible questions to answer, and yet we make judgments constantly about who is acting appropriately and who is not.

"Why is she still single? There must be something wrong with her."

"She doesn't have any children because she's selfish."

"Why does she have so many children? Doesn't she want more for herself?"

"She needs to soften up a bit. She's way too masculine."

"Her damsel in distress act gets on my nerves."

"She should really do something about her moustache."

There is no shortage of critiques when it comes on how individual women wish to live their lives, which brings us to principle #3 of The Grown Woman's Oath.

I acknowledge that womanhood is self-defined.

Wear a Gucci belt or a tool belt. Have a child or don't. Get married or don't. There's a spectrum of womanhood. Do you.

Choices for women have increased exponentially over the last few decades. (Make no mistake, there's still a way to go). However, some of us still want to keep each other boxed into our own definitions of womanly behavior.

We've fought to get out of one box only to find ourselves in a slightly roomier one. Boxes are so passé.

The only reason we perpetuate these restrictions is to bring some sense of order to our own worlds. We enjoy the comfort of categorizing people. We believe we come to a better understanding of ourselves by putting people in their literal places.

It's an indirect attempt to gauge our positions and justify our own choices. What we're really saying is, "Am I doing this right? Because she has to be wrong for me to be on point."

By declaring another as being misguided, we feel strengthened in our current situations. By casting judgment and withholding our approval, we are unconsciously defending our own standpoint on what being a woman means.

Here's the thing: The next woman doesn't need your approval so your criticism of her is irrelevant. Your energy would be better used creating a life that you fully love. And let's face it. If you were enthralled with your current state, you wouldn't have the time or desire to police other women.

Grown women make decisions for themselves -- not for other women nor based on other women. They have no need to do so. They have come to understand a crucial part of living an empowered life.

Grown women know without a doubt that that the choices of others do not invalidate their own.

With that realization, the need to define dissipates. A woman can fully stand in her own power and know that is more than enough. If anything, that is closest to the concept of womanhood. Knowing you are enough in whatever form you choose to be. Be you.