07/29/2016 03:54 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

For All The Women That Tell Themselves To 'Man Up'

It came to my attention a few years ago that I was walking around (essentially) as a dude.

That's right.

A man. A guy. A ball of masculine energy.

Even though you would look at me now and undeniably know that I am a woman (hear me roar!), just a short while ago, this wasn't the case.

Looking back now I can see exactly how it happened too.

I was born into a male-dominated family, and from a very young age, I would do whatever I could to simply fit in with my 3 older brothers.

My nature was calling me to play dress-up in my mother's closet and put makeup on my fair, lightly freckled skin, but all of that went out the window as soon as my brothers started making fun of me and calling me "Avon Lady".

My taste in fashion LOVED the "girly girl" styles that all my friends were wearing, but that soon became an impossibility during my elementary school years after my already 'big-boned' frame started gaining weight at an accelerated pace. I couldn't fit into the clothes I most desired to wear, and it left me to make due with t-shirts, baggy pants, and boys clothes.

My boy-crazy teenage self would loved to have been 'desired' by the boys in school, but instead I simply became "one of the guys". I was every guys' friend, buddy, confidant, and (of course) the one the boys came to when they were interested in one of my beautiful friends.

My continued poor self-esteem and body image didn't keep me from wanting to feel like I could be something other than "the girl with the pretty face" or that gal that "could be so 'hot' if she lost some weight". So I did what any other young lady would do if she didn't think she could ever feel beautiful, powerful, or confident.

I set out to show the world how smart I could be, how funny I could be, how accomplished, successful, talented, fill-in-the-blank I could be.

I became a 'tough gal'.



This tough gal made sure that she never needed anything from anybody.

She made sure she never appeared weak, needy, or like she didn't have it all 'together'.

And no one could ever know if she was feeling emotional, vulnerable, or (god forbid) see her cry.

With the exception of her body, this tough gal had to be perfect at everything else in her life. In fact, if she couldn't be perfect at it, she didn't even attempt it. Because failure was certainly not an option. Not for this tough gal.

But it didn't just end there.

The first part of my career was in a predominantly male-dominated industry.

I was indoctrinated into a world where the 'measuring sticks' were the kind of car you drove, the number of dollars in your bank account, or whether or not you were part of the "6 (or 7) Figure Earner" Club.
(And this didn't even include how much weight you could bench press.)

So what did this tough gal do?

That's right, I played the game with the other 'boys'.

Only this perfectionist played to win!

Fancy shmancy apartment. 6 Figure Earner 'boyscout badge'. The whole nine yards.

And what do tough gals do when the going gets tough?

Just "man up". Grow "a pair". Get back "in the trenches". Don't be such "a vagina".

Yup. I'm not exactly proud of it. But that's who I became. That's how I talked to myself, saw myself, regarded myself, and 'motivated' myself.

So what about now? Obviously if I'm sitting here writing these observations, something must have changed right? So what was it?

Did I lose the extra weight I'd been carrying around my whole life?

Did I change careers and enter into an industry a little less male-dominated?

Did I change my measuring sticks and start valuing myself differently?

Yes actually. All of this did indeed happen.

But none of it actually exorcized the 'man' that was deeply ingrained in my mind, my body, my brain, and my beauty from as far back as I could remember.

I had to take myself through an entirely separate transformation.

I set out to WomanUp!

You see Woman-ing Up isn't about gender equality.

It's not a stand for feminism.

It's a call for all women to come simply come back to their nature -- to the female-ness that is hard-wired in their brain and their nervous system.

You see, even though biologically men and women are about 99% the same, that 1% difference between the male and female brain is HUGE.

Specifically when it comes to my fellow tough gals.

You see when it comes to feeling emotional, vulnerable, needy, or seeking connection and belonging, we experience this in a part of our brain called the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC).

The female ACC is actually BIGGER in women, more active, and develops faster than the male brain.

That's right all you tough gals out there. There is a cost to living your life this way.

It goes against your NATURE.

Meaning as long as you keep fighting and resisting it, you'll be spending extra energy and effort simply living your life!


So I'm taking it upon myself to enlighten all my fellow tough gals out there that there is a way to feel powerful, confident, independent, successful, and resilient WHILE indulging your feminine energy that is (and will be) deeply ingrained in you forever.

But I'm also writing about this today because I have a feeling that there are other tough gals out there that are DYING to simply be themselves -- to not always have to feel like they are alone in this world -- to not always have to be so tough!

So allow me to be the one to uncage you, set you free, and give YOU whatever permission you need to WomanUp!

★ I give you permission to not be so tough. Let your guard down. Let your heart be open. Let the light shine in.
★ I give you permission to ditch perfection. Your best is perfectly fine. In fact it's more than enough.
★ I give you permission to never feel like you have to prove anything to anyone except yourself.
★ I give you permission to totally dropped the ball, mess up, backslide, and not punish yourself over and over again for it. Leave the past in the past, put it to sleep at night, and dare not to wake up with it in the morning.
★ I give you permission to not have to make someone else wrong to make yourself feel right. You don't need to scream to speak. You don't need to fight to exist. And you certainly don't need permission to feel what you feel, know what you know, or have an opinion.
★ I give you permission to care. No one will care for or about you as much as you have the capacity to care for yourself.
★ I give you permission to connect. You don't have to do this on your own. You don't have to do life on your own.
★ I give you permission to feel. Feel all the feels.
★ I give you permission to cry. The pain will stay locked away and hidden inside if you don't.
★ I give you permission to go find a way to laugh or smile about the things that make you cry. Cause let's be honest, it's more fun to laugh.
★ I give you permission to be the beautiful, powerful, and gifted woman that you already are and always have been. I give you permission for HER to come out and play.

Leanne Ellington is an author, a mad scientist, a storyteller, an ambidextrous hoolah-hooper, and wholeheartedly believes that peanut butter should become the fifth food group. Although her 100 lb. weight loss was her main career driver initially, major spine surgery and the face-off between her "fat head" and "skinny head" led her down the road of neuroscience, and she became a spokeswoman for women all over the world shunning "body image as usual".

She built her career off the back of her deepest personal struggles, and now she helps women take a brain-based approach to overcoming theirs. She's creator of Eat.Play.Love.Live where she helps women break up with the thoughts that are holding them back, and get their mind, body, brain, and heart on the same team. She also makes a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies. You can connect with her over at