Why It’s So Tough for Tough Girls
I didn’t start out as a tough girl. I was a tiny kid – usually the smallest in my class with about as much hard edge as finely spun cotton candy. My quirkiness made me vulnerable to mean girls because I just wanted to belong but I was doing everything in the world to stand out instead of blend in. I rode around on my Big Wheels with a skirt on my head and homemade holy water in the trunk pretending to be a nun. I read every Agatha Christie book I could get my hands on while everyone else was reading Judy Blume. When I was in first grade a group of girls from my apartment complex invited me over to play. I thought we were going to play school but instead they locked the door behind me and for no reason they ever communicated proceeded to beat the shit out of me. Every girl was bigger and one was much older. I went home covered in scratches, bruises, tears, and shame and I guess that’s when it started. I grew tougher almost imperceptibly. It was not one event or incident that constructed my armor; it was a myriad of experiences that slowly thickened my skin and my resolve. I had much older tough sisters who made me stand up for myself even when my knees were knocking together, my heart was pounding like thunder in my small chest and I didn’t have a single advantage in the world. They didn’t care that I was smaller, younger or a girl – in fact it was because of my frailty that I had to toughen up. I had to be able to defend myself, or bad things – unspeakable things could happen. We knew plenty of girls and women who suffered from all kinds of brutality.
Benefits Of Being A Tough Girl
The truth is this toughness has served me well. I can take care of myself emotionally, financially, and physically. It’s not a burden to be able to take care of others and myself – it’s a privilege. I don’t walk through the world afraid and I’ve never sought to be rescued. These are gifts. I’ve done really scary and amazing things because I’m not afraid of failure. I know that there are much scarier things in the world than failing.
I know lots of tough girls. They may have come by their toughness differently but I can spot them from a mile away. They are taking care of people, taking care of business, solving problems, sucking it up and rarely complaining to anyone. They look invincible – like they could possibly fly if they just set their mind to being airborne. You want them on your side. They are advocates and champions and women of action. They don’t spend their time whining because they’re too busy doing. They aren’t martyrs or princesses or divas. Tough girls know how to fix things like broken hearts and broken toys and they’re strong from carrying more than their fair share. Tough girls seem hard on the outside but tend to have a gooey, sweet, warm center.
The downside of being a tough girl is that it’s hard to articulate your own needs. It’s easier to do for others than ask for yourself. You say yes when you should say no and you never fall apart so no one has the slightest notion that you might have a need or that you were so tired you cried in the bathroom at work. That’s the tough part about being a tough girl. Because you can do it all – people generally let you.
Using It To Your Advantage
If you really want to make your way in the world and create a life of your choosing your toughness will serve you. But if you want to create a sustainable life you have to soften some of those edges – know when to surrender and say yes to yourself and no to others. Your toughness is good but it’s sort of like a fabulous cocktail dress – it’s not appropriate for every occasion.
To all of the tough girls reading this I want you to know that it’s okay to ask for help or say no or let others do some of the heavy lifting. This is hard I know. The words can get stuck in your throat making it so much easier to just do it yourself than ask – but asking is good. Just because you can do it all doesn’t mean that you must or that you should. You don’t have to give up your tough girl card because you cried, asked for help or took a day off from saving the world. If you know a tough girl, for no reason at all do her a good turn. Send her maid service, pick up her kids, take her to a movie and just let her know that she is not alone. She will be ever grateful because the world rarely notices a tough girl, but I see you and I happen to know that lots of people are just waiting for you to need them.