March is Women’s History Month, a month dedicated to recognizing women who have made exceptional contributions to history or contemporary society.
Like many women, I struggle with feeling “enough.” It’s hard for me to reaffirm my physical strength and emotional endurance. I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself I can get through this; I can overcome and endure the exhaustion, pain and disappointment in my life.
It’s easy to let yourself succumb to weakness, to throw your hands up and admit defeat. At the same time, it’s hard to tell yourself that you’re strong, let alone wholeheartedly believe it and put that strength into action. When I’m struggling and my voice isn’t loud enough for me to hear, I turn to the knowledge I’ve gained from these five amazing women. Their optimism, courage, perseverance and genuine voices remind me that I am strong, and I will prevail.
1. Brie Larson
Larson doesn’t play the typical damsel in distress; she portrays empowered characters who are active protagonists in their stories. Her characters own their beginnings, work hard in the present and won’t settle for anything less than the future they deserve. Her roles as Jeannette in “The Glass Castle,” Mason Weaver in “Kong: Skull Island” and Kim in “Trainwreck” were all strong, independent women who spoke their mind.
Whenever I feel like I’m not smart enough to finish an assignment, strong enough to lift more weight or creative enough to keep writing, I remember what Larson taught me about strength. The award-winning actress reminds me I’m strong because she tells stories of women who live and breathe strength as their one and only truth.
2. Mindy Kaling
Writer, actor, comedian, producer, etc. I’ve had a career-crush on Kaling’s life ever since I watched my first “The Office” episode in seventh grade. I read her book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me,” and it changed my life. No, seriously, I am a completely different person than I was before I read this non-fiction masterpiece. Kaling is a woman who is unapologetically herself, but also honest about the journey to self-acceptance; it’s long, sweaty and full of obstacles.
Everything I’d read up until her book told me self-love was easy if you just abided by a set of rules, complimented yourself every time you looked in a mirror and replaced refined sugar with air. But Kaling is real about how hard it is to accept yourself. She reminds me I’m strong because she affirms that it’s hard to appreciate yourself.
It’s difficult and terrifying to look in the mirror and truly be grateful for your body, mind and spirit. Before I read her book, I thought I was doing something wrong, doomed to have crippling low self-esteem. Kaling admitted the road was long and bumpy, but the reward was sweet, and I’m so glad I listened.
3. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
At 29-years old, Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. She emerged victorious in her party’s congressional primary against 10-term Democrat Joe Crowley and subsequently defeated Republican opponent Anthony Pappas in November. She beat Crowley with 57.5 percent of the votes in New York’s 14th District and won against Pappas with an overwhelming 78.2 percent.
The female politician reminds me I’m strong because she knows the value of a hard, honest day’s work. Growing up in the Bronx, Ocasio-Cortez has openly discussed her family’s experience with having to make ends meet. Up until her election, she was bartending to help pay the bills. When I’m wiping down buttery condiment stands at the movie theater or scrapping a congealed mound of chewing gum off of a museum exhibit, I remind myself of Ocasio-Cortez’s dedication. She reminds me that crappy part-time jobs are a stepping stone to a bright future.
4. Rachel Hollis
Damn does this woman get me pumped for life! Best-selling author of the conversational self-help book “Girl, Wash Your Face” and sequel “Girl, Stop Apologizing,” Hollis is a fierce advocate for female empowerment. I flipped open her book while waiting at the airport before a flight and finished every page before we even took off. And I’m not a speed reader, I just couldn’t put the book down.
I heavily indulge in books that promise me “I’m great just the way I am,” but Hollis’ writing wasn’t preaching contentment in the classical sense. By using examples from her own hectic yet rewarding life, Hollis encourages readers to live life for themselves, which is not a revolutionary concept as it’s one that drives many self-help books.
What’s different about Hollis is her style of writing. She’s witty, and not too preachy, despite subtle hints of Christianity woven through her sentiments. The female author reaffirms that I am enough, and I don’t need to set unrealistic expectations for myself or compare my life to others. She reminds me I’m strong because she encourages me to stop looking side to side and focus on what’s in the forefront: me.
5. My Mom
My mother, Erin Renee Salisbury, deserves an entire book for the strength she has instilled in me. I grew up seeing her work. She held a full-time job, planned meals, washed laundry, fixed door hinges and raised a child, among the slew of other responsibilities it takes to run a household and care for a family. Most memories I have of my mother involve how hard she worked, how much patience she displayed and how much love she bestowed.
She reminds me I’m strong because she never accepts defeat, and she’s never let me give up either. In high school, my house was egged and vandalized three times by kids who bullied me. I cried as I washed egg off the huge glass window in our living room. When I came inside for dinner, my mom hugged me and said, “I know that wasn’t easy, but I’m proud of you.” I was terrified to go to school the next day, but she told me to march in with my head held high; I had nothing to apologize for.
Every day for 23 years I’ve seen my mother’s spirit challenged, but every day she keeps going with a smile on her face. As an embodiment of emotional invincibility, she encourages me to not let anything or anyone break my spirit.
Everyone has a rough day. But, if you’re feeling particularly unmotivated, defeated or simply not enough, check out these women’s stories and messages for a quick pick-me-up.