Manly Women

I grew up in a culture where a woman’s place really is in the kitchen (or the bedroom).

There are certain social, widely accepted ‘norms’ that must be followed: the man is the head, the bread winner, the tough iron shield of the family; the woman, the woman, as my male relative would put it is the “neck of the family, supporting the head in deciding the way forward”. But in truth, the neck is to very quietly express their opinion, and only where it suits the ideals of the men because at the end of the day, it’s the head that makes the decision.

Something about these ‘norms’ didn’t quite resonate in me. It didn’t make sense that two people who are supposed to be in equal partnership for life have inferior and superior roles.

Ever since I can remember I have rebelled against these ‘norms’.  From the moment I could walk I began pushing to prove that I am equal to, even better than men in every way possible.

Men around me would look at women and belittle them in many ways possible; from the way women drive, to the way they dress and the amount of food they eat – women just weren’t good enough for the standards of men in the culture I was born.

So who would want to be a woman in a place women are considered second class citizens, where vulnerable equals weak and fragile, faulty?

Not me! 

Hence I neatly threw my vulnerability out the window, my fragility I put in a pretty little box, shoved it in a cupboard, locked the doors and swallowed the key. From as long as I can remember, I played the tough girl. The girl who was faster than boys, stronger than boys, even manlier than boys. In my high school years, I was proud to say I was more of a man than most men I knew.

Meanwhile, inside of me I felt like a flower deprived of sunlight and water with its roots dabbed in rock-hard soil without access to any nourishment. The low self-worth, hardness, and layers of protection I held inside of me felt like weeds strangling this precious flower. 

Until one day, a little bud broke through the cobweb of weeds in a form of an inguinal hernia. The moment I saw the lump I thought to myself “What have you done to yourself Viktoria?!”. Yes, my vulnerability had climbed back up through the window, my fragility had broken out of the box and my hernia was a screaming message that I need to be more honouring of myself.

But I didn’t listen, and what did I do instead? I added self-loathing, need for recognition, and judgement to the poisonous concoction and I used it to feed the weeds. The flower however was persistent, so the little bud kept growing, popping out every time I was in disregard of myself; every time I found myself in judgement of me, or of others; and every time I dove into my need to be recognised and the saviour of everyone and everything around me.

People say that hernias develop because of heavy lifting, and they’re not wrong. Can you imagine how heavy it is to carry all of these poisonous emotions inside you? In my experience it is literally like carrying an elephant in your hands and trying to skip like a school girl. 

However, through developing loving habits, I began to nurture and care for myself.

From paying attention to every single one of my teeth while brushing them, to gently untangling my hair in the shower, and stopping the harsh exercise I was forcing onto my body. I began to pay attention to the signal my body gives when I eat, drink, or take something. I began to listen to its cry for sleep and structure. I began to keep a diary of my feelings, when I woke up, before I ate, after I ate, in the afternoon while having my tea, at any point I felt like there was something there that didn’t seem quite right.

I stopped ignoring and I started observing.

This strengthened my connection with myself. It supported my self-loving choices because when I opened up to feel my wounds, I opened up to feel love and joy also. By opening up, I was allowing my body to express how it truly feels, I got to know the things that bring joy and the things that bring pain and thus I began to drop the things that bring pain and focus on the things that bring joy.


Three years after the lump showed up for the first time, coming to acceptance with the fact that I have harmed my body to a state where I needed medical intervention, I underwent a surgery. The hernia was sealed and with that so was my pocket for self-harm. Six days later, I feel light as a feather and clear of all the negative and pain inflicting thoughts I held inside this pocket.

By allowing myself to feel just how vulnerable I am, I opened a new path of reconnecting to the incredibly gentle and feminine young woman that I am. And yet, I feel powerful, strong, and much more secure in myself, my abilities, and what I can bring to the world.

So, no, vulnerable does not mean weak; fragile does not mean faulty. They are innate qualities inside every single one of us, they are two most empowering qualities that allow us to connect with one another and live in deep harmony.

Only if we surrender…

By Viktoria Stoykova, Student, UK

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547 thoughts on “Manly Women

  1. There are so many heavy emotional weights that we can carry – and we are not designed nor asked to carry them, and yet we can be so stubborn to insist that we do. So how freeing is it then when we realise this and embrace the fact that we can do things differently?

  2. The body has its ways of bringing us to a stop – such as a hernia or other illness or disease, and in fact this is always a blessing even though it may not feel like it at the time, for the blessing is the stop and the offering of another way to be.

  3. Thank you Viktoria for your sharing which has reminded me of how many cultures actually do hold women as second class citizens…and how the common response is as you have shared, to fight this and beat men at their own game. And yet this very approach means that we are the ones as women that then bury the very ingredients that are our anti-dote to any inequality, to any abuse, to any harshness.

  4. We talk about how difficult it is to be a woman in today’s society – expectations, strain and pressures. But equally so, if not more – it is also beautiful to be a woman, the delicacy we can connect to as our eyes open in the morning, the gentleness we can shower with & put our clothes on. The honouring way we can put make-up on, and the incredible, nurturing approach we can have to work & those around us. It is truly beautiful and something available to all of us.

  5. “However, through developing loving habits, I began to nurture and care for myself.”
    Developing loving habits may take some time but are so worth it, just choosing one thing and make that loving will be life changing.

  6. When I think of Princess Diana, she was a royal who could not but help wear her heart on her sleeve, her vulnerability made others absolutely adore her.

  7. For every response to something that doesn’t feel right I unfold a deeper love for myself and hence a deeper love towards others, a consistency without perfection that is becoming the norm in my life.

  8. “Can you imagine how heavy it is to carry all of these poisonous emotions inside you?” A great question Viktorya. No wonder after a healing session or even surgery – we can feel so much lighter and clearer. So how do we choose to live thereafter?

  9. Many people share that they feel a lot lighter after surgery. I feel there is much to appreciate here because surgery can support us to clear the poisons held in our body and if we don’t learn from the messages our body gives us, then it can be easy to accumulate the poisons again after surgery.

  10. “Men around me would look at women and belittle them in many ways possible; from the way women drive, to the way they dress and the amount of food they eat – women just weren’t good enough for the standards of men in the culture I was born”, is that really the reason why men belittle women or is it that they can sense the inherent power in all women and so cut them down, lest the women step into their power and reflect to the men that they are not in their true power as gentle men?

    1. When we are aware and sense that it is the power and authority within that exposes the man and woman to react to try to bring us down, it has no power over us; we observe it like water off a ducks back.

    2. Yes – important to get to the root of this issue and I can certainly see your point. Is it also that women have rejected their own power and so what they are seeing is a reflection back from men as to what they have done to themselves as well?

    1. An ingenious way to reconnect to the body and hence our deepest source, the Soul and learn to live from that.

  11. To bring the touch of delicateness into the world is just the profound beauty of God and very healthy to keep our body vital.

  12. With honesty we can surrender deeper into our own knowing and in that knowing we get to feel how powerful and strong we really are.

  13. Now I start to understand where the lack of self-worth has its origin. If your innate qualities are valued as less, not important or even completely wrong you have to find another quality that is appreciated but that is not you to identify yourself with.

  14. How wonderful that you have discovered that “vulnerable does not mean weak; fragile does not mean faulty” at such a young age. It has taken me into my 60’s to learn this incredibly valuable message, one I know if presented to me at a young age would have definitely changed the course of my life. But it wasn’t and I am delighted to have learned it and in the process, I have also learned that it is never too late to make a change in the way you look at, and live, life.

    1. I agree Ingrid, it is never too late to develop our strengths and qualities of true vulnerability, and I too started embracing these qualities from a later age. I now appreciate its strengths and not taking on the false version of it being a weakness.

  15. ‘From paying attention to every single one of my teeth while brushing them’ I love this attention to detail – we can always go deeper with our own self-care and that is also what makes it a fun journey, never boring but joyful and nurturing.

    1. This shows to me that taking care for oneself is not a chore, but instead a loving gesture to the innate delicateness we carry within.

  16. I have heard it said that it is the natural order of all things, for there to be an inferior / superior dynamic in relationships, that this is in fact a sign of balance. But I do not reckon that this is true, and I agree with this article in saying that we all have strengths and weaknesses and they key is to support eachother as we learn about these both in ourselves and in eachother.

  17. Your title sums up the way so many women have lost themselves by striving to out-man the men in their lives and in doing so lose the connection to their vulnerability. However if we are willing to surrender we are offered the opportunity to explore more harmonious relationships with all and recognise that support is always there when we choose to re-connect with our essence.

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