Becoming That Woman

When I was growing up, when I was a teenager and then in my twenties, I had an image in my mind, of a woman. She was a woman I could never become, because she was so much more sophisticated than I was. She was the sort of woman who walked around European cities, with a scarf wrapped around her neck. She negotiated her way in English and probably French and who knew what other languages. She was beautiful and accomplished: she had done things and she knew it, and out of that came her confidence, her ability to walk through strange cities with a mysterious smile on her face. Looking as though she belonged, wherever she was in the world.

Yeah, you hate her too, right?

Hate is the wrong word. I never hated her: what I did was envy her. I would have wanted to become her, except that it seemed so impossible. She was so different than I was. Because I was . . . well, awkward, and unsure of my place in the world, and often scared. I felt as though I had no idea what I was doing, as though I was an alien or an imposter pretending all the time. You probably know what I’m talking about, because we’ve all been there. But I kept on doing what I was doing, kept on working and writing. Because this is life, and what else are we supposed to do? I finished things, as one does: poems, stories, degrees. So I published, and put my diplomas on the walls, and even won some awards. Oh, and I bought some smashing clothes, mostly in thrift stores because that was where I could afford to shop. And I taught classes.

One day, a student of mine asked to interview me for a sociology project. She was supposed to interview someone who was doing creative work of some sort. And one of her questions was, “Where did you get your style?” I stared at her and asked, “My what?” I think it was that day I started realizing something that has startled me ever since, that startles me all the time: somehow, I’m not entirely sure how, I had become That Woman.

This is a picture of me from last summer, in Brussels. Very consciously being That Woman! Because there I was, realizing that I was in Brussels, speaking (broken) French, buying sandwiches on baguettes, walking around the city and going to museums. And thinking, Yeah! I’m her . . .


(I bought the scarf at a small store in London, the skirt at a thrift shop in Budapest.)

I think those of us who are women all have a “That Woman,” the woman we don’t think we can become. And I guess what I want to say is, says who? You, that’s who. You say you can’t become her. And so you envy her, whenever you see her walking around a city or along a beach, or climbing a mountain, or whatever your That Woman does, because all of ours are different. (I don’t know if men have a That Man? It would be interesting to find out.) But, of course, you can.

I don’t think you become her by setting out to. You don’t say to yourself, I’m going to become That Woman, and go out to buy the right clothes. For one thing, you’ll get it wrong, because you probably don’t understand her yet. Your That Woman is a projection of what is deeply, truly inside you, the woman you could become (which is why you envy her, for being what you so want to be). So the way to get to her is to find what is deeply, truly in you, and keep doing it. While you feel awkward and inadequate, while you’re afraid. If it’s writing, go sit at your desk or in a coffee shop and write. If you want to go back to school, do that. Buy the clothes you really love (I still recommend thrift stores, which is where I get most of mine). Do the things you genuinely love to do. When you do that, over and over, you slowly start to become her.  And it is in the process of becoming her that you understand who she is.

The hardest thing about this process is overcoming your own negative emotions: your fears and feelings of inadequacy. The thing to remember about emotions is that they’re only emotions. You can feel them without acting on them. So be afraid, but do what you want to anyway. Separate out your feelings and actions. Feel your feelings, but pay attention to your actions.


(This is me reflected in a mirror in front of the Magritte Museum, which is my favorite museum in Brussels. I was so glad to have gone to Brussels, simply to see this museum.)

I have two stickies over my desk about fear. They are on my cork board, where I can see them every day.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

They work together, don’t they? Perhaps because I’m a writer, I think it’s useful to write things like this out. When I do, I find it’s easier for me to remember them, to live them. They become my inner voice, the voice that speaks when I need it to, that guides me. That inner voice speaks to all of us, and it often seems as though it speaks from outside, as though it’s the voice of another. But of course it’s not: the inner voice is your own voice, although it often repeats what others have told you. That you can’t, that you’re not good enough. But you can take control of that inner voice, you can change what it says. You do that not directly, because you can’t argue with the subconscious, but slantwise. Like by putting stickies over your desk.

Now that I am That Woman, there are some things I know about her. I’ll let you in on those secrets:

1. Before she became That Woman, she was not That Woman. She thought she could never become That Woman, until she did. She spent a long time being scared, feeling awkward and inadequate. And then one day, she found herself walking through Brussels in a swingy skirt and leopard print flats, with a scarf tossed carelessly around her neck. On that day, or another, she realized that she had become That Woman.

2. Some days, when she wakes up in the morning, she groans and crawls back under the blankets. You might think, Aha, she’s not That Woman all the time! But you’re wrong: groaning and crawling back under the blankets are part of being That Woman. It’s all part of the package. Later that day, she will walk to a cafe and work on a poem, or go to a museum, or just dreamily watch the snow come down outside her window. She will be That Woman, whatever she’s doing.

3. What defines her as That Woman is that she knows she is. She knows she’s the woman she wanted to be, or is well on her way to getting there. She looks at herself in the mirror and says “Yes.” She looks at her life and says, “This is what I wanted to do, and I’m doing it.” Her fundamental attitude toward herself and her own life will be love. Oh, some days she will be tired, and frustrated, and overworked! But underneath, there will be gratitude and joy.

Last picture: me on a park bench in Brussels, that same day.  See?  I wasn’t kidding about the leopard print flats . . .


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181 thoughts on “Becoming That Woman

  1. I can’t wait to be That Woman. Coming to think of it, you’re one of my few That Women.
    Thanks for always posting great things on your blog! And I love when you do it on Sundays, simply because it starts off my week on a great note. :)

  2. This is such a beautiful post. A kind of lean back and absorb how we move from girl
    to woman post. My mother was stylish. So was my first stepmother. My second stepmother was timid and fearful. I know now she came from deep poverty and being able to be a secretary was highly powerful for her. I knew she thought I was
    a little insane to want to be a writer, and oh, all those books I read; remnants of my
    real mother. I had to read Seventeen Magazine in the library to begin the long winding way to becoming who I wanted to be. They were modest hopes; to be able
    to go to New York City and feel at home, to maybe get some poems and stories
    sold…every step is a wonder.

  3. I need to periodically reread this, so I don’t forget to keep focussed on doing the things I want to do, that help me continue becoming that woman, the woman I want to be.

  4. This was an inspiring post. I’m glad for you that you became who you wanted to be. I can relate to this, because I feel like I am on a similar path, though I’m not quite there yet. What you say about feeling scared and awkward, and inadequate rings true, but you’re right that we have to keep in mind that we shouldn’t be held back by emotions, emotions are fleeting and we can’t let them have power over us, or let them stop us from becoming That Woman. Thank you.

  5. When I was 12, my vision of being That Woman or That Girl was by 18 to get breast implants, a tan and a bleach job and take a trip to California. I’m so glad our dreams can change over time!

  6. Ahhh, this is my inspiration for the day. Definitely plan to quote you in my work with a particular patient who is struggling with a fear of weight gain within an eating disorder. Thank you for helping me start this day positively.

  7. I throughly enjoyed reading through this blog. It’s inspiring and speaks so much truth, it is something that I can definitely relate to in terms of ‘that women’. But as for me it would be ‘that guy’. ‘That guy’ for me would be an entrepreneur, someone who’s innovative, business minded, successful, charitable, and who frequently travels the world. I am aware that I am not that guy now, but I aspire to be that guy some day in the future. I just need to continue working hard and focusing on my career.

  8. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your journey of becoming That Woman. What a beautiful and empowering description. I love that even when you crawl back under the covers, you are still That Woman. Here, here. Inspiring. Thank you!

  9. Such a wonderful post! Glad to got to be her and now that I think of it, I think I’m pretty close to being That Woman too. I didn’t get here as I expected and maybe not quite the That Woman I thought I’d be, but in a good way :)

    I love this line, “So be afraid, but do what you want to anyway.” Absolutely! Great quotes on your desk, I forget those sayings, so I think I’ll print them out and post them too :)

  10. Love this.

    I moved to New York at 30 and wondered when, if ever, I would have the crisp self-confidence of women here. It took a lot longer than I expected or hoped, but now none of them scare me. I belong and have my place and earned it. It’s a very good feeling. You captured it so well. Thanks!

  11. I’m 48 and still working on becoming that woman. :) But I love this post, so inspiring! I’m putting your sticky note reminders on my computer. Love the line about her attitude about herself and her life being love, this is so important, yet we often miss the boat on this.

  12. I really like this post, I’m very much in touch with these emotions. It’s taken me a while to understand my own sense of self.. To become ‘That man’ if you will.
    Excellent post..
    Thanks for writing.

  13. Great post! Since I’m still working on becoming “That Woman”, it definitely resonates. It is hard to give up the negative self-commenting, especially for those of us who are completely style challenged…(I’m not even sure I match most of the time…I probably have a long way to go to become the stylish, sophisticated woman that I’ve always wanted to be…)

  14. This is such a wonderfully written post! I’m glad it was Freshly Pressed because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have found it. I’ve been experiencing a few bouts of self-doubt recently and it was really great to read this inspiring post.

  15. Great story about women, about our passions and hopes, about becoming who we were destined to be. I hope one day to meet ‘that woman’ but in the meantime I’m walking the journey of life, conquering my fears one by one! Muchly appreciate the encouragement.

  16. You’re so right! I really can’t deny the jealousy that bubbles up when I see a woman who seems totally and completely content, capable, graceful and in-the-moment. I thought you articulated it very well and I think that it’s important to remember that, first of all, looks can be deceptive; even if someone looks like they have it all together, you can be sure that they have challenges in your life but, in that moment, she isn’t letting them hold her back. We will never be flawless, even if others see us that way. Thanks for the article!

    Flux: Encountering Adulthood

  17. …great post! I personally am working on becoming That Man.. the one who fears nothing and wakes each day knowing he has been blessed again just to be alive. The one who lives from his creativity and desire to appreciate not only the world, but all of her denizens.
    I think my becoming That Man is not so very different from your becoming That Woman… is it?

  18. What a great post!! It’s very relatable probably to all women. I know I have felt inadequate many times, still do sometimes, but I keep looking and moving forward. I’m on my way to becoming that woman!

  19. beautiful. i can totally relate to the idea of That Woman as well as the doubts and feelings that come along with the desires you describe. thank you for sharing. i’m so happy that you found her in your own way!

  20. This is an absolute true, it’s also true that you became THAT WOMAN because you decided it, just like everything in life it takes time to develop :). Loved the article, thank you from the bottom of my heart thank you so much!

  21. Reblogged this on Living in the Moment and commented:
    “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”
    ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

  22. I love this. It’s so inspirational taking that I am in my early 20s. It’s so discouraging to have that inner voice that keeps you from being who you really are. and I’m so anxious for this stage of my life to be OVER because I know I CAN I WILL BECOME THAT WOMAN! Thanks for the inspiration :)

  23. Excellent post. I see myself there, remember wanting to be That Woman, and finally hearing people refer to me as her, enough times that I finally got it. Thank you for writing this.

  24. Reblogged this on Deliberately and commented:
    Ahh! I think it is Becoming That Woman that is my purpose here. Please click on “view original” to read the whole article and discover how the author achieved her dream.

  25. Theodora, Glad You achieved what You wanted. Kudos. Continue to be that Inspiration! …People in my Country, (India), for the most part have very much more Basic needs. Part of my writings go for the Betterment of Women in my Country. Regards.

  26. I love this post. I’ve been so close to That Woman for a while now and it all started when I had a life-change, I moved out of the stifling environment of my parent’s house, and finished when I got to my goal weight. There’s still room for improvement, but I’m living the life of That Woman I dreamed of when I was younger, I wanted to walk around the city pretending to be a love-lorn leading lady from an artsy foreign film. Ok, not love-lorn – I’m marrying my Mexican, but life is so cosmopolitan at the moment with friends from France, Portugal, Poland, Mexico, Spain, Ecuador… and I love it! My one things that’s stopping me from being That Woman: my weight. But in the end, in every other aspect of That Woman I’m quite happy, so maybe I am there!

  27. Thank you for sharing this. A wonderfully inspiring post (as inspiring as your stickies!) and so relevant to me at the moment. The birthing of ‘That Woman’ is something I know I want and might even be working towards, but as you say you never know till its done. A kind of invisible chrysallis process.
    Hope you don’t mind me sharing this on my Facebook event, ‘Being Woman'(, held for Int. Women’s Day; this will be a great introduction to some of what we’ll cover. x

  28. Reblogged this on beobinaju and commented:
    Oh My God! this totally resonates with me. I had for years felt out of my depth, struggling each day to find my “Style” (which was mostly informed by what other people thought i should be wearing and not what i loved). As i began to let go of deeply craving the affirmation of others and loving and exploring who i truly was including finding my style (which is mostly classic and vintage with an occasional “what’s the trend of the season” outfits), i find that i am Becoming That Woman

  29. Oh My God! this totally resonates with me. I had for years felt out of my depth, struggling each day to find my “Style” (which was mostly informed by what other people thought i should be wearing and not what i loved). As i began to let go of deeply craving the affirmation of others and loving and exploring who i truly was including finding my style (which is mostly classic and vintage with an occasional “what’s the trend of the season” outfits), i find that i am Becoming That Woman

  30. Such a great post and one we can all relate to – I think that woman is always inside us and that it just takes us to realise it. Often the people around us are looking at us and treating us as ‘that woman’ that they aspire to be without us ever realising it.

  31. Congratulations!! Well on the thought you became what you wanted well maybe becoming envious of her really helped
    Well maybe I am not able to explain it properly like a writer does sorry maybe that’s because I do not get the feeling of felling envious coz I am not women till now see I am just a child and I love to be one well I even though I do not get the concept of getting envious of someone because I have strike policy to follow myself and no one else as everybody has their own mistakes and I definitely do not want anyone else’s faults but well that’s just me

    I said congrats on your efforts to future and also on the efforts to make you you and no one else
    The path that we follow are different
    The rodes we run might be big or narrow
    But in the end the thing that matters
    Is the better you to tomorrow

  32. Thank you for putting into words something I had been recently trying to bring together and understand about my future.

  33. What a wonderful post! It has taken me back to my own early years when I was “Almost That Woman.” I had a good career in Banking & Lending in So, Calif, loved buying and dressing like a real woman. Was always humorous and professional. But one day my world was shattered by addicted gambling, alcohol, and Undiagnosed Bipolar disorder. It started when my “Old Childhood Trauma” knocked on my door in my early 30’s……Well, lets say I became the “Ugliest” woman inside out.

    Now, just celebrating 7 years in recovery, living a well balanced life with mental illness, I have begun to be “That Woman” again. Like you said in your post, our actions mean more than what we Wear, or how others see us. If you can LOVE yourself, help others on this Journey Of Life, you WILL BE “That Woman.”…..

    Happy Valentines Day Weekend!
    I’m a new fan :-)

    Author, Catherine Townsend-Lyon

  34. I seem to reinvent That Woman over and over… but now… I am a woman who can walk with some confidence knowing I can do it.

  35. the transition from a girl to become a women is indeed an incredible one. most of us look up to our mothers or our grandmothers and we want to become like them. they appear in our minds as the perfect women.. loving, caring, sacrificing, selfless, dignified, elegant, supportive, protective…and so much more. it is very difficult to define a woman, the power and strength she carries within her is commendable. such blogs are a must read that celebrate the beauty and power of woman.

  36. I really enjoyed this. Personally I’m always looking for style but I’ve realized some of that is not being comfortable with who I was. The female characters in my books are uncomfortable in their own skin. You’ve given me some inspiration today.

  37. As a single late twenty-something girl with big ambitions of what I want to see, do and become, your post really resonated with me. It’s definitely worth book-marking and going back to. Thanks for putting down the thoughts many of us have in such an honest way!

  38. Beautifully written. A sticky post it is not a bad idea either to remind ourselves we have arrived.

  39. Very well said. Your words clearly resonate with a lot of people, women and men both. Yes, men have a “That Man”. The interesting, confident, accomplished, unflappable figure — that’s who I’m aiming to be. I sometimes get signals from people that they perceive me that way, that I am getting close to “That Man”–ness. But here’s the secret: most times I don’t feel like That Man. But I don’t let on. I’m going fake it until I make it. I think you’ve touched on something universally human in this post.

  40. I’ve imagined and dreamt of being “That Women” all my life, without even realising I was already part way there! Your right the only thing holding me back has been fear of the unknown. Something of late I’ve happily learnt to overcome. The biggest barrier in life is the one’s you put up yourself. Thank you for sharing, you’ve inspired me to make a life changing decision i’ve been mulling over for weeks now. Looking forward to new challenges and a change for the better! :)

  41. Reblogged this on Live . Life . Love and commented:
    This is beautiful said, I feel like it has reassured me that everything will be okay, and as long as I keep at what I love and dont give up no matter how unsure I might feel about myself, embarrassed or like its an unattainable dream, I just have to keep going and life will sort itself out :)

  42. Thank you so much for that. I use to think that everyone else knew all the answers to how to BE or BECOME and I was the only one lost and afraid. Spent way too much time afraid to move in some direction…now I am excited to take the journey to me. Can’t wait to read more from you.

  43. This was a lovely read. There are times I look back at my teens and am so relieved I’m no longer that girl. I guess that means I’m one step closer to becoming that woman :)

  44. Amazing post and a great testimony about what is waiting for those of us that dare to cross that other side of fear. I completely relate to this, as I have been on this journey too. It is the realization that fear is only imaginary, that it only exists in our heads – that is the greatest obstacle to realizing our full potential and obtaining the confidence necessary to guide us through challenges of life. Congratulations!

  45. I’ve always envisioned myself to be a cosmopolitan woman, and maybe I am getting there. Never stop building up what you want to be, because you can! Lovely to know you are chasing (and becoming) your ideals Theodora. All the best!

  46. You are the type of wonderful self-knowing woman I write about in my post. I would love you to read it and tell me what you think. “

  47. Reblogged this on Fit n Flexy and commented:
    I often blog about fitness, nutrition and self-empowerment, well I am sharing a beautiful post of one amazing lady’s experience of becoming “that woman.” The woman she had always wanted to be but did not realize she already was.

  48. I LOVED this blog. I’ve become my “that woman” too and it’s pretty damn liberating! Thanks for your wonderful insight!

  49. I am going to follow you now because the universe literally woke me up with this same realization. I am satisfied with myself, and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and yet sometimes I find myself so frustrated that I’m not doing enough. I want more. I want better. I want the life I dreamed up. This morning it really washed over me like a bucket of ice water: This is it. If I’m frustrated with what I did yesterday, I’ll just do something different today. Duh.

  50. Very cool. I remember the first time I became That Woman, and wow was it something. Now that I’m older and That Woman has gotten lost somewhere, I’m looking forward to rediscovering her. Thanks for the reminder that she’s in there somewhere.

  51. This thing we call Life…it is the most terrifyingly brilliant freedom we have… like learning to read – it matters where you put the stress mark, on terrifying? or on brilliant?

  52. Very inspiring! Im also having the same struggle and it is nice to know that im not the only one. And not only that, there are people who really get over their fears and becomes the woman they wanna be. ;)

  53. Reblogged this on ScarePoint and commented:
    I find this post inspiraitonal and strenghtening. I shared it with the women in my life hoping it would bring the same to them.
    Nothing to do with SharePoint but so very related for me :)

  54. I really enjoyed reading this because I have the same worries of becoming that woman I want and need to be. I’ve always felt like I was putting on a facade, feeling pressured to network and put on a air of confidence to develop myself as an academic. But like you said, you didn’t realize you had already become that women, and as I look back on my accomplishments and present circumstances, they may not be perfect, but they closely resemble that women I had always imagined myself becoming. Thanks for this piece.

  55. Awesomely inspiring post, I loved it. Sometimes, I feel as I am to give up on my dream of becoming That woman, but then again something reminds me about the childhood dream I always had and today it was this Blog Post. Thank you for reminding me to live the dream!!!!

  56. An inspiring blog. I just wanted to say that sometimes the journey to ‘That Woman’ is a long one. Sometimes our fears are very powerful – especially those regarding how we are perceived by those we love and don’t wish to offend.

  57. I was reading this post and you made me feel every single word you have written here.. Thank you for sharing your story. For me it is very important at this moment to have this “Woman”… and to understand even if I’m still chasing after her – one day I’ll find myself seeing world through her eyes.

  58. Beautiful, congratulations on being That Woman, the woman I never hated but admired and have the chance to also be. Well said, Everything you want is on the other side of fear. I wish Word Press had a favorite button so I could add this to posts I will surely want to read again.

  59. This is great, realally enjoyed it. I recently blogged about my ‘by age 45′ goals and while those goals are still important to me, I’m learning to really enjoy the progress and ‘step backs and pauses’ are okay too. Look forward to reading more of your posts!

  60. This is so inspiring. I truly appreciate you finding these words and using them to describe these feelings that I think everyone has at some point in their life.

  61. I absolutely was that women but over the past few years I’ve become more fearful and unsure of myself….I feel like I’m doing it in reverse somehow? Any tips for getting back on track?

  62. I am almost 30 and I don’t know how time passed by, but from an introvert girl I became a popular woman :)) I really don’t know how that happened, I just started to get more and more friendly and confident… and suddenly, everybody appreciates me :D
    So… every woman that still is not satisfied with what she is… should do somethng about it, not complain and not feel inferior, because every one of us is unique and has a multitude of not yet discovered talents and qualities :D

  63. I read your post with interest. When I was little I wanted to either be a farmer’s wife or a coal man – so I could be dirty and it wouldn’t matter. I have always had my Mum in my head and hoped I’d be a good Mum one day, but other than that I’ve just bimbled through life really.

    Got an economics degree so I could get a good job, went to drama school as I decided I’d rather be an actress, trained as a teacher when I was fed up being poor, set up a company when I didn’t like school bureaucracy, sold that to become a childminder when my first daughter turned 1 and now I’m a storyteller. I aim to be a folk singer eventually, when my storytelling ups a gear and I’m employing others.

    It was only when judgement was passed on me as a person and I suffered 4 months in a mental hospital protesting my innocence (this is me, how can I get out when you’re telling me my personality is a mental illness???!!!) that I realised I had become my Mum and was really glad of all the choices I had made in life to end up here as this woman, me! My Mum never amounted to much aside from managing a happy household of 9 children and my Dad, but apart from moaning about my Dad she is very content in herself. She has never been stylish or fashionable, she is just herself.

    As for my daughters, I shall teach them they need to work hard to achieve anything they want, but being a good person in yourself as you walk through life is far more important than having some sort of ideal to aspire to. So long as they know themselves and are true to their hearts they’ll be alright no matter what.

    I would be frightened to recommend to my children that they should dream of a person they would one day like to be as disappointment when reality differs would be rather crushing. I’d rather they knew they were of humble origins and made their own way to find out what they like or don’t like doing by living in each moment as themselves at that time in their lives.

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