How to Be a Strong Independent Woman

Six Parts:Practicing AssertivenessTaking Charge of Your SexualityTaking Care of Your HealthManaging Your FinancesFollowing Your PassionsContributing to Your Community

Being a strong, independent woman means that you are able to find happiness on your own. You have self-confidence without having to rely on another person or society for validation. It means emotional independence and being able to have healthy relationships with others without falling into co-dependent patterns. It means learning to express who you are at your core, whether you are shy and soft-spoken or loud and assertive. You don’t need to try fitting a certain mold. Read on to learn how to embrace the woman you are and who you want to become.

Part 1
Practicing Assertiveness

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    Put yourself first. When you notice yourself needing something whether it is intimacy, affection, or attention, give yourself what you need. If you need attention, take a day to pamper yourself in some way. If you need intimacy, spend time writing in a journal or exploring nature. If you need affection, give yourself affection by thinking about what you love about yourself or taking yourself out for dinner and a movie. The more easily you can meet your own emotional needs, the healthier your relationships will be because you will know and understand yourself and be better able to express yourself to your partner.
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    Don't compare yourself to other women. Having a female role model to look up to is great. Just be careful that you don’t fall into jealousy. Although jealousy is natural to some degree, western society tends to exacerbate female jealousy through advertisements and films that feature unrealistic standards.
    • This jealousy and “catty-ness” is called "relational aggression."[1] Studies have shown that media plays an important role in modeling relational aggression in women. Women who are victims of relational aggression are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and feel rejected and lonely.[2] The result is a culture of women who feel insecure and unhappy with themselves.
    • Recognize when you experience jealousy. The first step to overcoming jealousy is to recognize when you are experiencing it. If you find yourself reading a magazine and comparing your own body to those of the models, stop for a moment. Do you compare everyone you see in the street to magazine models? Probably not, so spare yourself that judgment too. Models are people who happen to have features that make a good fit for what magazines are looking for, and they are people who are dedicating their lives to modeling as a job. They are no "better" or "worse" than you.
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    Set clear boundaries. Set clear boundaries that prioritize your own needs. For example, set boundaries with regards to as how much time you spend with someone, or the kinds of criticisms you are not willing to hear. Be sure you have other things going on in your life outside of any romantic relationship, whether it is school, work, friends, a fitness routine, or your family.
    • Set clear boundaries with the individual and communicate to this person your need to be your own independent person. Once the boundaries have been discussed, stick to them.
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    Stand up for yourself. Whether you are a man or a woman, you will have to learn to fend for yourself in the real world if you want to avoid being taken advantage of. You must learn how to stand up for yourself at school, at work, and in your social life. Work on asserting yourself. Don’t be ashamed or apologetic about asserting yourself. Assertiveness is the middle ground between passivity and aggression.
    • People who are effectively assertive are more happy in relationships and have higher self-esteem.[3]
    • Use “I” statements. These types of statements are less accusatory, and instead they convey that you are taking responsibility for your own actions and feelings. For example, instead of saying, “You never listen to me,” you can say, “I feel ignored when you constantly check your phone while talking to me.”
    • Learn to say no. Put your own needs first instead of always trying to accommodate other people first. If someone keeps asking to borrow money, for example, you can decline their request. If a friend keeps borrowing your car, you can tell her that the car is not available for her anymore.
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    Believe in yourself. When you believe in your abilities and your achievements, then you will convey strength. Pursue what you need and want. When you lack confidence or play the victim, you risk letting others walk all over you instead of getting what you need and want.
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    Let people know when they have hurt your feelings. If somebody betrays you in any way, be sure to let him or her know. It can be difficult to share your emotions, especially when you feel hurt or angry. But telling the other person how you feel may help prevent the person from repeating the behavior in the future. [4]
    • For example, you might say, “I felt hurt when you said my article was biased. I'd be happy to listen and incorporate feedback, but I can't do anything with name-calling.”
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    Address disrespectful and offensive comments. If you hear somebody making a sexist, racist, or otherwise disrespectful comment, don't let it slide. This doesn't necessarily mean engaging in an argument. Calmly tell the person that what he or she said is not appreciated.
    • "Please don't talk about other women like that."
    • "Could we please avoid negative comments about Muslims?"
    • "Why do you feel that way?"
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    Learn to recognize codependency. If you are co-dependent, you might find that the relationship defines your life. You might obsessively think about the other person and wait to make a decision until you’ve checked with him or her. Strive to overcome codependency by staying alert for the following signs:[5]
    • Low self-esteem
    • People pleasing
    • Poor boundaries
    • Reactivity
    • Caretaking
    • Control
    • Dysfunctional communication
    • Obsessions
    • Dependency
    • Denial
    • Problems with intimacy
    • Painful emotions.
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    Embrace the uniqueness of yourself and others. Try to cultivate compassion and happiness for the fact that everyone is talented and gifted in her own way, including you! Every woman has her own best assets, whether it is her math skills, painting abilities, or leadership skills. Embrace the skills and resources you have and love yourself for having them.
    • If you think someone is talented, let them know.

Part 2
Taking Charge of Your Sexuality

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    Be comfortable with your body, the way it is right now. A lot of women have some degree of discomfort with how they look physically, especially when naked. It can be difficult to become more comfortable with how you look, but try focusing on a part of your body that you like. Think about different parts of your body and how they look right for your body.
    • Focus less on what your body looks like, and more on what it can do.
    • If your partner is critical of how you look, assert yourself by telling them that you find their comments unsupportive.[6]
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    Communicate your needs to your partner. When engaging in intimacy, communicate your needs to your partner clearly. Loving yourself and honoring your sexuality means telling your partner what you like and what is off limits.
    • You can say something like, “I like when you touch me there,” or “I like when we cuddle after sex.”
    • If something is uncomfortable, say so. "I'm not comfortable with that" or "That hurts" are very reasonable things to say.
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    Honor your sexuality. Don't be ashamed of wanting to have a sexual side. Empower yourself to embrace your own sexuality in whatever form it takes, and choose partners who facilitate and uphold healthy sexual practices.
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    Don't be afraid to say no. Just about every woman, at one point or another, encounters a person who wants to take advantage of her sexually. It is important to learn both how and when to say no to someone who is making unwelcome advances at you. Do not let sexual assault go unnoticed. One in five women and one in 71 men are raped in their lifetime.[7]
    • If someone forces themselves on you, reach out for help. Society has taught women to feel ashamed or embarrassed for being molested or assaulted, even going so far as to claim that some women are "asking for it.”[8] Letting someone get away with a sexual crime teaches them that it is okay to do it again in the future.
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    Report sexual harassment in the workplace or at school. Remember that reporting these kinds of acts is not just for your own good; it could prevent the person from harassing others in the future.[9]

Part 3
Taking Care of Your Health

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    Get enough exercise. Staying in shape improves your overall health, your mood, and your energy levels, which will improve your performance in all aspects of your life. Regular exercise can help prevent disease such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes and it can also help with management of chronic disorders like asthma or back pain.[10]
    • Everyone is different, so make sure to discuss with your doctor what kind of exercise goals are safe for you.
    • You don't have to be an Olympic champion to be in good shape. Go for a jog around the neighborhood, take your dog for a walk, or go for a bike ride. Even gardening can be good exercise.
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    Eat healthy, nutritious foods. A healthy diet, like exercise, can help prevent disease and increase your mood and energy.[11] Everyone is different and can have varying dietary requirements. Talk with your doctor or a certified nutritionist to develop a plan appropriate for you.
    • As a general rule, eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits. Eat whole grains and proteins. Avoid processed and fried foods, and cut down on refined sugars.
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    Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can affect your health and mood. Aim to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep so that you can function at your best every day.
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    Understand your health. Personal strength is manifested physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you want to be a strong, independent woman, you need look no further than your own body. Cisgender women and men face different health risks and challenges because of biological differences. [12]
    • Aside from biological differences there are some other disparities that cisgender women are exposed to simply because they are women. For example, until recently, most medical research was conducted using only male subjects. When a disease or disorder presents differently between genders (heart attack, for example), the medical research was unable to accurately define symptoms for women. [13] Thankfully, medical research is quickly catching up and using more women as subjects in studies. Now that this information is more readily available, it’s important that strong, independent women utilize it!
    • Get regular checkups with your doctor. Be sure to bring up any concerns you have about your health.

Part 4
Managing Your Finances

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    Foster financial independence, to the extent that's possible in your circumstances. The independence that comes with your ability to earn your own income, start your own bank account, and buy your own property is something women have been (and still are, in some parts of the world) deprived of.[14] Question the assumption that you need to depend on others for financial security.
    • Take a money management course, or learn the basics online.
    • Make a budget for yourself so that you can meet your necessary expenses.
    • Save about 10-20% of your income.
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    Don’t be afraid to ask for a raise. Women are less likely than men to ask for a raise. When they do ask for a raise, they ask for less money than a man typically would.[15] Fall back on your assertiveness training and don’t be afraid to ask for the raise that you deserve.

Part 5
Following Your Passions

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    Study what you want to study. Don’t let societal norms influence which subject(s) you chose to study. Often society pushes women into certain fields (English, the fine arts, teaching, nursing and other “helping” subjects), while men are pushed into other fields such as science, math, and technology.[16]
    • More and more schools are pushing for women’s greater involvement in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) because the number of women in these fields is extremely low despite the fact that there is plenty of interest.[17] If you are interested in physics, go for it! If computers make you happy, dive in and learn all you can about technology. Don’t let prescribed gender roles interfere with you desire to learn more about a particular subject.
    • By all means, follow your favorite subject. If you like music, follow that. If you like math, follow that.
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    Become a lifelong learner. Remember that not all education has to be formal (i.e. attained through an institution like a university). Keep up with current events in politics, science and technology, read books (both fiction and non-fiction), learn another language, watch documentaries, and so on. Aspire to learn about new subjects throughout your life.
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    Embrace your own style. Being an independent woman means dressing the way you want, regardless of what people around you are telling you to wear. Use fashion as a way to express your mood, your taste, and your creativity.
    • Many times throughout history, women’s fashion choices have been dependent on the social and cultural norms of the time period. At one point in US history, tightly pulled corsets were the norm and it was a social taboo for women to wear pants.[18] We live in an era in which women have much more freedom of choice for their clothing and dress. Embrace that freedom!
    • When deciding what to wear, you should take into account your body type as well as your personal taste.

Part 6
Contributing to Your Community

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    Give to others. One of the best ways you can exert your strength is to give back to those who are less fortunate than you. You don't have to be rich or affluent to make a positive impact in your community, so start small. In a 2010 study on volunteering and “giving back” to the community it was found that, of those who participated in the study, 68% had better physical health, 89% had increased sense of self-worth and well-being, and 73% experienced reduced stress levels than participants who did not “give back.”[19]
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    Consider volunteering in your community. Nonprofit organizations in your community will welcome volunteers and support. Identify what issues you are most passionate about, such as animals, the arts, children, sports, etc. Choose a place that you enjoy and feel like you’re making a difference.
    • For example, volunteer at a soup kitchen, your local SPCA, or other community development program.
    • Research a charity before getting involved with it. Some groups are considered to do more harm than good.
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    Practice random acts of kindness. You don't have to become a formal volunteer to give back. If you see somebody in need, then help them. Even as small an act can brighten someone’s day. For example, help someone carry groceries or hold open the door for someone.
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    Support other women. Too often, women are shamed, judged, and put down by other women. Instead, women can uplift each other and empower every woman to be exactly who she is without judgement or comment.
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    Educate other women and girls about being strong and independent. Teach them about being assertive, building leadership skills, loving themselves, and standing up for themselves and others. Be a good role model for them.
    • Be a mentor for a girls’ organization in your community. For example, this might be a young girl who participates in a sport that you like, or it might be a high school senior getting ready to go to college.


  • Finding an inspiring female role model to look up to can help you find the inspiration you need to feel more independent. This woman can be a family member, a feminist or other activist, artist, writer, or politician.
  • Women are often expected to please other people. While there's nothing wrong with this in isolation, pleasing people should be reciprocal. Sometimes it may be a good idea to ask people what they can do for you or think about what you find attractive rather than focusing on how you can please other people.

Sources and Citations

  1. Coyne, S.M., Linder, J.R., Nelson, D.A., & Gentile, D.A. (2012). ‘Frenemies, fraitors, and mean-em-aitors’: Priming effects of viewing physical and relational aggression in the media on women. Aggressive Behavior, 38(2), p. 141-149. doi: 10.1002/ab.21410
  2. Ostrov, J.M., Hart, E.J., Kamper, K.E., Godleski, S.A. (2011). Relational aggression in women during emerging adulthood: A social processes model. Behavioral Sciences & The Law, 29(5), 695-710. doi:10.1002/bsl.1002
  3. Stevens, T.G. (2014). Assertive communication skills to create understanding and intimacy. Retrieved from
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