“The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.” – Audrey Hepburn
The idea of femininity has drastically changed over the past century. Women have won their rights and have gained influence in almost every field. They have more opportunities for growth and expansion in society, without having to deal with the male-domination of the past.
However, in the midst of this unprecedented progress, the virtues associated with being a woman have gradually eroded. In an effort to ’make it‘ and level up with the competition, women let go of the positive feminine qualities and take a more combative stance. The word ‘ladylike’ was tossed out of the women’s lib lexicon because it became associated with outdated gender roles. It harks back to a time when women had no power or control over their futures.
Some women, when they’re asked to be ladylike, feel pressured into archaic gender roles. They see it as society’s way of making them conform to certain expectations of what is desirable and acceptable when it comes to social protocol. There is also an element of classism, where ladylike behavior is associated with the rich and bourgeoisie who can afford to go to expensive finishing schools and don’t have to deal with the pressures of paying bills and raising a family.
Others want to have the liberty to decide what being a woman means to them. They want to be able to express themselves freely, even if that includes taking on more masculine traits. Becoming ‘ladylike’ will strip that freedom away. There won’t be space for the different nuances and meaning that ‘being a lady‘ can entail depending on country, culture, and context.
As women, we’re understandably still dealing with the baggage that lingers from the vestiges of our past. It has made us vigilant of anything that looks like it will put us back in a box and take away our hard-earned liberty. Those psychic generational wounds are still fresh and we’re extra sensitive to anything that touches it and reminds us of the pain of the past. But it’s time that we let our guard down and embrace our femininity.
Women of today should realize that they can be ladylike and also make their own decisions. They can be in equal partnerships, purchase houses, cars, and they can become CEOs and presidents if they wish to. The social graces and etiquette of being a lady are longer about following a list of outdated rules and more about being respectful and considerate.
Ladylike is not about being girly, prudish or a people-pleaser who doesn’t defend her convictions. It doesn’t mean that you can’t play sports or wear clothes with masculine sensibilities. You should accept everything that makes you unique and express your style freely. Ladylike behavior enhances your individuality, it doesn’t suppress it. That is a significant shift that we need to make in our thinking.
Certain women in history, like Audrey Hepburn, Princess Diana, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, personify the word ladylike with their grace, poise, and dignity. However, women like Coco Chanel and Katherine Hepburn are also ladylike, even though they displayed traits often associated with masculinity like being bold, outspoken, and rebellious. Their femininity was still intact because they were not crass in their mannerisms or tacky in the way they handled situations.
Being ladylike has less to do with fashion and more to do with how we carry ourselves in the world. It has less to do with our accent and linguistic abilities and more to do with how we communicate our thoughts with others. It has less to do with knowing how to eat at a dinner table and more to do with how we treat others.
Here are five ladylike qualities still important and relevant today:
1.Good manners: Manners matter. No matter what you look like or what your status is in society, common courtesies and social etiquette such as “please” and “thank you” can set you apart. This also applies to what you communicate in text messages, emails, and on social media. Swearing in public and using mean and offensive language that could hurt people around you is a big no-no. Unlike what popular media portrays, being rude and having a truck driver mouth is not cool. A lady is poised, speaks well of others, and avoids gossip at all cost.
2. Humility and modesty: Arrogance and a sense of entitlement are instant turn-offs. Women who display those qualities are almost always insecure and lacking in self-worth, no matter how conventionally attractive, smart, or popular they are. Real ladies are down-to-earth and humble; they don’t make it all about themselves. They don’t feel the pressure to overexpose themselves like women shown in ads, movies, and music videos. They wear clothes that show off their femininity and personality, without having to bear it all.
3. Empathy and kindness: Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes so that you can understand their feelings. When we’re empathetic, we shift from a me-focus to them-focus. We’re willing to listen to other people’s stories. It’s only when we listen and open our hearts that we can be inspired to engage in acts of kindness. Doing small things like holding doors, cooking for a sick friend, volunteering, or offering a genuine compliment to someone who may really need it, could mean a lot to another person. Kindness makes a woman radiant and ladylike.
4. Respect for self and others: Self-respect is all about knowing that you are good and worthy enough to be treated well. This includes making enough time to take care of your needs and self-care routines, while also not tolerating others who mistreat you. When we respect ourselves, we can extend that to others. Respect can be shown by being fully present when someone is sharing their thoughts with you and affirming what they say. Keep an open mind and be willing to hear what they have to say, whether you agree with them or not. Respect towards others can be shown by being on time, dressing appropriately, and keeping your word.
5. Balance and moderation: When a woman displays moderation, whether that be in her behavior, choices, or appearance, she exudes self-control, discipline, and balance. You won’t find her downing multiple shots and getting drunk at a bar with her face caked up in makeup, looking like a drag queen. You won’t find her at buffets overloading on unhealthy foods and belching as she eats each serving. She won’t overwhelm others with her opinions and demands. Her priorities are well-thought-out and she knows when to say no to things that don’t serve her highest good.
Former U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt said that a woman is like a teabag because you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. Beneath the social graces and ladylike mannerisms, every woman needs a strong and resilient inner core. When a woman radiates the type of confidence that comes knowing that nothing can shake her or her self-worth, she becomes powerful beyond measure.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What does being ladylike look like and feel like to you? Do you think it’s still relevant in today’s social climate?
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