11 Traits of a Strong Woman, Defined by Strong Women

Explorer Chick Strong Women Collage

At Explorer Chick, our mission is to empower women through adventure travel. The women who join our trips are mentally strong AF. All of them. Some know it, some are just realizing it, and some are still on their journey of discovering. But all of them, in one way or another, possess the 11 traits of mentally strong women. We see it in their faces when faced with a challenge. We hear it in their voices when encouraging a fellow Explorer Chick. We feel it in the energy they bring with them, whether it’s on a one-day trip or week-long epic adventure.

Although this list of traits of was compiled based on research and expert insight, we also asked 11 real women to define what being a “strong woman” means. What sets the headstrong, get stuff done, living a happy life woman apart? What makes her tick? The answers are from women with different backgrounds, ages, careers, locations, families. Authors, professional athletes, firefighters, moms, daughters, sisters, aunts and more. Ready to be inspired? We thought so.

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1. She is courageous.

A strong woman faces challenges, stands up for herself and refuses to stay silent in the face of abuse of power. Scary? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. Give fears the middle finger. Recognize your journey and stay the course. Identify what it will take to reach your goals, and what is keeping you from reaching them. Know when you need to push yourself, but also know when to walk away. A combination of passion, self-respect, tact and timing—along with a healthy dose of courage—is the secret sauce. Time to get cookin’, good lookin’.

Smile a lot, talk to strangers, accept all invitations, and eat everything you’re offered. Risk-taking, trust, and serendipity are key ingredients of joy. Without risk, nothing new ever happens. Without trust, fear creeps in. Without serendipity, there are no surprises.

— Rita Golden Gelman, author of Tales of a Female Nomad

2. She doesn’t depend on anyone else.

Strong women aren’t afraid of failure and trust themselves to handle their own financial, emotional, mental and physical well-being. Does this mean they don’t need anyone else in their lives? Of course not. In her article for Strong Women Strong Girls author Catherine Bailey notes, “[A strong woman] admits she doesn’t have all the answers. She is willing to be flexible and seek more information in order to better her life and sharpen her mind.” You’re here to conquer the world, not wait for it to revolve around you. Ask the tough questions, be an eager learner, pick yourself up when you fall, and keep taking care of business. (But first, go crank it up old school with Destiny’s Child “Independent Women, Pt. 1” and throw your hands up with Queen Bey. Deal?)

I think we like a good challenge. We recognize that most people are capable of more than they think and we like to test that; push ourselves to work harder and set bigger goals. I’ve come to realize that with a lot of effort and determination, I can accomplish anything that I put my mind to. So why stop now?

—Jamie Kmety

3. She knows who she is.

A strong woman’s self-love game is on-point, and she knows practice makes (almost) perfect. It’s not easy to look past perceived flaws and try to improve real ones. Keep trying anyway. Learn to love yourself, no matter what. Own your mistakes, learn from them, and move on FFS. Everyone suffers from self-doubt, but strong women recognize their negative thoughts prevent them from being their best, most badass self. In her article for CNBC.com (based on her book 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do), psychotherapist Amy Morin reminds us, “Your brain will doubt your competence, but don’t believe everything you think.”

Find your “why.” What sets the mentally strong and the driven females apart from the rest is they have found their “why.” By this I mean they have created goals or a purpose to push further whether it be in their work, athletics, home life, or any aspect of life.

Once we find our “why” we can find purpose in even the most mundane of activities and see how it fits into the greater purpose of our lives. Often we find our “why” first in athletics, then transition that “why” into our other daily practices.

—Margaret Schlachter, founder of DirtInYourSkirt.com

4. She builds others up.

Kindness and compassion aren’t for sissies. Strong women don’t see these traits as weaknesses, they see them as opportunities to connect with others. Mean girl behavior is for the mentally weak, and you’re striving for Wonder Woman-level mental strength here. Show unconditional love and support because it’s a win/win. By lifting up others, we’re more likely to reach our own goals and succeed.

Plus, positive mental health is catching. You don’t need to force it on anyone. When you give out happy, kind, wise and strong vibes, others feel it. Not only will they look up to you, they’ll want to know how they can feel that way, too. In another article on traits of mentally strong women for Forbes Morin states, “Mentally strong women know that strength has a ripple effect, yet they don’t lecture, nag, or beg people to change. Instead, they lead by example. And their energy in creating the strongest version of themselves often inspires others to follow their lead.”

Strong women build other women up and rejoice in their successes, as opposed to seeing others as a threat.

—Liz Hamilton

5. She doesn’t see showing emotion as a weakness.

There’s no crying in baseball. Or the boardroom. Or anyplace, really—except maybe hiding under your covers or in a stall in the ladies’. Yeah, yeah. We get it. But strong women know there is a time and place for vulnerability and emotion. Now, hold up. This isn’t a free pass to go all runny-nose-and-mascara crazy on everybody. Instead, understand that you shouldn’t berate yourself (or other women) for having and sharing emotions.  It’s okay to speak your mind; to let out your frustration and concerns in a healthy way. Feel those feelings, and allow others to feel theirs, too. Putting yourself out there takes an incredible amount of strength and courage!

There are going to be set backs in life where you get knocked down, but sitting there and crying isn’t an option. Not that you can’t cry (and take your time doing it), but you HAVE to get back up and find a new way if that is what is needed.

—Heidi Brown

6. She follows her intuition and doesn’t overthink everything.

Turns out that little voice of yours is one smart cookie. Why? Because who knows what’s best for you better than—well—you? According to the Power of Positivity, “Strong women don’t listen to any voice in their life but their own. They only follow their own gut, because no one knows better than them what they truly want and need in life.” Not only that, but overthinking can lead to depression and a lack of action altogether. And that’s no fun. You’ve been doing you for awhile now, so trust yourself. (And is anyone else now trying not to overthink “cookies” right now? Guess that means it’s time to listen to your gut and head to the kitchen.)

It doesn’t occur to us that we CAN’T do it!

—Jasica Redwine

7. She is truly happy, and knows what it takes to make her own happiness.

That tricky brain of ours may tell us the key to happiness is lots o’ moolah, maintaining the “correct” weight and having #allthethings, but strong women know better. They know true happiness comes from positive mental strength, not who has the most toys or plastic surgery. Remember happiness is a choice, and a state of well-being that takes constant practice. Read up on it, listen about it, heck—take a class and learn the science behind it! Find your joy boosts: maybe it’s listening to the rain gently patter on your tent, or spending time caring for animals. Whatever they are, recognize them and recall them when you’re feeling stressed. Figure out your happy and go create it for yourself!

A strong woman knows what makes her happy. She takes that happiness and deeply buries the roots to protect it from ill weather, heavy rain, and strong winds (metaphorically speaking). She shares her happiness with everyone, but is quick to protect it from those who chose to do it wrong or try to uproot it.

She makes decisions that cultivate the life that makes her happy with courage, dedication, and perseverance. She leans in. Oh, and of course she puts positive energy into the Universe, asking nothing in return.

— Nicki Bruckmann, CEO of Explorer Chick

8. She owns her successes and believes in herself.

During World War II Rosie the Riveter reminded women that, “We can do it!” Yet we’re notoriously bad about minimizing our achievements and feeling like we don’t have what it takes. (What gives, extra X chromosome?) In fact, according to a study covered in Harvard Business Review, women won’t apply for a job unless they’re 100% qualified (compared to men, who will apply despite being only 60% qualified). Enough already. Strong women trust their abilities and are proud of their wins. Rejoice in your own and share them! Your ambition is not a threat, and making yourself small is not the healthy way to make someone else feel big.

I’ve never given up in my life so far and I definitely won’t stop now. It’s making the difficult choice—because the easy choice isn’t an option. We are striving—not for perfection—but to be the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be. Believing in ourselves and our dreams when no one else does. It’s not about proving others wrong—but more so about proving ourselves right. Pushing ourselves to the limit and once we get there—pushing even harder beyond them.

—Brooke Van Paris, competitor on “American Grit”

9. She doesn’t let the opinions of others influence her.

Rejection. Criticism. Rinse. Repeat. Ah, the cringey moments on which life sometimes seems to be built. We’ve all had to endure moments of being told we aren’t ________ enough. But what sets mentally strong women apart is their ability to bounce back from the icky moments. They know how they feel about themselves, and they’ll be damned if they’ll let others limit their potential. Don’t let anyone else’s opinion hold you back. You’re like super-bougie French enamel cookware, baby. Nothing sticks to you.

(Photo Credit: Dan Krauss)

As Don Miguel Ruiz says in his book The Four Agreements, “Nothing other people do is because of you…whether it has an effect on you positively or negatively. All people live by their own beliefs and worldview. Therefore, do not take anything personally.” Taking things personally is making an assumption that other people live by your same beliefs and worldview.

I do believe there is a healthy balance when dealing with this concept…especially when you involve people in your life on a deeper level, but I think it’s a great philosophy to remember in any interaction. It has helped me SO much with all of my relationships and has shown me the freedom I have to create the life I want to live.

—Heather Larsen, professional highliner and slackliner

10. She doesn’t feel bad about breaking societal rules or reinventing herself.

Nope, the rules don’t apply to strong women. Not the ones society has set for them anyway. Blindly adhering to typical gender roles and cultural expectations is toxic and can stunt your personal growth, and it’s big girl-sized panties or bust. That means owning who you are and doing whatever it takes to be your very best. Wanna change careers at 35? Do it. Reinvent yourself at 60? Go for it. This is your life journey, and it’s the only one you get. Make the most of it! The back-tracking and wrong turns—the mistakes—are part of it. No one says you have to “be” this or “be” that just because you’re a woman. Follow your heart; it knows the way to your True North.

You can be status quo and make it through life, or you can stand out and make something from your life. I’ve never had an easy road in life, but it’s always made me wiser, tougher and more determined in the end. Whenever I get knocked down or feel like falling apart, I put that energy towards volunteering instead. (It’s hard to have a bad day when you’re helping someone else!)

I worked towards a goal of becoming the first female firefighter on two local departments, and I did it despite all the doubt and negativity thrown at me. Being that strong, independent, badass woman means ignoring the haters, breaking down barriers, and going after your bliss no matter what obstacles come your way.

—Natasha Fischmer

11. She continually works on being a better, stronger Strong Woman.

“Do you even lift?” (That’s your body talking to your brain, bruh.) Whether you dance it out, bike it out, lift it out, run it out, or hike it out—you need to make sure you’re working your mental muscles just as hard as your physical ones. Strong women never quit challenging themselves to be the best, most BAMF they can be. They kick bad habits to the curb—over and over again—no matter how many times it takes. They believe in progress, not perfection. So believe in your inner strength. Know you’re growing and changing in ways you can’t exactly show off on Insta. “Be willing to face your fears and step up to the plate,” says Morin. “Challenge yourself to grow a little stronger every day and you’ll build confidence in your ability to do hard things.”

I don’t think strong women see themselves as strong. I think they just have a “never say die” attitude. It’s not because they are always the best, but they build everyone else up around them. They don’t just build villages, they build armies of change that make the world better. When things get tough they laugh louder and push harder.

—Cheryl Drury, Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) athlete

Eager to meet strong, like-minded women just like you? Join us on an adventure!

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