Strong Is Beautiful

Strong Is Beautiful

What is STRONG to you? We are so lucky to be surrounded by inspiring women in The Busy Woman Project community. This month, we share our conversations with a number of amazing ladies who are leading the pack in pushing barriers and breaking stereotypes.

“Wah girl, you’re so buff! You lift a lot of heavy weights ah? Be careful, don’t overdo it. Otherwise become like man”.

Let’s dissect the above mentioned statement.

“GIRL, you’re so BUFF” – is there something wrong with me, a woman, to have muscles?
“You lift a lot of HEAVY weights” – am I not supposed to lift heavy?
“Be CAREFUL” – is it an anomaly for a ‘girl’ like me to know what I’m doing?
“…become like man”just because I have arms that are slightly more defined, I suddenly seem to be growing a pair between my legs. Right…….


A common statement that I have to deal with...not just during festive seasons and family gatherings, but also anytime when I am out of my usual social circle of gym friends and training buddies.

Increasingly, I question our society: What is wrong with a woman who is strong?

A quick dictionary search to define the word STRONG. Adjective, stronger [strawng-ger, strong-], strongest [strawng-gist, strong-] : having, showing, or able to exert great bodily or muscular power; physically vigorous or robust: a strong boy. Even the dictionary has a gender bias for this word. Somehow, women are not as entitled to this word as men.

Unfortunately, we still live in a world where the promise for equality is still a far cry from true equality. Just recently, a photo of me doing a 56kg barbell overhead squat in a CrossFit competition was uploaded on Facebook by the event page. Within minutes, a man commented saying: “Let the men do it”.


At the first instant of reading that comment, I started to feel insecure about my body. I felt lesser of a woman. I looked at the photo and started scrutinising my body. Maybe I am too big. Maybe I should have smaller legs. For a moment, I lost sight of who I am... Just by a single comment by some random person who is practically a nobody to me.

There are so many social pressures that live around us. Men lift weights, women do cardio. Men make money, women make babies. In America, only 4% of CEOs in the top Fortune 500 companies are women. As a society, there seem to still be a deep-rooted lack of confidence when it comes to allowing women to be leaders, to be strong. We are afraid of what we fight for, we preach louder than our actions.

But we can turn things around, if we choose to. I chose to ignore that Facebook comment.


So this is to all the ladies out there.

Fear not of bending bars in the gym. Fear not of the sound of your heels clinking the ground as you walk into a boardroom of men. Fear not of what your friends may think if you choose to be a stay-at-home mom. Because if you think about it, these fears that are holding you back is based on a subconscious shame that you may not be “cut-out” for it.

But really, you are.

There is no irony in pairing the words ‘strong’ and ‘beautiful’ together. To be strong is the result of tenacity, passion and the will to achieve. And that, in its bare minimum, is beautiful.


Article contributed by #TEAMBUSYWOMAN Community Ambassador Janell Tan. Nell is the Co-founder at The Kettlebowl; Crossfit Athlete; Reebok Ambassador; Instructor at District 13 & HIIT2FIT.