Finding Woman


Leah Abraham -Finding Woman3

Dress Up

When I was young, I used to slip into my mom’s high heels, clumsily put on her lipstick and wrap a towel around my head to pretend I had long hair.

I’d stand on top of the treadmill and pretend to teach a classroom full of invisible children.

The powerful women I noticed when I was six years old were my teachers. I wanted to practice being a powerful woman.


Navel Gazing

I was in seventh grade when I started to notice body.

My friend and I were changing from our uniforms into our casual wear—ill-fitted jeans and baggy t-shirts.

As we changed, my friend turned around and said, “Leah, I didn’t know you had a flat tummy!”

I managed to smile and continue changing. I was too embarrassed to ask whether having a flat tummy was a good thing or not.

Ever since that day, I’ve constantly noticed the shape of my belly.


Applying for a Loan

Around the same time, my mom started her own architectural firm.

She not only managed her employees, clients, and projects, but she also helped me with my school projects, picked me up after birthday parties and took me to all my doctor appointments.

I followed her around to site visits, lighting stores, client meetings and a dozen other boring, architectural stuff. It wasn’t my thing, but it certainly was my mom’s. She shined brightly on that turf.

One day, I tagged along with her to the bank.

“I wanted you to come with me so you can watch me apply for this loan,” she told me. “I don’t want you to become one of those women who are clueless about financial matters.”

I still don’t remember how to apply for a loan and I barely know how to handle my finances. But I do remember her words clearly.


The Wrong Shade of Foundation

When I entered high school in a foreign country, I asked my mom if I could buy makeup. I didn’t think she’d say yes. I was only 13, after all. She agreed, perhaps sensing my apprehension about fitting in.

I bought the wrong shade of foundation and tried to apply it with my hands. I clearly had no idea what I was doing.

After my failed first attempt, I put the bottle of foundation away and never used it again. I didn’t really want to wear makeup. Turns out I was a shoes-and-bags kind of gal.



My journalism professor and advisor was a quiet and unsuspecting woman at first glance. On the first day of class, she avoided eye contact with her students as she went over the syllabus.

It wasn’t until she skimmed over the AP style guide that I glimpsed her fire.

“If a female is 18 or older, do not call her a ‘girl.’ She is a woman,” she said sharply.

My posture suddenly straightened and I listened.

I was a woman, after all.

“Do not say ‘Lady Bruins.’ We are all Bruins and it’s offensive to stick the word ‘lady’ before Bruins,” she said patiently, but sternly so we could awake from our patriarchal slumber once and for all.


Flashback to TGIF

I scrolled through my Facebook feed, in awe of what I saw.

Tina had just posted her No Makeup Selfie Challenge, and women across the SheLoves community were posting theirs.

Their comments, their stories, their bravery and their drop-dead-gorgeous faces had me in tears.

I wanted to respond and join the movement. However, it wasn’t really a challenge for me since I didn’t wear makeup. I did the next brave thing I could think of—I asked the women on my dormitory to join me in this endeavor.

Nearly 15 of my peers responded. Some said it was difficult. Some said it was liberating. Some confessed it wasn’t something they were comfortable doing.

It didn’t matter. What did matter is that we talked about it. We confided in each other. We showed up for and with each other.


Lessons from a Mystic Sage

I could tell she was a mystic sage who raged and loved deeply.

I knew she was safe. I could ask her anything and she’d give her honest, raw truth.

“How did being a mother change your view of God?”

She took a minute, looked over the hill we were climbing together, and replied, “Ever since I became a mother, I’ve had a hard time believing in hell. I just can’t understand how a parent’s love would allow for their child to suffer.”

Later that year, she taught me another word for God—Mother.


Stop Waiting for Permission

I recounted the aforementioned story to my newfound friend at Rise Up, Sister in February. We skipped the small talk and went deep fast … she was my kind of woman.

I asked her the same question. “How did being a mother change your view of God?”

She answered, and then asked me why I—a single, 20-something-year-old—was curious about that.

I told her the story of the mystic sage and how she was the first person I’d met who confessed her doubts about God and the Scriptures so freely.

“I think I needed to hear her doubts,” I confessed. “I needed the permission to doubt.”

As the weekend came to an end and the newfound sisters/zebras hugged each other goodbye, my new friend came to me and gave me a gift:


I don’t remember if I could bring myself to say thank you. I do remember we sat in silence for several seconds, looking deeply into each other’s eyes.

I listened intently as she told me with her gaze that I am a free woman. I didn’t need a word or a signal to be who I am. I am a free woman and I am loved just as I am. I didn’t need to let the world tell me to brush my hair, to wear some concealer, to check the curvature of my belly, to wait for a man, or dare to do the unorthodox. My grace and my swagger come from my ability to live like a free, loved woman.

I don’t need to wait for permission. After all, I am free. I am able. I am loved.


An Epilogue (by Maya Angelou)

… It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.


Leah Abraham

Leah Abraham

Leah is a storyteller + writer + journalist + creative + empathizing romantic + pessimistic realist + millennial + immigrant + ISFP + Enneagram type 2 + she/her + much more. She grew up in India and relocated to the U.S. in her teens. Leah used to be a community newspaper journalist who covered local government, schools, crime and business news (but NEVER sports). Currently she lives in Virginia and works at a university. Her life's calling is to be a cat mom and decolonize the world around her.
Leah Abraham
Leah Abraham

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