On Not Feeling "Feminine" and Embracing Womanhood
A Letter from Megan Swaim
(Click on the letters to enlarge)
For most of my life I didn’t feel very feminine. I wouldn’t consider myself pretty; I’m not graceful or delicate; I’ve never been very interested in makeup or clothes; and I didn’t really date much. In my mind I had this idea of what the feminine genius “looked” like and it didn’t look anything like me.
I assumed for a long time that I’d live the dedicated single life because I didn’t feel drawn to the religious life and I couldn’t see myself ever getting married. I was accepting the lie whispered by the evil one: “Who is going to want you?” I told myself I was content with who I was and how my life would be, but in the deepest parts of me I felt broken.
One afternoon I went to a talk at my church on the feminine genius. You know how some memories are so burned into your brain you can remember every minute detail? Even today I can close my eyes and go right back to that room and hear the presenter say: “Everything you do, you do as woman. You are not a genderless creature.” That phrase - “genderless creature” - hit me so hard because it articulated the thing I felt for so long but couldn’t quite identify. I felt that way.
“'Everything you do, you do as woman. You are not a genderless creature.'”
Not long after that talk, a dear friend of mine challenged me to make a holy hour every day for a year. One hour a day spent in front of Jesus, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. At first, those hours were difficult: they went by so slowly and I was antsy. Honestly, I was being superficial with Jesus, and trying so very hard to hide my wounds from Him. But Jesus is patient. Somewhere around the third month I finally started asking the hard, painful questions: Why did God make me a woman? What do I have to offer? Will anyone want me?
(Page 2) I found myself revisiting John Paul II’s encyclical, Mulieris Dignitatem, and discovered within its pages a salve for this wounded feminine heart of mine: “The Bride is loved: it is she who receives love, in order to return love.” (29)
That year of Eucharistic Adoration confirmed that quote, revealing its truth in my own life, day in and day out. He made me for love. Sitting with Jesus in those holy hours was the most authentically feminine thing I could do. I received His love. I sat and let Him untie all the knots that had been choking my feminine heart.
In those hours with Jesus, I came to love myself. And my eyes were opened to the lies I’d believed before about what it means to be feminine. True femininity isn’t based in exterior beauty or fashion trends, and it’s not measured by how many men are attracted to you. It’s not exclusive to some, but intrinsic to each and every woman, written on her very heart.
"True femininity isn’t based in exterior beauty or fashion trends, and it’s not measured by how many men are attracted to you. It’s not exclusive to some, but intrinsic to each and every woman, written on her very heart."
Jesus restored my heart, and prepared me to receive my vocation to marriage. Not very long after that year, I fell in love. I don’t think it was possible before because I could never open my heart to receive another when I didn’t believe I was a gift to be given in return.
In so many ways I’m still the same girl I always was – jeans and a t-shirt, hair in a ponytail, loud and bossy and as ungraceful as ever. But in all the ways that really matter, I’m a new creation. Not a genderless creature, mind you, but a woman.
Yours in the Heart of Jesus,
Get to know Megan
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is Megan, I’m 32 years old and I live in South Bend, IN. (Go Irish!) I’m a wife and mom by day and a youth minister by night. I met my husband Josh fifteen years ago on the March for Life when we were in high school; we’ve been married for five years and have two daughters, Lucy and Mary. Baby Swaim #3 will make his or her appearance this summer! Josh is a high school theology teacher and so our whole lives revolve around toddlers, teenagers and Jesus. (The best things in life, in my opinion!) I run on iced coffee, chips and salsa, and Parks and Recreation reruns.
What’s the most empowering piece of advice you’ve been given as a Catholic woman?
The first time I read Pope John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem I was completely blown away. I had never heard someone talk about women so authentically and with so much awe and reverence. I especially was encouraged by how many different ways there are to live out the feminine genius – we don’t have to fit in just one mold. The Church needs each of us, in all our unique particularities.