Some of the greatest gifts in my life have come from women who stood out as role models, as bright lights of inspiration, beckoning me toward my greater potential. I am grateful for these women.

They have informed, shaped and helped me to define the edges of my life; to think about, and reflect upon who I am and how I wanted to be in the world. Because of them, I am a better person.

Described here are three women and the qualities that drew me to see them as inspiring. I think that we all have lists like this, made up of the famous and the unknown. My list shifts around because I am still meeting women who ignite in me a desire to learn and grow.

 
 

Joni Mitchell

Throughout my life I have loved Joni Mitchell’s music, the stories it tells and the unabashed emotional honesty with which she writes.

I can’t say what her process is, but it seems to me that she digs deep to find the right words and tone to express the suffering as well as the joy of the world. She knows how to unmask and expose the human heart. Described in just a couple of words, she represents for me the “courageous artist.”

Gloria Steinem

I could never read anything by Steinem that didn’t make me want to think about being a strong and confident woman. The quality that I most admire in her is dedication. She has dedicated her entire life to a movement that would change the way that women were seen by the world. More importantly, she inspires women to change the way that they see themselves.

Grandma Julia

Grandmother Julia lived with the adversity of an alcoholic husband, and she was not afraid to stand up to him. It was her hard work and common sense that kept their lives and livelihood functioning. She built an altar in her garden and prayed as she picked snap peas and tomatoes.

Did she pray for strength? For relief? I never knew. Sometimes she took me to church during the day, where we would kneel with the elder women in the cavernous sanctuary, mumbling quiet prayers counted on rosary beads. The inspiration that she gave me was to be both independent and surrendered to the sacred. That combination still informs my life; be strong but turn to God.

The common thread connecting these three women is: “Know yourself and be true to who you are.” That’s what they speak to me. And that is what I value – truth and the strength to live it.

What woman in your life has been your greatest inspiration, and what quality or gifts did they impart? What did they encourage in you? Please share your experience with me in the comments section.

Stephanie RaffelockStephanie Raffelock is a novelist and a blogger. In her Sixty and Me column, she explores writing, living fully and loving well. She enjoys literary representation by Dystel, Goderich and Bouret in New York. You can find Stephanie at StephanieRaffelock.com or Tweet her @Sraffelock.

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