What I Wish College Students Knew About True Womanhood

Know who you are, dress in accordance of who you are and love in spirit and truth of who you are – these three things, while not an exhaustive list, are what I wish every college student knew about true womanhood. No one has said it better, at least to my knowledge, than the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.

While there are many women who are already leading lives of virtue there are still many more who are afraid to step out of the grind and take a new path towards true womanhood. Kudos to those women who are already on the straight and narrow. But I’d like to reach out to the woman who knows that she is made for more, knows that she has the ability to do something great in this world but who is not sure how to get there. These three non-negotiables are for you:

1. Know thyself.

Women of God can never be like the women of the world. It’s just that simple. However, too often the world, through culture, tells us who we are with its glittery marketing techniques. Culture tells us how our relationships should look like, our weekend activities, our hair color, what to donate, what to buy – and the list goes on. Culture today desires women to define or identify themselves with its philosophy.

If we dare to call ourselves Christian, we should know that our identity is in Jesus Christ who lived, was crucified and has risen from the dead in order that “we may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10
). We cannot understand or know ourselves, the fallen creatures, without first knowing and understanding God, the perfect uncreated Being. True womanhood takes on the task of knowing thyself which presupposes knowledge of God. It comes down to knowing your worth.

How do we know God and thus know ourselves? Spend time in prayer, receive the Sacraments and study your faith (apologetics/theology). Where our heart is, there is also our treasure (Cf: Luke 12:34). True womanhood is how a woman sees herself in the eyes of God rather than in the eyes of men.

2. Want to be treated like a lady? Dress like one.

What we wear sends a message of who we are, what we believe in and even our destination. Modesty is more than just a hemline, it is an interior disposition that influences not only our dress, but our thoughts and our actions. While more can be said about modest behavior, here we’ll focus on dress. (See CCC, 2521-2525 for more information on modesty.)

All women want to be treated with respect and dignity. Not only because we are a lady but because we are a person made by God, composed of both body and soul. It seems reasonable then that we should dress in a way that compliments this identity, not distract from it. Dressing in beautiful modest attire makes a statement that a woman is confident in herself and knows that she doesn’t have to show all of her womanhood to prove she’s a woman. Trust me ladies, they know we are women – the lip gloss and high heels are pretty compelling!

True Womanhood is allowing our natural beauty and dignity to be shown through modest dress. We are more than a collection of body parts and our dress should communicate this by veiling ourselves in a way that emphasizes our person rather than our parts.

St. Paul reminds us that we are called to glorify God with our bodies and in the same breath states that we were purchased at a price (Cf: 1 Cor 6:19-20). Being an authentic woman of God and enjoying fashion can co-exist but the bottom line is this: know your price tag and then dress (and act) accordingly.

3. Define love, not the relationship.

“I love you” has become the catch-all phrase for any sentimental thought or feeling. Yet, most people go their entire lives without ever defining love. Defining the relationship (aka DTR) seems to be the demand many young women make upon their male counterparts while in the dating/getting-to-know-you process. It certainly has its place but before we consider defining the relationship we must first define

An understanding of love that is based on purely emotional values is an understanding void of sound reason and ultimate fulfillment. However, this is exactly how culture bases its definition on love; whatever feels right trumps what is right. God, faith, or religion never seem to come into the conversation when love is communicated through movies, magazines, TV, etc… and sadly we often adopt this version of love and pay the consequences.

A proper understanding of love, or definition, does not separate God and neighbor but joins them all the more closely. St. Thomas Aquinas said that love was

desiring the greatest good for the beloved. The greatest good is not sin or a relationship that leads one away from God. In fact, the greatest of all relationships, no matter their end, are those that lead in the direction of God.

So I challenge you to define the term ‘love’ first before having the DTR talk. And the next time you’re on a date, ask them how they define love – it’s sure to be an eye-opener to how they see themselves in light of God and what they expect out of the relationship. Talk about a conversation starter!

This post is a apart of the “What I Wish College Students Knew” series. We wanted to get popular Catholic authors and speakers to write about topics that were close to the minds and hearts of college students across the country. To read more posts in this series, click on the links below.

Leah Darrow
Leah Darrow
Leah Darrow, former contestant on the reality TV show, America's Next Top Model, is now an international Catholic speaker and writer. She graduated with a Bachelors degree in Psychology (Magna cum Laude) and is currently working towards her Masters in Theology. Leah focuses her work in the New Evangelization concerning issues of conversion, chastity, modesty, and human dignity.

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