As I write this essay, the term “alpha female” stares back at me from the screen. Instantly, I’m struck by multiple images. I can almost see the words as they powerfully strut their way across the page in Christian Louboutin pumps, ready to hail a cab.

The term itself is such a loaded phrase, an expression which brings a myriad of women to mind. Who exactly deserves the title “alpha female”, after all? Is it the weary single mother juggling two jobs to make ends meet as she supports her family? Many would argue that the alpha female is a glossy-haired, sharply dressed executive, ruling her own corner of the universe with resolve and ambition.

There’s the emerging alpha female, the stereotypical straight A student who leads multiple school teams and clubs, all while others dream of stars in her allegedly bright future. Speaking of stars, Hollywood has long since portrayed its own version of “alpha” on the silver screen and the red carpet. She is impossibly thin, expensively attired and often photographed.

In fact, I’ve had this conversation with female friends multiple times over the past several months. As young twentysomething women and recent graduates who are just launching our careers, we’ve debated the term “alpha female.”

To us, the label once represented an enviable goal, the highest level in a game which we have just learned to play. I once believed that a woman could become an alpha female at age 30, 40 or 50- when the universe decided that she was deserving of the respect and accolades which come with such a lofty title. To be an alpha, she would have to wait until she was handed the keys to a complete life.

But surely, young alpha females did not crave chocolate cupcakes, or trip in their new heels like skittish colts as they caught the subway? They definitely didn’t organize random dance parties on the beach, prank their younger siblings or burst into song at the drop of the hat.  Until recently, there was also no place in my narrow definition of “alpha female” for awkward moments, vulnerability or heartbreaking tears. She was poised. She was aggressive. She worked out five times a week. She wasn’t bursting at the seams with inappropriate jokes, 100,000 story ideas, sugar cravings or restless energy. In my limited view, her hair never frizzed and her imagination did not run wild. And she certainly wasn’t me.

However, my definition also excluded the all-powerful alpha’s booming laughter, sarcastic humour, deep friendships and childlike wonderment. It overlooked her other side, the fleeting insecurities and occasional lapses in judgment which make all of us human. It put her in heels, put her on a pedestal and demanded perfection of her. As a result, I could not be an alpha female- at least not under my own impossible terms.  

One day as I was writing a story, it hit me. There is no clear definition of an alpha female. In fact, the title is a little black dress (yes, really- this is how I see the world as a fashion journalist). It can flatter any woman, as long as she possesses confidence, determination and passion. In fact, we need to edit the definition (journalist, again) to include values like kindness, sensitivity, diversity, acceptance and self-love.

Stereotypically, the alpha female has been prized for her aggression. However, my updated definition involves leading with love and positive energy. It means learning as a society to treat kindness as an asset, not as a weakness, and to view humour as an essential force. All of us can transform ourselves into alpha women, simply by changing our outdated definitions of this term.

In the process, we can only create more alphas. As for myself, I have learned that it begins with cherishing your vulnerability, understanding your flaws and using your strengths. There’s enough room in this world for a wider description of a leading lady- but we have to accept the woman in the mirror first, high heels or not.

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