Here, Anne Frank is 12 years old. It is one of my favorite photos of her because it captures her innocence and her strength.

“I know that I’m a woman, a woman with inward strength and plenty of courage.” -Anne Frank

In 1942, Holland’s Jewish community sought refuge from the Nazis. Most “hid” in their own homes, including Anne Frank and her family. Three months before their capture, she recorded these words in her diary. She was almost 13.

Today our culture shies away from naming a female, who is 13 or 15 or 17, a woman. And yet Anne saw herself as a woman as she neared 13 years old.

I wonder if naming ourselves “women” somehow solidifies the strength we think we are capable of. Strength to lift heavy weight. Strength to help those who are weaker than ourselves. Strength to turn away from the advertisements and mean-person talk that tells us we will never be good enough.

By the way, these mean-person voices are not new.  The female gender has been criticized by hateful, unhealthy, mean-spirited people for YEARS.  And most of the criticism has centered around what our bodies look like, what our bodies are capable of, and what our bodies are worth.

For example, Paul Gallico, in his 1939 book, Farewell to Sport, rationalized that women should not be athletes. And if you were an athlete, there had to be an excuse. Maybe you weren’t pretty enough to do something else. He asserted, “Unattractive girls are comparatively good [athletes]. Pretty girls are not. The ugly ducklings, have taken to sport as an escape and to compensate for whatever it is they lack, — sex appeal, charm, ready-made beauty.”

Certainly, (in his opinion) women were not strong enough to be athletes. And most men and women agreed with him. Even physicians argued that women’s bodies were not capable of performing strenuous activity. Women who participated in rigorous activities subjected themselves to ruin.

We’ve been watching the U.S. Open around here, and let’s just say that the women have been a blast to watch! And they are strong!

Women have the capacity to be strong — physically, spiritually, and mentally. I see it all around me. Some of my favorite, famous strong women? Serena Williams, Rachel Held Evans, Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Looking for strong young women closer to your age? Well, look around. Maybe your friend or cousin is killing it at the net when she spikes the volleyball. Or maybe your classmate is off the charts smart, working algebraic equations like a boss.

Or maybe the strong young woman you’re looking for is…YOU. Maybe you just need to acknowledge how strong you are and how much stronger you hope to become as you grow physically, spiritually, and mentally.

Let’s allow God’s Word to lead us in STRENGTH! Proverbs 31:17 affirms: “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.”

Young woman, you have inward strength.  Practice using it. This world needs your God-given strength and courage to change the world for good.