9 things strong women do that come across as intimidating (but are really not)

I get it, the word ‘intimidating’ gets thrown around a lot when it comes to strong women.

You know the drill. You speak your mind, you’re labeled ‘bossy’. You stand firm on your boundaries, and suddenly, you’re ‘difficult’. But here’s the thing: what’s often branded as intimidating is just a mix of confidence and clarity.

If you’ve ever been told you’re too assertive, you’re not alone. It’s a common tune sung to women who just don’t fit the mold of being quiet or demure.

But I’m here to lay down some truth. That ‘intimidating’ vibe? It’s probably not what you think.

In this article, we’re going to breeze through some classic behaviors of strong women that might come off as intimidating but are anything but. 

These are signs of strength, not scare tactics.

So, let’s dive in and debunk these myths one by one, shall we?

1) Direct communication

You’ve probably been there, right? That meeting where you laid out your thoughts straightforwardly, no fluff or sugarcoating. Later, you heard whispers about how ‘intense’ you were. 

But here’s my take: direct communication is just efficient. I remember this one time I plainly stated my opinion on a project’s direction. No one spoke up at the moment, but later, a colleague admitted they thought I was ‘too much’.

Too much or just straight-shooting? It took awhile, but my team eventually got that my direct talk was about respect—respect for their time and our shared goals.I wasn’t trying to bulldoze; I was aiming to build bridges with clear, honest words.

2) Self-assurance

Ah, self-assurance, often mistaken for arrogance. But isn’t there a stark difference? I’ve lost count of the times confidence has been misread. 

Like when I negotiated my salary without batting an eyelid. It wasn’t me being full of myself; it was me knowing my worth. 

Sometimes that confidence can radiate a little too strongly, but it’s not about intimidation—it’s about being grounded in who you are.

3) Setting boundaries

Setting boundaries at work can sometimes come across as being unapproachable or tough. However, those boundaries are essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and preventing burnout.

Research has shown that people who set clear boundaries are more effective in their jobs. They tend to have better job satisfaction and lower levels of stress. 

When I say ‘no’ to a last-minute request that would require me to work late into the night, it’s not because I’m not a team player—it’s just to make sure that I can continue to perform well in my role without sacrificing my well-being. 

Quick tip: It’s a necessary strategy for sustainability in any career, especially in today’s always-on work culture.

4) Embracing success

There’s something special when we take pride in our achievements. 

Sadly, a lot of women may often downplay their successes to avoid being seen as boastful. 

But truly embracing and acknowledging your achievements isn’t about bragging; it’s recognizing the hard work and dedication that got you there. 

When we receive accolades or reach a personal milestone, these are moments we should appreciate and celebrate. 

So pat yourself on the back – the late nights, the strategic risks, and the steady perseverance have paid off. 

And perhaps more importantly, others around us will be encouraged to celebrate their own wins, big or small, knowing that their victories are just as deserving of the spotlight.

5) Supporting others

You might think that lifting others up in the workplace would be seen purely as a positive action. 

Surprisingly, it’s not always the case. I once led a team project where I made it a point to highlight each person’s contributions. It wasn’t long before I was pulled aside and told that my supportiveness could be seen as trying to outshine my superiors. But in my heart, I knew that wasn’t the case.

For me, giving credit where it’s due is about fostering a culture of appreciation and teamwork. 

So when one of us wins, we all win. I’ve always believed in the power of collective success over individual glory. By supporting my colleagues, I’m not only helping them grow but also creating a stronger, more cohesive team. It’s a personal mission of mine—ensuring everyone feels valued and heard.

6) Challenging the status quo

In any environment where tradition rules, introducing change can be perceived as a threat. But shaking up the status quo is often necessary for progress. 

When I question why we do things a certain way or propose an alternative approach, it’s not to cause unrest. It’s because I see room for improvement, efficiency, or innovation. 

History is full of strong women who dared to think differently and, as a result, changed the world for the better. While it may be unsettling at first, challenging conventional wisdom can lead to breakthroughs that benefit everyone in the long run.

7) Maintaining composure under pressure

Believe it or not: Staying calm when the heat is on could easily be mistaken for coldness or detachment. Yet, the ability to keep a level head is anything but indifferent—it’s a skill that requires immense emotional intelligence. 

During a critical negotiation or crisis at work, we can maintain our composure not to intimidate others but to navigate the situation effectively. It’s being the steady hand that steers the ship through stormy waters. 

This calmness shouldn’t be misconstrued as a lack of passion or concern; rather, it’s the very trait that can lead a team to safety and success.

8) Asking for what you want

There’s this strange notion that being vocal about your needs and desires is seen as aggressive or pushy, especially for women. In reality, verbalizing what you want is a sign of clarity and self-awareness

I remember negotiating for resources on a project and being met with surprise—not because the request was unreasonable but because it was unexpected from someone of my stature. 

Here’s the thing: Asking for what you need isn’t about making unreasonable demands; it’s knowing your worth and the value of your contributions.It’s an essential step towards reaching your goals and setting a precedent for open communication in the workplace.

9) Investing in self-development

A commitment to personal growth can sometimes come off as self-centered or even obsessive. Yet, what may seem like an intimidating level of focus on self-improvement is actually a pursuit of excellence that benefits everyone involved. 

Whether I’m attending workshops, seeking feedback, or reading up on the latest industry trends, each step in my self-development journey equips me to bring more to the table.

It’s not about being better than others; it’s about being better for others—so that in my role, whatever it may be, I am contributing at my highest capability.


In wrapping up this in depth look at strong women and the misconceptions that surround them, it’s crucial to recognize that strength comes in many forms and is often misunderstood. 

What can appear intimidating is usually just confidence, clarity, determination, and a deep-seated desire to lift others as we rise. 

Strong women aren’t here to cause fear; they’re here to inspire change, drive progress, and break ceilings—glass or otherwise—for those who follow. 

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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