nounthe quality of being self-possessed; control of one’s feelings, behavior, etc.; composure; poise.
I first encountered the term “self-possession” when I fell in love with all things french years ago and began reading all those why-French-women-are-more-confident-than-American-women books. The key to the French woman’s allure, according to all these books, is her “self-possession.” As described in Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl,
If you strip away the stereotypes and contradictions about her, one of the fundamental qualities associated with the French girl is her sense of self-possession. She is entirely, unequivocally self-contained. She is focused on living her own full life, following her own agenda and cultivating her actual self, rather than reinventing herself or pining away to be someone she’s not.
Out of everything I learned from these books — buy classic clothes, take care of your skin, watch your portion sizes, slow down when you eat, drink good wine, etc, etc — self-possession is the one concept I always come back to when I think of my growth as a woman. Yeah, I’m improving my wardrobe, yeah I’m eating better, yeah I’m working out…but is my appreciation for my quirks and imperfections growing? Am I cultivating my unique gifts and talents? Am I growing a stronger sense of myself?
One of the reasons (among thousands) that I don’t watch Real Housewives of Wherever or Basketball
Groupies Wives (?) of [Insert City] is because above all, the women demonstrate exactly what it means NOT to have a sense of self-possession as a woman. With their incessant fighting, desperately revealing attire, and overall lack of life goals, you can tell that they never took time to cultivate and find value in who they are which is why they are so wild and lost in their behavior.
Though you will rarely find women displaying self-possession on reality TV, examples of truly poised and self-confident women are out there. Here are a few of my favorite “self-possessed” women and the lesson I learn from them: