The 21 Most Essential Life Skills Every Woman Should Have

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essential life skills for women
Self

Be ready for anything.

Women today are blessed with many opportunities to explore their passions and make their mark. You can be a homemaker, lawyer, programmer, or astronaut. You can get married if and when you choose, to whom you want, and have a family that takes many forms. The options abound.

At the same time, though, as a woman, you can face unique challenges and barriers to getting what you want. The reality is that it can be a harsh and complicated world. Competing demands on your time, mean that you have to juggle being a friend, partner, mother, daughter, volunteer, and other roles.

Change — personal and societal — is happening at a tremendous rate and information is coming at you exponentially. Overwhelm and burnout are becoming the norm, not the exception.

Parenting styles have also shifted to the point where parents are so afraid of the media-inflated dangers in the world that they suspend reality for their kids. And they have particular fears for their daughters.

Many girls get driven around, waited on, have schoolwork done for them – some parents have even tried to negotiate their first jobs — and young women are left without the muscle to do what they can actually do for themselves. They are left doubting their abilities and their judgment and fear trying something on their own.

These women and girls are missing out on real life that is often messy, sometimes scary and includes stuff that frankly you don’t always want to do. And missing out on a whole world of possibilities -- and pride.

You don't have to experience a lack of confidence or fulfillment, or fear or overwhelm. If you learn the essential life skills, you can deal with any challenge sent your way. Your career will flourish. Your relationships will be stable. Your kids will be happy and healthy. Your goals will be realized. And you'll have the life you want.

And when life throws a curveball or two — which it will — you’ll be prepared. You won't always be able to count on your parents, a spouse, a friend, or someone else to be there at the exact moment you need something. You need to rely on yourself, and you want to feel pride that you take care of the basics in your life.

Some of these skills are innate. Some women are lucky to be born with them. Other skills you need to learn – and you can! And when you have mastered these essential skills, you'll have the confidence to change lives – others and your own.


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No matter what life throws your way, be ready for anything, with these 21 skills that EVERY woman should have:

1. Financial skills.

Learning the basics of math is essential. This will help you with all the financial skills you need to create a household budget and live within your means, manage your credit, and do your own taxes. Master the art and science behind investing and building your wealth. You’ll be set to live comfortably now and save for retirement.

2.  Domestic skills.

You don't have to be Martha Stewart, but you do need to know your way around the kitchen so that you can whip a balanced meal for yourself. Create some signature dishes and impress your friends (and you!). You also need to know the basics of serving and storing food, so you don’t poison anyone by mistake!

My grandmother taught me the army method for making a bed, and if I didn't do it correctly, I had to do it repeatedly until I did. This kind of domestic perfection is more of a choice nowadays, but I admit that precision – as well as flowers, and the right accents, can make a difference to a room.

And, even if you don't enjoy housecleaning, regular clean-up, laundry, and vacuuming up the dust bunnies will keep you healthy and create a Zen environment for your enjoyment.

3.  Home and car maintenance skills.

Whether you rent or own, there are a few maintenance items that you should know such as switching out furnace filters. Hang up your new artwork or mirrors in your new place and unclog a drain when it backs up and you'll feel a sense of satisfaction. You don't have to be able to fix a toilet, but it will certainly cost you less if you can do it yourself.

If you own a car, learn the basics of how to fix the little things that can go wrong. Learn how to top off the fluids and jumpstart the car if the battery dies. And, if the idea of changing a tire roadside scares the life out of you, at least figure out how to check and maintain your tires’ air pressure, and carry a spare tire, a phone and the number to a roadside assistance program.

4.  Safety skills.

Imagine the sense of relief you would feel performing the Heimlich maneuver on your choking dinner guest or diving into a pool to save a drowning child! First aid and water safety skills are critical and lifesaving — and you never know when you might need them.

You don't have a car? Learn to drive anyway — including stick shift. Think big and get ready to get that dream car or get yourself out of a rut when an emergency happens. If a family member is suddenly medically unable to drive or your ride has been drinking too much, taking the wheel could be a critical safety move.

The reality is that as women we need to be extra vigilant about safety. That means knowing how to avoid compromising situations, walking with an air of self-assurance, and defending yourself against a possible attacker.

Be ready to save a life — it could be your own! 

5.  Survival skills.

You might think that survival skills are only required if you aspire to be on the TV shows Survivor or Naked and Afraid. But, depending on where you live or if you travel, you might unwittingly get yourself into a situation where you need to make do with what you have. Imagine your car breaks down miles away from any towns and there’s no cell coverage. What if help, shelter, and food are nowhere to be found? Be a good girl scout and figure out how to pitch a tent, start a fire with sticks, and catch a fish — or worst case, a cricket.

Everyone should learn how to get through an emergency. Create a fire escape plan and know what to do in the event of an environmental disaster.

6. Goal-setting skills.

Goal setting skills are mandatory in the business world and life. You can't get what you want unless you envision it. Give yourself the space to dream and imagine what you want. Then, be able to identify priorities and tactical plans to make things happen.

7.  Time management skills.

Let's face it, women must play many different roles at the same time. Being a mom, partner, friend, sister, daughter — not to mention employee or business owner or household manager requires instead multitasking and prioritization skills or else you won’t be able to do it all.

Add to that, the fact that this generation is facing information overload like none before it, and you really have to master time management. Get a hold of your inbox, your apps, and your social media profiles or you’ll be out of date and overwhelmed!

8.  Communication skills.

There are two aspects to communicating well: 1) listening, and, 2) effectively conveying the message you intend to communicate. When you’re communicating with someone, it's key to not only make them feel heard but to really get what they're saying. Surface listening doesn't get you very far.

To build rapport and trust, you need to listen to what someone is not saying, as well as listening with your whole being. There is a science to learning body language and it can give you an advantage in your personal and business relationships — not to mention keeping you safe.

Communicating well in writing is especially important in school and at work. And despite the advances of spell check, Grammarly, and Suri, you need to figure out how to get your ideas onto a page all by yourself.

Over the course of your life, you'll need to master a difficult conversation such as in a define-the-relationship chat, a break-up, telling someone about an illness or death, or terminating someone's employment. Learn the best way to get across bad news while keeping someone whole.

9.  Emotional intelligence.

An increasingly important skill is emotional intelligence. At the cornerstone of this is self-awareness. To be emotionally intelligent is to be able to recognize, understand and manage your own emotions and to be in tune with others' emotions and to act with compassion.

Emotional intelligence is especially vital when you’re under stress, leading a team or generally having responsibility for others. To become a responsible person in society you need to self-manage and demonstrate your social skills. This means keeping your cool when somebody cuts you off, offering support when someone is in crisis, reading social cues, and using your best judgment when it comes to emotions.

10.  Change management skills.

One thing is certain in this life: change. But it is how change is managed that can be the difference between surviving and thriving. When you've grasped the concepts of managing change, life is easier for you and those around you.

If change is happening to you, get involved, ask questions and understand what will be different and what will stay the same. If you need to lead a major change at work, highlight WHIFM (What's In It For Me) so that people will be inspired by the change. Most of all, listen with your ears, eyes, mind, and heart because people don't always state their concerns. This is the essence of 'taking people with you'.

And when you don't really know what’s ahead, building resilience can smooth out the bumps and make the journey a lot more pleasant. Learn to cope and bounce back from difficulties – large and small, to look for the positive in every situation, and adapt continuously.

11. Knowing and trusting yourself.

To make the decisions that are right for you in your life, you need to grasp knowing and trusting yourself.

This first means connecting with your deepest self and exploring what is important to you, your values, wants and needs, your standards and boundaries, and your passions, hopes, and dreams. In short, who are you?

This is not merely asking the questions, but rather being present, curious, compassionate with yourself, and open to the truth (aka your truth).

Once you figure out who you are and embrace it, you can begin to conquer the enormously difficult task of trusting yourself. In a world of 24/7 information, it is a breeding ground for doubt and skepticism. Everyone has a different opinion, options abound, and pressures mount from family and loved ones.

But in the end, the decisions you make — large or small — and the actions you take, are yours. When you build confidence and trust in yourself, you can finally lead an authentic life.


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12. Body awareness skills.

In addition to learning to be in tune with what’s important to them, every woman should learn to be in tune with their physical body. When you have changes in your body, such as lumps, bumps, pains, discharges, unusual bowel or urinary habits, or odd smells, you need to learn to notice these, too, and seek medical attention promptly to stay healthy.

Finally, you need to learn when to stop and rest, and when to go. Feel the stress in your body and learn to breathe and calm down. Tap into your inner barometer so you can meet life's demands and be your best self.

13. Using feminine energy. 

Playing to your feminine strengths involves more than wearing the right bra, picking flattering colors or clothing styles, or smoking up your eyes, it's about letting your beauty shine from the inside out and enjoying being a woman.

When you learn how to connect with your femininity by being open, nurturing, present, and connected to each of your senses, you can bring that to your relationships, too. And when you learn how to harness this female energy you can meet it with some masculine energy and let the fireworks happen!

14. Relationship-building skills. 

There is no question how important relationships are to our well-being and happiness. People need to feel connected. At the same time, broken relationships with friends, lovers, family — even colleagues, can be a source of stress and pain.

By improving your relationship-building skills, you can ensure better outcomes. Learn how to get vulnerable, create trust, show your appreciation, be thoughtful, give and take, and create something sustainable.

15.  Using humor.

Loosen up, don't take yourself so seriously all the time and learn to have fun (yes, some people actually have to learn how). Humor has a way of diffusing a tense situation, like when your kids are driving you crazy. A well-timed, appropriate joke can build rapport in the office, too. If you can master this, you can make life a whole lot more enjoyable.

16.  Socializing skills.

Whether you enjoy it or fear it, you can't get by without small talk. Introduce yourself with confidence at an interview, at a dinner party, at a business conference. Make a great first impression, but most important, demonstrate your interest in the other person.

The same goes for online communication. Figure out who to can help you and make some excellent connections. You’ll never know what a difference they can make in your career or life.

17. Self-promotion skills.

This skill goes beyond accepting a compliment and being assertive (without being pushy). Promoting yourself means communicating your strengths and contributions with authority. It is about standing up for yourself when no one else will.

Self-promotion is so essential when you're building your resume, speaking up at work, championing a cause you believe in, solving a problem with a spouse, or asking for a raise. Did you know that women who accept a lower salary in their first job, go on to a lifetime of pay inequity? The "motherhood penalty" further perpetuates this.

Know your worth. Do not be one of the millions of women who are unable to ask for what they deserve in relationships or in a job.

18.  Problem-solving skills.

Life doesn't always go smoothly. Sometimes you need to solve a difficult problem or resolve a conflict. Critical thinking will get you to the best solution. Brainstorm your options, anticipate consequences, and plan for contingencies. If you don't have enough problems at work to solve, having kids will certainly put you to the test!

In addition to problem management, you need to get good at resolving conflict when people don’t agree with you or those around you. Aim to have everyone get their needs met, and when this isn't possible, allow them to save face and move on respectfully.

19. Boundary-setting skills.

Whether it's politely but firmly turning down a guy, dealing with an over-imposing friend or family member, or finalizing a work assignment, you need to know how to do set limits for yourself — without feeling guilty.

Say "yes" with conditions, "here's when and what I will do," or flat-out "no." Don’t over-commit or be made to feel less than; set yourself up for success with these boundary-setting skills. See how good saying no to others and saying yes to yourself can feel!

20. Resourcefulness and delegating skills.

Unless you want to be continuously frazzled, learn how to tap into other people to get what you need. Learn where you can get help and don't try to solve it all. Particular note to single moms: It does take a village.

Whether it's a family or work situation, figure out how to delegate tasks so that everyone is contributing, and it will make your life easier and teach others responsibility.

Above all, remember that asking for help or advice isn't a sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength and wisdom. It’s just plain smart!

21. Letting go.

Women need to learn to let go of perfectionism, need for approval, and attachment to outcomes. There is a freedom in putting yourself out there, doing your best, not having expectations, and letting what will be, simply be.

When something or someone is no longer serving you, bringing you down or abusing you, have the courage to let it go, and let them move on, so you can, too.

Letting go also means learning to forgive yourself and others. Forgive your sister, ex, friend, or narcissistic boss. And most of all, forgive yourself.

Let go, ladies, and you will experience pure bliss!

There are many ways to learn the skills I've outlined. Tap into your best learning mode, or try a few of these ways: 

  • Take a course
  • Study an online video
  • Read a book
  • Watch someone demonstrate
  • Get a mentor
  • Join a group
  • Hire a coach
  • Buddy up with a friend
  • Just do it! (Learn by trial and error.)

Once you've taken the few steps, you need to practice your new skill to make it stick. Practice it again and again, then get feedback, and fine-tune the ability some more.

When you have mastered these capabilities, own them. Be all that you are capable of being and be proud of the woman you've become. You'll feel great about yourself and ultimately live a healthier, happier, more fulfilling and empowered life.

Finally, pass on these skills. If you're a parent, resist the urge to pamper and don't for your kids what they can learn to do for themselves. Teach these skills to your daughter or niece and help other women and girls to hone these abilities, too. You will open the doors to greater confidence, independence, freedom, and happiness for women everywhere. 


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Lisa Petsinis is a certified life coach who works with strong and resourceful women to build lasting life skills — like confidence and resilience — that will help them achieve their life goals. Sign up for her newsletter for even more advice, or contact her for a free breakthrough call to jumpstart the changes you want to make in your life today.

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