My Favorite Female Influences


purposedinthecosmos asked a question:

Who are some well-known women you respect, look up to or have been positively influenced by? (Christian and non Christian)


Hey dear friend, I really love this question. I’m assuming you are asking me about writers, authors, celebrities, etc, but I have to give a shout-out to my wife, my mom and mom-in-law, my sister-in-law who’s a musician, and my chaplain supervisors (who are all women).

Here’s a list, by no means complete, of awesome women I’ve been influenced by. Truly, I sit in their shadows.


– Brene Brown. Her book Daring Greatly is a lifesaver. Her TED Talk that propelled her to fame is still relevant and important. And the animated video on Empathy with her voiceover is powerful. These days you might hear a lot about “the cult of Brene,” like it was said about Oprah, but I think that’s unfair. (Other male speakers are just motivational speakers, but women are “cult of”?) One of the best things about Dr. Brown is that she’s done her research and presents the evidence to back up her claims.


– Kate Bowler. Her book Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved is a hilarious and heartbreaking read. She also has a TED Talk and a podcast, both great.


– Nadine Burke Harris. Dr. Harris is a pioneer of trauma-informed care and recently became the Surgeon General of California. She wrote The Deepest Well, which needs to be required reading.


– Kathy Khang. I recently listened to her book Raise Your Voice, which was fantastic. I also follow her on social media, and she is absolutely outspoken about race, church, politics, and gender. I messaged her to ask some questions about writing, and she was generous and kind in her responses.



– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Including her many books, her TED Talk from 2009 is still profound today. 


– Melody Beattie. She’s most famous for her books Codependent No More and The Language of Letting Go. These should also be required reading.


– Red Hong Yi. My favorite artist of all time. She’s also writing the Foreword to my upcoming book. 



Other authors I’ve enjoyed: Min Jin Lee (author of the incredible Pachinko), Lisa Jewell (mystery thrillers), Caitlin Doughty (nonfiction writer about death), Kristen Neff (doctor on self-compassion), Kerry Egan (chaplain and author), Karen Horney (coined neurosis in 1940s), Alice Miller (childhood trauma), Tina Fey (Bossypants is hilarious), Ursula K. Le Guin (because of course), and Maya Angelous (definitely of course). I’m in the middle of Becoming by Michelle Obama, which so far is quite good.

Women I follow on social media or blogs, who I find encouraging and thoughtful: D.L. Mayfield, Audrey Assad, Bozoma Saint John, Jo Saxton, Lysa TerKeurst, Sarah Bessey, Jen Hatmaker, Anne Lamott, Sally Lloyd-Jones, Priscilla Shirer, Austin Channing Brown, Heather Parady, and the late Rachel Held Evans. I know I’m missing a thousand other women.

Also a major shout-out to my two editors, Amanda and Amy, who are both surgical and gentle and have made me better at writing and communicating.

— J.S.


Image from Unsplash

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