She’s got curves for days, luxurious tresses down her back, and a fantastic wardrobe that says sexy fashionista at work, at the club, and even at church. Earning an advanced degree has led to a six-figure position at a major corporation; she earns additional income as a freelance model. She has perfect credit and six-pack abs. And parked in front of her condo is her current-model luxury car, with a license plate that reads “GrownAndSexy1.”

Is she a Grown woman? Don’t be so sure. Unfortunately, many of the adult choices that women embrace as “grown and sexy” are anything but Grown, healthy ones. And in the Grown Zone, only Grown is sexy; if it’s not Grown, it is not sexy. Just as it takes time, investigation and observation to identify an adult male as Grown, there’s more to differentiating between an adult female and a Grown woman than age, income and dress size. And, as is the case when assessing adult men, a significant proportion of unhealthy relationships are the result of assuming that a woman is Grown—committed to self-love, better decisions and healthier relationships—when she is anything but.

RELATED: 3 Signs That He’s Not A Grown Man

It’s no wonder that both genders are confused and confounded about what constitutes healthy, Grown decision-making and behaviors for women. We are constantly bombarded with conflicting messages about what’s attractive, healthy and appropriate for adult women, with everything from hair, to sexual choices, to body image under scrutiny. Is the model for healthy womanhood the “blessed and highly favored” church girl who is waiting for God to reveal her anointed mate? Or the Louboutin-wearing, reality-show diva with the perfect weave, super-model make-up job, designer clothes and pro-athlete boyfriend? Is she the high-powered, financially independent professional woman? Or the “keep-it-one-hundred” single mother with the banging, tatted body, who will twerk at the drop of a dime? Is she sexually free? Or just a “hoe?” Should she lose weight? Or be proud of her curves? All of this is made more confusing by the fact that much of what our society demands of women is not in their best interests, but driven by the desires and fantasies of males.

It takes a Grown woman to navigate this barrage of conflicting, judgmental and even oppressive messages to and about women by media and society, and emerge as a self-loving, whole person, accountable to herself and committed to personal growth. The challenge, particularly for those looking to engage in healthy relationships, is that, at first blush, a Grown woman looks like any other adult woman. As with men, don’t go by appearances; go by behavior over time (before you give access to your body, money, heart or home), during which you should be both observing and investigating her character, habits and track record. This is not an all-inclusive, exhaustive list, but she’s not Grown if:

  1. She measures her self-esteem by the length of her hair, the depth of her cleavage and the breadth of her butt. A woman who takes the time to stay well-groomed, dress well and care for her body is great. A woman who feels she has nothing to offer but her looks and body is a problem. Watch out for the woman who puts her breasts, butt and legs on display whenever you see her, including when attending church services, picking up her children from school and in her Instagram posts. She may command attention. But she is not grown. Women who place their self-esteem in their appearance and body bring insecurities that manifest as possessiveness, pettiness and jealousy—like the evil queen of fairy tales who constantly asks the magic mirror, “Who’s the fairest one of all?” and who is threatened by anyone she perceives as a rival.

Ironically, such women tend to choose men who are also not Grown—men who see women as trophies, to be valued for their looks alone. But even when they attract those who see their value beyond their looks, they tend to distrust them and doubt their judgment. A person who does not value her own mind, talents, potential and spirit can’t see why anyone else would. Either way, the result is anything but healthy, sustainable relationships.

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