I have grown up with a plethora of characters from the books I read as a child and the shows that I watched as a teenager. The female characters from these stories inspired me to not only want to take on characteristics of responsibility and adventure but to feel pride in my academics and writing. Each of the following influenced me in different ways. The most significant character trait that links all five, however, is their unabashed, shameless ability to carry themselves with confidence and respect.

What interested me the most in characters that I loved the most was their respect for and belief in themselves. Regardless almost all situations, each character faced their odds and still remembered to take advantage of their team even with all their pride. Even more significant to me is when the following characters faced external and self-doubt in their abilities.

There are characters, of all genders and backgrounds, who provide wonderful instances that I reference on YouTube every so often. Jess from New Girl has an incredibly positive attitude even with a difficult job as a teacher -- I appreciate her quotes even more as I am now a teacher, myself ("That's actually an acrostic"). Kurt Hummel from Glee has some of the best quotes regarding trusting yourself and building self-worth. The writing of the stories and the character-building opened each character up to self-reflection and growth. Here are the women and girls whose stories helped make me a better woman today:

1. Buffy Summers


Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer heavily influenced me in my teen and very early adult years of college-time confusion. Her attitude involves equal parts casual cool and courageous responsibility. Although I don't wake up every morning wondering which literal monsters I'll have to fight, I still face every day's challenges regardless of how they're thrown at me.

Buffy always strikes me as such a unique character as she never really fit in with her peers, but still found a way to maintain her cool persona. The emphasis on personal responsibility and work ethic, especially in the final two seasons, changed the way in which I approached college and when I started working. Buffy was fun but never flippant; she was chill but ready for action. And when the story arc explored her weaknesses near the end of the series, Buffy developed into one of the strongest and resolute women that I ever saw on screen.

2. Leslie Knope


Leslie Knope quotes make up most of the references that I spout out to my students, friends, and family. The quote above paired with the instance in the show where she leaves voicemails to herself (in order to hear a friendly, supportive voice when she's having a rough time) remind me of the importance of sometimes blindly believing in yourself. Although Leslie does occasionally cause more problems than she fixes when she behaves as headstrong as she does, her sheer determination allows her to be one of the most productive government workers on the show.

One of my favorite quotes Leslie says is, "So what I hear when I'm being yelled at is people caring loudly at me." When Leslie holds a town hall with some of the most difficult town members of Pawnee, she holds herself in ways that make me want her to be a real person, taking care of our citizens. But, when I see strong instances of leadership in real life I am reminded of the Leslie Knope-like women that we have in our leadership positions. When I don't know how to react to a difficult instance in my life or I am just plain bogged down with work, I think WWLKD? What would Leslie Knope do?

3. Hermione Granger


Reading Hermione Granger's character when I first read the Harry Potter books and subsequently watched the movies helped me take pride in my bushy-haired, school-loving, know-it-all self. She was one of the first female characters that I became familiar with who loved school as much as I did, and did not care one bit about being a topper in her class. She handled her bullies with grace and was an incredibly loyal, resourceful friend to the boys who caused her so much pain. The fact that she was in Gryffindor, and not Ravenclaw, made me love her even more.

She was smart, books and all, but knew that there was a power behind her quill that she would use for good. She started S.P.E.W. (Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare) when she was still in school, and earned 11 O.W.L.s (10 of which were O's). I loved her enthusiasm and refusal to accept blind loyalty and acceptance. She has always been one of my greatest role models and will continue to be for the rest of my life.

4. Minerva McGonagall


Another inspirational figure for me from the Harry Potter series was Professor Minerva McGonagall, who proved the importance of a teacher who may not be lenient, but strict and fair, serves us better any day. I had a teacher when I was growing up also with the name of the Roman god Minerva, but Greek, Athena. She is one of the greatest teachers that I have ever had the privilege to have and has continued to be. Both teachers, fictional and real named after the goddess of wisdom, improved my love for school and learning. Although Professor McGonagall is fictional, she and my real-life teacher influenced my interest in teaching.

5. Nancy Drew


Ever curious and witty, Nancy Drew joins Hermione Granger as one of my favorite literary characters. Nancy, in particular, grew my interest in detective work and solving puzzles. I devoured the books by mysterious author "Carolyn Keene" and I never could get enough of her adventures. Nancy exhibited the same confident desire to explore and learn that so many other characters on this list have. I seriously even wanted to become a detective because of her adventures and stories.

I am sure that I will add more to this list of women, and this list even in my current state is not complete. I find small instances of characters to inspire me further and further. What are some characters that inspire you in your daily life?