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How to Tell the Difference Between an Alpha and Sigma Female

In this article we are going to talk about the difference between the alpha and the sigma female.

The alpha and the sigma woman both stand out in a crowd, but they are not the same. Interestingly enough, there are likely sigma women who have spent their entire lives identifying as an alpha even though the label wasn’t a perfect fit.

Until the emergence of the sigma designation, there just wasn’t a better one. 

But there are important difference between an alpha female and a sigma female. The traits of each are different — although it may not seem so to the untrained eye. Here’s what you need to look for. 

“There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both, that of women.”

~Malala Yousafzai

9 Differences Between an Alpha and a Sigma Woman

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Both alpha and sigma woman are powerful — but they wear that power in unique ways. You might think it’s a matter of semantics. You’d be wrong. These 9 differences are significant. 

Why listen to me? I’m Crystal Jackson and I was a master’s level licensed therapist. I worked with couples and individuals and specialized in trauma recovery and empowerment. I now write content about relationships, self-improvement, and psychology. My work has been featured in large publications such as Elite Daily, Your Tango, Positively Positive, and Mamamia.

Leadership

The alpha woman craves power and seeks out leadership positions. She has a plan, and it leads straight to the top. She’s relentless in pursuit of her goals, and she’s a natural-born leader. 

“I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me.”

Tracee Ellis Ross

The sigma woman doesn’t crave power. She doesn’t seek leadership. Yet, she’s often thrust into leadership positions by the urging of others. She, too, is an innate leader, but it’s not something she needs to be fulfilled. She’ll excel in the position, but it’s not necessarily a part of her plan. 

Competition

The alpha woman is naturally competitive. She is driven to win, and she can make even the friendliest sport into a fierce battle. She sees the world in winners and losers, and even if she possesses good sportsmanship, she’s determined to come out on top.

“Being a strong woman is very important to me. But doing it all on my own is not.” ~Reba McEntire

The sigma woman competes with herself alone. She’ll try to improve on her own performance, but she’s not interested in comparing herself to others. She’s not trying to compete, and she doesn’t see life as a win-lose scenario. She’s much more interested in scenarios where everyone feels like they won. She doesn’t mind the spirit of competition if it fuels others to succeed, but it’s not what drives her. 

Work Style

When it comes to work, the alpha is clearly in charge. She knows who needs to do what and is a master delegator. She’s got a specific vision in mind and needs her team to execute it. She leads more by intimidation and determination, and she gets things done. 

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

Angela Davis

The sigma woman might end up in charge, but she’ll roll up her sleeves and pitch in to help, too. She prefers a collaborative working style. Her leadership style tends to inspire others around her to do their best. While she’s capable of working alone and prefers it, she’s also adept at working with a team. 

Source of Drive

The alpha female is driven by external validation. She needs praise and a lot of it; she wants to impress more than inspire. She might even see material possessions as evidence of her success that she can show off to others.

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

Helen Keller

The sigma female doesn’t work that way; she’s driven only by herself. She validates herself. She wants to inspire, not impress, but she’s less concerned about what others think and more concerned with how things feel to her. And she doesn’t necessarily care about accumulating signs of wealth or making others think she’s extremely successful. She just wants to live a good life and enjoy it. 

Relationships

When it comes to relationships, the alpha is typically dominant in relationships. While she might find a relationship with another alpha satisfying, it’s possible they’ll struggle to wrest control from one another often.

She tends to be more relaxed when paired with a follower rather than another leader. She won’t thrive in a subservient position at work or at home. The alpha knows what she wants, and she goes after it.

Her ideal mate will let her lead the way she likes but will offer a safe place for her to decompress, providing a balance to her endless drive.

The sigma woman looks for equality in her relationships. She wants neither to dominate nor to be dominated. She wants an equally strong partner. 

“The one person who will never leave us, whom we will never lose, is ourself. Learning to love our female selves is where our search for love must begin.”

Bell Hooks

But neither the alpha nor the sigma female truly looks for partnership. Most of the time, they are content avoiding commitment and keeping things casual. But if they do end up in committed relationships, both are determined to succeed.

The alpha wants her relationship to last as another measure of her success and her superior decision making abilities. The sigma female wants her relationship to succeed because she took her time choosing and will put in the work to nurture the relationship; she won’t give up on it easily. 

Personality

This is another important difference between the aplha and the sigma female.

When it comes to personality, the alpha woman is extroverted and draws her energy from outside herself. She finds crowds exhilirating and thrives in the company of others. She loves being social and hates being alone.

“I don’t go by the rule book. I lead from the heart, not the head.”

Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales

The sigma can come off as an enigma. She is introverted. While she can fit in with anyone, she doesn’t really seek out social situations. She prefers her own company and is considered a bit of a loner. 

To find out if you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, read more about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. 

Success 

Both the alpha female and the sigma female are obviously successful. The key difference is in the way they define success. The alpha is driven by outside measures; the sigma creates her own internal idea of success.

The alpha needs external validation and accolades, and the sigma simply wants to go her own way. Both are usually successful at whatever they choose to do, but they won’t take the same route or strategy to get there. 

“Ignore the glass ceiling and do your work. If you’re focusing on the glass ceiling, focusing on what you don’t have, focusing on the limitations, then you will be limited.”

Ava DuVernay

For the sigma woman, ending up in the top spot isn’t success if it costs her something else she values like time. For the alpha woman, the only true success is reaching the pinnacle of her career.

They are both ambitious, but the sigma woman’s idea of success might not look like society’s expectations of it. If she’s happy in a cozy cottage in the woods working for herself, she’ll see that as success even if no one else does. 

Independence

The alpha woman might seem like the original independent woman. She makes her own money, pays her own bills, and has a strong career.

She knows what she wants and how she’s going to get it. She’s determined. She works best alone. But the sigma woman has all of that with one additional trait: She doesn’t care for the opinions of others.

“I had to remind myself of the truth of who I was and the reality that success wasn’t defined by a result but by faithfulness. I had to remember that my identity and healing weren’t dependent on the voices that surrounded me and that the truth wasn’t dependent on popular opinion or cultural responses. I had to focus on what was real and true. The straight line instead of the crooked.”

Rachael Denhollander

The sigma masters true independence because she doesn’t care about other people’s opinions. Where the alpha will still try to do what’s needed to please the powers that be, the sigma female doesn’t recognize any other power but her own.

She’s a rebel who sees herself as the ultimate authority and struggles with other people attempting to exert power or influence over her. The alphas independence is strong, but she will bend to the will of others if it will get her where she ultimately wants to go. She’ll make compromises. The sigma never will. 

Communication Style

The alpha woman’s communication style is dominating and aggressive. She’ll fight for how she feels, what she wants, and what she believes in. The sigma woman’s power is assertive, not aggressive. She has no desire to try to persuade others to live as she does.

Rather, her power comes from a place of inner strength, and she’s more likely to go to bat for the underdog than for herself. They have different ways of going about leading. The alpha intimidates, and the sigma inspires. 

“Sometimes the future changes quickly and completely, and we’re left with only the choice of what to do next. We can choose to be afraid of it. Just stand there trembling, not moving. Assuming the worst that can happen. Or we step forward into the unknown, and assume it will be brilliant.”

Sandra Oh

They might seem more alike than different on the surface, but the alpha and sigma women have distinct ways of seeing the world and existing in it.

While the alpha is seen as the top of the social hierarchy, the sigma’s position can change at any time — even surpassing the alpha at times. Because the sigma woman doesn’t compete, she doesn’t care about the hierarchy either. 

On Social Hierarchies

It’s important to remember that social hierarchies are social constructs. They aren’t proven by science. There’s no test you can take to definitively determine what your social type truly is, and diagnosis is entirely reliant on your self-report, which is also impacted by your level of self-awareness. 

This is important because it can be dangerous to find a label, choose it, and cling to it. It can make you inflexible and closed-minded.

Your place in the perceived social hierarchy does not determine your value. You are valuable, period. Full stop. You matter whether you are the alpha, sigma, beta, delta, omega, or some other designation. 

Knowing the differences can help you find your place if you need it. It can help you have a better understanding of how society functions and what your role might be inside of it.

It’s useful in its own way, but keep in mind that the hierarchy is an imaginary structure that doesn’t ever mean you matter more or less than others. As long as you remember that, you can use these traits to know your role in life and play it to the best of your ability. 

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

~Nora Ephron

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