A while back, I was talking to my friend Dottie on the phone. We were making plans to get together for lunch the following week. Debating the finer points about choosing Thai cuisine over a lip-smacking barbecue joint got old quick and soon the topic veered in several different directions throughout the hour-long conversation. Somehow, organically, our tête-à-tête turned towards women, relationships, life and power.
During a lull in the conversation, my friend said, “I hear women all the time talk about taking back their power. I don’t get it. What does that mean? What power? I just don’t get it.”
Her voice was filled with genuine confusion and laced with hint of irritation. I was taken aback but I wasn’t completely surprised. Every day, we’re subjected to a shitload of catchy phrases, rallying cries and words du jour, so much so that their true meanings have become diluted to the point of being cliché.
Dottie is an intelligent woman. She’s a savvy business owner and an all-around beautiful woman, inside and out. So why would the meaning of a phrase that rolls so easily from the lips of so many others be elusive to her?
In reality, Dottie actually had an idea of what this ‘power’ was. Her impression was formed by a societal imprint and a woman taking charge of her body…and as well she should.
Many believe that a woman’s power lies in her sexuality. We wield that power like a magic wand – the giving and withholding of sex as a mechanism to effect control over a man. True, our bodies belong to us, but do we really need to deny permission—for someone to touch us, to want us, to want to engage in intimate acts with us—in order for this to be a manifestation of our ultimate power?
This is my personal opinion, but I don’t think so. But more importantly, power is so much more than our sexuality. As an aside, when power is equated exclusively to sexuality, it reduces women to objects. Just something to think about. In the meantime . . .
So What is Power?
Power means different things to different people. Political theorist and philosopher Hanna Pitkin surmised “that power is a something — anything — which makes or renders somebody able to do, capable of doing something. Power is capacity, potential, ability, or wherewithal.” She bases this on the etymology of the French word ‘pouvior’ and the Latin word ‘potere.’ Both words mean ‘to be able.’
When we feel like we don’t have control of our lives, we may become afraid, we’re more vulnerable and, ultimately, we lose our power.
The Loss of Your Power
When we lose our power, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s likely a gradual process, one that we don’t recognize as the loss of something so meaningful to us. This systematic loss can have many earmarks, including:
- You allow other individuals, circumstances or situations to dictate your life.
- Your authority (in action and voice) is undercut.
- Someone believes they know what’s best for you and, subsequently, they feel compelled to make decisions for you.
- Your actions and approach are questioned.
- You are used for someone else’s self-interests.
- Allowing others to influence your emotions (“She drives me crazy,” “He makes me mad,” “I was happy until he came into the room with his sour mood and he put me in a bad mood.”)
- Not speaking up for yourself. take back your power
- Altering the woman you are to fit in with others.
- Allowing others to determine your self-worth.
- Lack of identifying your values. take back your power
Perhaps you don’t believe that your life is not your own. You may think you’re simply compromising, keeping the peace, making life easier. However, recognize that for each concession you make, each time you deny yourself that which you really want, each time you downgrade yourself in favor of others – you’re slipping further away from the real you.
This may be a hard pill to swallow, but whether we realize it or not, no one can swoop down and just take our power. It’s something we unwittingly give with quiet permission – the permission of silence – when we are weak, when we continually compromise, when we don’t want to cause ripples, when we choose silence over using our voices.
It’s not just people to whom we can lose our power. Negative emotions that we succumb to – like rage, fear, guilt, anger, shame, jealousy – can rob us of our power, as well. Well, no more.
Take Back Your Power
It’s time to hit the reset button on your life and come into your new reality, your new normal. We need to take ownership of our decisions, for how we treat ourselves, for our actions and our reactions.
When you take back your power, you begin to gain control of your life. You change your narrative, no longer allowing someone else to define it for you. You find your voice.
When you have control of your power, you feel empowered. You have confidence, you have strength, you have courage, you are determined, you’re living on purpose.
Is it time for you to take back your power? How can you do this?
Be defiant in the face of adversity.
Get to know the real you.
Stand up for yourself. take back your power
Don’t judge yourself.
Look at yourself through your own eyes, not those of others.
Stop making excuses.
Forgive and move on.
Silence your inner critic.
Don’t seek validation or acceptance from others.
Surrender to the truth of your situation.
Learn to listen to your inner voice.
Good or bad, take ownership of your choices.
Don’t play the blame game.
Have the courage to speak your truth, the truth as you see it.
Don’t be a people-pleaser; be a self-pleaser.
Don’t be a victim of life . . . be a survivor.
♦ ♦ ♦
In the end, Dottie and I had lunch as planned. As before, our conversation was a moving target, zig-zagging from the light-hearted to the serious. Before we went our separate ways, she blessed my heart with a few kind words that will resonate with me for a long time to come.
After I got off the phone with you on Saturday, I felt empowered. I always thought power was about sexuality. But listening to you talk about it, I knew it wasn’t.
Each one teach one. And take back your power.