I’ve been seeing a trend on social media, which is both good and bad. I’m noticing more and more women calling out this notion of giving away their power. This is good, because women are noticing that it’s happening. It’s bad because IT’S HAPPENING.
There is always a learning or an opportunity for growth during discomfort, and I can always find the silver lining of a shitty situation. And when I think about women giving away their power – well, yup, that is a shitty situation. I decided I needed to figure out what the hell is going on here.
I know there are times when others (men usually) may take your power, ladies. They’ve done it to women, to people of color… for hundreds of years. We’ve had to fight for actual legislation and laws to regain power.
But this is something different. This is about women GIVING AWAY their power.
Power is an interesting idea. The definition of the word is: 1. the ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality. 2. The capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.
I believe a woman’s power comes from being her authentic self. That means exactly what definition #1 says – doing or acting in a particular way. AKA, doing whatever (and acting however) you damn well please.
So I’ve got questions for y’all.
What makes you feel entitled to do whatever you damn well please?
What keeps us from acting in this particular (authentic) way?
And if we are giving away our power, how can wrest it back?
And what will help us maintain our power in the future?
Let’s start with a thought provoking question which I think will lead us to the answers of the above larger questions.
Where do you abandon yourself? What triggers this reflex of giving away power?
It’s usually fear. Fear drives our resistance. Perhaps your ego is playing the vocal sidekick, telling you it’s all for your protection.
It’s a disguise, but it feels really goddamn real. It might be fear of being excluded, seen as different. We have a drive in us to be connected, to be accepted. Survival depends on it, frankly. Humans are a community-based species, so this is part of our hard wiring.
We become attuned to the techniques that will make us more readily accepted into the tribe. Because we have old stereotypes of femininity to navigate, for women, what often works is:
not rocking the boat
not making a scene
This shit starts early in adolescence. We find ways to imitate, to conform, to be liked, to be popular. Which translates into tried and true coping mechanisms as we avoid the very real fear of offending, fear of failure, fear of looking foolish, and so many more.
When we give into fear, we give away our power.
What gives us power? Like gas in a car, it’s what fills us up.
This is individual, of course. It’s about discovering what makes you uniquely you. Your Values, Your Passions, Your Strengths, how you contribute individually to making this larger world a better place. One person may feel the desire to be paint/draw/sculp/write every day of their life, while another person may be happy as a clam doing excel spreadsheets and ensuring the numbers all add up. One woman loves working as a homemaker, another would go crazy if she stayed home with her kids and didn’t get the chance to work at her high-powered corporate job. Find the activities and achievements that gratify you, that make you forget time, that challenge you and satisfy you. And do that! That will make you feel invisible.
There are other more universal elements that contribute to our power as women.
We crave and deserve love, respect, security, freedom (that includes financial freedom), connection and conversely alone time, creativity, spirituality, self-actualization, appreciation.
All of that fills us up.
Here’s what depletes us and takes away our power plus a tip to more readily maintain your natural power in these “GAS ON EMPTY” instances:
Worrying about what others want/think/need: (this work event of my husband’s is important to him, so I’ll blow off my work event to watch the kids)
It doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole, but you can and absolutely are entitled to get your needs and wants met as well. That means raising your hand and speaking up – not always easy I know – especially for us conflict avoiders – and finding a solution that works for everyone. Using the example above – maybe it’s getting a babysitter. Or maybe it’s simply talking through why each event matters and coming to an understanding of – which choice best supports success of the partnership. We do have to compromise sometimes, but if resentment is building, it means you’ve compromised too much. And often in an effort to be amenable, we don’t even communicate hat we’re compromising, so how can the other person even know they are causing resentment). Communication is key here. When I was expressed my frustration to a friend about my husband not being overjoyed to be a single parent while I went away, a good friend of mine once told me – “you aren’t in charge of how he feels about the arrangement” And she’s right. I can empathize, but I don’t have to solve it.
I look at it this way: there’s my business, other people’s business, god’s business, and what other people think of me is not my business.”
Focusing on “should”: (I should make a cake for my friend’s birthday, even though I don’t like baking)
This one is easy for me. If you should, you would. So fuck it. What do you actually WANT to do?
Fuzzy boundaries: (this includes being in relationships with people who constantly blow through your boundaries, and also keeping such firm boundaries that you don’t allow people to see your vulnerabilities)
Assess what matters to you, what your priorities are. Is it family? Is it work? Is it creativity? Is it saving the environment? From there, you can see what fits in with your priorities and your limited time, and set good boundaries. For example, if someone is constantly grasping for your time, and you feel yourself resisting, but then feeling guilty for resisting – that’s a sign you need to proactively set a boundary with the person.
Toxic people and environments that don’t support your authentic self:
Find your squad – the tribe that celebrates you and all your nuttiness. Eleanor Roosevelt said “no one can make you feel inferior without your permission” I’ve never agreed with this statement 100%. Yes, we are ultimately in charge of our self-esteem, but seeing your authentic self-reflected positively by friends and loved ones gives us a boost of self-confidence. If they like us, there must be something likeable about us. At least that’s the idea.
And they will support you as you try new, scary things, and embolden you.
Same goes for workplace or home life. If it feels bad, and you’ve worked your ass off to make it feel better, and it just ain’t working… it’s okay to cut bait and find a new river to fish in.
Sometimes it actually isn’t up to you. Which is frustrating and freeing depending on if you’ve made peace with this reality.
Silence and inaction:
Speaking of courage – especially for introverted women – it takes courage to speak up. Especially in big high-pressure meetings where men are talking over each other. But you have to. No one gets to know the real you if you don’t communicate, if you don’t make an impression. Even if it’s simply by asking a thoughtful, relevant question. Always leave a meeting having contributed at least one thing. And if someone goes on to mansplain or interrupt, I invite you to say something simple like, “it sounds like you are also passionate about this topic, might I finish my thought, and then you can have the floor?”
Taking action is the antidote to self-doubt. So raise your hand up, or jump in, even as others are piling on. And as you do it more and more, it does get easier.
Being a robot to ensure no one is offended:
If you’ve taken the time to figure out your passions, strengths, desires, interests, and values – you will be less likely to slip into Robot mode. I like to say, “being authentic is not a permission slip to be an asshole”. So as you do self-discovery work, dig deep and find the best version of you. Bring her to the table. The kind one. The funny one. The passionate one. And while some might be offended, they aren’t the ones that matter. And the great majority will be changed for the better, knowing your essence. Not only because you are fucking awesome, but because it gives them permission to be their truest selves too. What a gift you give the world (and yourself) when you show up authentically.
I encourage all of you to live into your truth, to own big thoughts and big feelings. To be unapologetically complex. To change your mind. To speak up. To establish clear boundaries of what will and will not work for you. To cut out toxic people and situations that no longer serve. From there, your power is impossible to give away.
If the ideas in this blog are daunting, that’s ok.
You are powerful, and with that power, can do great things. So get going!