I’ve lately had the same conversation about personal power with several different women in my sphere. I’ve had almost the exact same conversation with each of these vastly different women, which really brought it home what a universal experience this is. It wasn’t until someone had a similar conversation with me a few months ago that I was able to see my own way out of this pattern.
I have been noticing so many of my women friends lately giving away, or apologizing for, their power. What is even more surprising to me is that several of these women used to be so fully in their power that they were forces to be reckoned with. Nowadays, I hear them excusing themselves in demure tones just for taking up space on the sidewalk; or lying about their feelings to soothe their partners’ egos; or denying themselves something they want, because they are afraid that someone else might feel triggered in some way about their having it.
I see this A LOT among women, in general, in fact. (I've seen it in men, too, but much less often, and usually to a much lesser degree.)
This is so frustrating and heartbreaking for me to witness. I imagine this is due, in no small part, to the fact that I used to be just like them (which is also frustrating and heartbreaking). In fact, I was worse! I gave away my power to anyone who would take it. I deferred to others when making decisions. I put the needs of others before my own, making sure everyone else was happy and content even in the throes of my own discomfort. I apologized for EVERYTHING. I took responsibility for other people’s mistakes. I blamed everyone and everything for my dissatisfaction with life. This kind of disempowered is no way to live. Trust me. It’s inconvenient, uncomfortable, disappointing, and EXHAUSTING! Still, it’s a way of life for so many women.
When asked why they do this, most women will immediately answer that it’s not about belittling themselves, but, rather, about wanting to do nice things for others. We are women! We are nurturers and caregivers! And, of course, many of us are. But this is a smokescreen answer. This response is the result of years of societal propaganda that has been spouted by well-intentioned (in the best circumstances) parents, educators, and other authority figures teaching us how we are expected to behave in the world.
Women are taught to take care of everyone else. Women are taught to put the needs of others above their own. Women are taught that self-denial is not only expected of them, it’s a part of being a good woman.
It’s not a natural inclination to self-deny. Fulfilling our desires is part of our natural blueprint. We desire the things we desire because the fulfillment of them will bring us closer to finding and fulfilling our purpose in the world. And, just like in airplane emergencies, it is imperative to fulfill our own desires and needs before we can effectively help anyone else fulfill their own. That’s just how it goes.
It is a wonderful notion to want to do nice things for others. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But it is impossible to fully be of service to anyone else if we aren’t first in service to ourselves. Many women teach their children to be independent thinkers (‘if everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you?’); to believe in themselves and their own self-worth (‘you are amazing. you can do/be anything you want to do/be!’); and to never apologize for who they are (‘never apologize for who you are!’). They tell their girlfriends not to let people treat them like anything less the queens they are. They passionately instruct the women in their lives not to let anyone else say mean things to them, deny them what they want, physically assault them. Why, then do they not feel the need to heed their own advice?
You want to be nice to someone? Great! Be nice! But be nice to YOU, first. Make sure you’re getting your own needs met BEFORE you start to worry about someone else’s. And, for heaven’s sake, STOP apologizing for everything. You are just as valuable a human being as everyone else. You deserve your space on the sidewalk just as much as the person trying to pass you. You deserve to express yourself honestly, and be heard, just as much as your partner does. You deserve to have whatever luxury you want, regardless of what other people think about it. Just because! Just because you’re you! You don’t need a bigger reason.
So, to all the women of the world .. and all the men, too ... and all the in-betweens! Please, please, please reclaim your power! Recognize that reclaiming your power does not negate your ability to offer compassion or love to anyone else. It just means you’re taking care of yourself. And taking care of yourself is what allows you to take care of others … if that’s what you want to do.
It’s also okay to not take care of others. Because, at the end of the day, we are each, individually, responsible for meeting our own needs. No one else is meant to do it for us. Relying on someone else to make you happy is giving away your own power. Assuming someone else needs you to make them happy is arrogance of the highest order.
Our relationships are here to enhance our lives, not control them. No one can make us be/do/feel anything … except ourselves. Step into your power and take control of how you are experiencing the world. If you want to be happy, choose to be happy. If you want to be rich, choose to be rich. If you want to dance naked through the grocery store, then do that! Do the work that will get you what you want. And open yourself up to all that comes along with it. You have power. Using it to your advantage does not equal disadvantaging others. We EACH of us have the power to create the life of our choosing. Let others step into their own power, too. They don’t need you to do everything for them. The best thing you can do for your loved ones is to be an example of someone who is living a fully empowered life of bliss.
If you’d like to dive more deeply into this conversation, send me an email. I’d love to explore the topic further with you!