In the world of self-improvement, gaining power over our life decisions is a huge topic. When trying to make life improvements, power is where it's at - we never seem to have enough, and we need much more of it.
But to be honest, I think we're using the word wrong. (...or I just don't like the word altogether)
I looked up the word (as I do with a lot of words, Google is my best friend) the definition of power is "The ability or right to control people or things. The capacity to direct or influence behavior of others or the course of events." Yea, that doesn't feel so good to me.
Two words stick out to me in this definition - control and direct. It makes it seem like one person knows what's best for another. And in some situations, this is correct. Think of a healthy parent for a young child - they direct what that child eats, when they go to sleep, etc. They have the power and rightly so - the child cannot take care of his/herself. They are powerless. It's not until later on (think of the power struggles with teenagers) that this feeling becomes strong.
When we feel powerless, we believe:
"I have no control" "I can't make decisions" "I'm helpless"
As a child, I was very sensitive to the people around me. Whenever there was conflict or disagreement, I'd feel it. And without knowing it then, I felt powerless. I couldn't change what was happening. And being the type of person that I was, I took it on.
Can you relate to this now as an adult? Maybe you feel it when others make decisions that you don't agree with but that affect you. Maybe others believe you should do something a certain way but you think differently. Maybe you're in a situation that you feel you shouldn't be in. It's a feeling of powerlessness.
But now we have voices. We can stand up for ourselves. We know we don't want to feel powerless. That did not feel good as a child. We've been told we don't need to deal with difficult situations anymore as an adult. We can control it ourselves. So we want to change the situation. But we don't know how because maybe for such a long time, we've gone along with it. But not now. Not anymore.
So in relationships, we may feel we have to make the person see that what they are doing is wrong, what they believe isn't what we believe. Maybe we get angry, complain and only thinking about how it "should" be versus how it really is. We feel the need to be direct and control. We think we know what's best for certain situations.
Then it turns into a power struggle mentality. We may believe:
"Nobody can tell me what to do" "No one can control me" "It shouldn't be like this" "Why can't they see?"
Can you relate? How does this type of mentality make you feel? For me, it becomes frustrating and exhausting. When I think of the symbols of power in the media, the image is usually of a closed fist.
And I get it - I've been there. I felt powerless and didn't like it.
I became that person, thinking I knew everything - and not just for myself but for others too.
Imagine how hard it was for me to hold my tongue?
But eventually I discovered that it wasn't about telling others what was best for them.
It wasn't about trying to get them to understand.
It was something completely different.
It was about finding the power in another way.
Can we see where our power is? Maybe it's not in the power, per say, but in the empowerment.
I looked up the definition of empower (of course) and I found that it's to "make (someone or yourself) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights." That feels so much better, don't you think?
It's about lifting people up, not tearing them down. It's about allowing people to be where they are without telling them where they need to be. It's about being where you are, without needing other people to understand it. It's about allowing yourself to become stronger and more confident without pushing others into it too. It's not about controlling and directing, it's about compassion and empathy.
NOTE: Sometimes we have to go from one extreme to the other in order to find the middle ground. So if you find yourself in either the powerless or power struggle phase, don't fret. You're just on one end of the pendulum and trying to find your way to the middle. (I get it - I've been there!)
Also, this is more directed at non-abusive situations. No one deserves abuse, whether it's physical, sexual, mental or emotional. Sometimes you have to take power in a direct way, like a restraining order, in order to ensure physical and personal safety.
Trusting your intuition