You've Got the Power

I logged into my email the other day and there in the subject line of one of them, in bold it read, “POWER: What does it mean to you?” OK, you have my attention. The email was from the executive director of The Center for Women in Charleston SC. Jennet Robinson Alterman had participated in the annual Harvard “Women in Power” seminar and she was sharing her experience. In the email she asked these questions: “Why don’t more women embrace power? Do women view power differently than men?” So, I was challenged to examine my own relationship with power.

I know humans express power with money. And often people with education have more power than those who have less education. A certain look (think celebrity) helps those with it wield power. Being born into a particular family affords some people more power than others. Skin color and gender have in the past (some would say still do) been predictors of power. Power can be used for good or evil. Power can be both exhilarating and debilitating.

The executive editor of Greater Good, Dacher Keltner says, power is part of every social interaction where there is the possibility to influence, which is every moment of life. Dacher also is a co-editor of The Compassionate Instinct in which it says, power isn’t something to avoid, nor is it something that “necessarily involves domination or submission. When we seek equality, we are seeking an effective balance of power, not the absence of power.”

Looking up the word “power,” I discovered its of Middle English origin from the Anglo-Norman french work “poeir”, which came from an alteration of the Latin word “posse” meaning “be able.” Interesting. Seems like there are some missing words - to be able to do; to be able to be; to be able to express; to be able to influence - do, be, express, influence all seem like ways to be powerful.

Power for me equals completing a run I have trained for and meeting my goal. To express myself through my writing and have people read it and like it and have it published equals power. As a psychotherapist, I empower people to make choices in their life, which bring about the changes that give them power, and that influence is powerful for me. All of these are powerful ways of being in the world, but the most powerful of all is to be able to be authentic.

The most powerful feeling in the world is having the courage, the determination, the will and the discipline to become the person you believe you are meant to be. French writer Charles Du Bos, says, “The important thing is to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”

Really, at any moment? Like while I’m standing in line at Publix buying groceries? While I’m driving to work in the morning? While I’m enjoying a lovely dinner and a glass of wine with friends? Any moment?! Yes. Any time and any place be ready to sacrifice what you are for what you could become.

Someone who knows a lot about sacrificing what you are for what you (and others) could become, is Katherine Switzer. She was the first woman to enter and run the once all-male Boston Marathon. At mile 2 of the 1967 race, officials tried to remove her, only because she was a woman. And because of her sacrifice, women runners all are empowered.
How do you define your power? And as Alterman asks, “How are you going to use it to serve your community, influence decisions and accomplish more personally and professionally?” Find your own pace and rhythm and run your own race.