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When you think of wielding your personal power, what comes to mind? Do you think power equates to being domineering? Controlling? Manipulative?
Many people have pretty negative associations with power, especially when it comes to women. We’ve probably heard that we should downplay our power. We shouldn’t be too assertive. We shouldn’t go for what we really want.
The truth is, there’s a lot of positive reasons why it’s important to explore and even embrace your personal power. Here’s what you need to know to tap into your personal well of influence.
We all know power can be abused. We see examples of abuses of power every single day on the news, in the media, and likely in our own lives. We may have people and situations in our day-to-day dealings where we’re confronted with those who hold power over us, attempt to control us, or manipulate us with the power.
Personal power and feminine power are topics we discuss heavily in our Year of More curriculum. It seems that many of us have learned to think of power as negative. We may even shy away from exploring our personal power because of these associations.
When we’ve asked students to free associated with power, the words that come up are often some of those misconceptions listed above. “Power means manipulation, domination, control, abuse.” Many of us think power is BAD somehow. We think of terms like “power-hungry” or “power trip,” and there are negative connotations.
Of course, if people abuse their power, it can be bad and even dangerous. But it’s important to realize it’s not the power itself that’s wrong. In fact, gaining more control over ourselves and our lives is a positive goal that is EMPOWERING. Empowerment is something many people wish for but aren’t sure how to find. Even when people have negative associations with the word power, they may still hunger for it and want more control in their life, but they may fear there’s something wrong with this desire.
If you look at power for what it really is, it’s actually quite wonderful to have influence, to do work, and to have an effect on others. It’s a good thing, and we’re all hungry for it. Power is positive, and the more influence a good work in our lives, the better.
When we talk about personal power, it’s the power that’s part of our identity. It’s an integral piece of who we are. My personal power is my capacity to have an influence, to affect others, and to work. Everyone has personal power. It’s part of us. We have an enormous circle of influence and a surprising ability to touch and affect many lives for good.
In addition to the negative connotations about power, people often have a stereotypical masculine association with power. We think of power as a loud voice, physical strength, and domination. This doesn’t mean we necessarily look at power as male or female, but as masculine and feminine. Masculine power is assertive and projected.
Feminine power, on the other hand, is soft and receptive. Feminine power might be sensual, but it consists of much more—the power to embrace, include, receive, attract, and synergize; the aptitude for relationships, vulnerability, holistic thinking, multitasking, collaboration, emotional expression, and communication.
So, what keeps women powerful and feminine? Have we progressed to where we can still be womanly in our power and influence, or do we have to sacrifice our femininity to gain strength?
Feminine power is attractive. It draws and attracts things to you—when you are compelling, that’s power. There is also the external pushing power. There’s a power of doing, and there’s a power of being. In our Year of More work, we often explore the potential of these poles. What draws us to certain types of power?
We live in a society that often overvalues the masculine and undervalues the feminine. Again, that doesn’t mean men versus women. All of us—men and women both—equate masculinity with power and feminine qualities with weakness.
As we work with our students, we discuss where these ideas come from. We look at all the different ways we can have power. The power of silence; there’s great power in listening, seeing, paying attention, and simply being. It can have a tremendous effect on others. It’s not about being loud or domineering.
Similarly, the power of compliments has a significant effect on people. You can often influence others with positive results, simply by learning how to acknowledge and accentuate the positive in your interactions.
We discuss the power of asking for things with our students as well. How can they use both poles of power to attract the things they want to them, and to ask for what they want as well?
Women often come to our leadership classes because they want to develop their power. They think of power as a masculine quality. They may not be aware of the positive aspect of feminine power, or they may have a demeaning attitude toward the concept.
How often do you display sensitivity in your relationships, caring, and deep emotions, and feel like it’s a disadvantage? We may view our sensitive side as being weak or a detriment to our future.
Women who get to where they want to be in their careers and life, often become more masculine to gain parity in our world. While the views are shifting now, there is still room to learn more. Women don’t need to let go of their feminine side to become more powerful. Those feminine qualities can make us even more powerful in other ways.
Women can cultivate the skills they naturally have. We are starting to see a substantial shift in business and society, toward the embracing of our feminine and masculine power. While men and women are of equal importance and value, we are not the same.
In fact, brain research over the last 30 or so years demonstrates undeniably that men and women are quite different—physically, neurologically, and emotionally. As I study the research, I’ve realized the powerful complement in our innate differences. For instance, men have tunnel, binocular vision, while women have wide-ranging peripheral vision. Men’s brains are configured to be more logical, and women are wired to be intuitive. The feminine inclination to be nurturing and inclusive is complemented by the masculine proclivity to be protective and territorial, and the list goes on.
Slowly but surely, we are realizing the benefits of these differences. Feminine qualities like relationship receptivity, communication, collaboration, synthesizing, nurturing, feeling deeply, and—yes, even tears—are an essential blessing, not a curse.
The truly exciting aspects of feminine power are emerging, from women’s liberation to human liberation; beyond women’s empowerment to a society that fully harnesses masculine and feminine power in full partnership for sustainable, creative, harmonious life on spaceship earth.
For more on embracing your personal power, visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for our upcoming More Life Training. You’ll connect with others on their transformational journey and learn more about yourself. This is a great way to bring peace, meaning, and happiness to your life and relationships!
Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach. She is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.
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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.