A question posed by my mentor from a divine feminine training has stayed with me over the past few years. “What will it take for you to fully step into your power NOW?” My initial reaction was that she didn’t know what she was talking about. I think of myself as an empowered woman. I’ve been well-educated, and I’ve had high-paying jobs with a lot of responsibility. I am following my dreams creating spiritual music and living a somewhat unconventional life—by choice! What’s not powerful about that scenario? But over time, as I have gotten more self-aware, I have come to see the many ways that I’ve given my power away or taken a less powerful stance than I might have. In my experience of facilitating spiritual circles, I have come to realize that my pattern is quite common.
But why WOULDN’T I fully step into my power? Women are not generally applauded for allowing our complete power to flow through us. And note that I make a distinction between inner power and power in the world. For me, the challenge has more to do with inner power. Claiming this type of power would entail sharing my candid perceptions when asked; taking a stand for my beliefs and not backing down when challenged; standing my ground in a disagreement; asking people to be accountable to their word and calling them on it when there’s a breach; not taking on jobs that aren’t joyful for me, just because I am a woman (for example, I’m not buying that it’s the woman’s job to put dinner on the table every night.) The list goes on, but you get the idea.
In terms of worldly power, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin come to mind. And, while you may not agree with the politics of one or both of these women, you will surely agree that they are both claiming their power—though perhaps not wielding it as skillfully as I’d like to see. For standing with such power, they both received a great deal of public loathing—much more than I sense a man with the same viewpoints would have earned. And it’s interesting that some of the most scathing critiques have come from other women. So it is clear to me that many of us women have actually internalized the patriarchal perception of a woman’s place. And it seems that there is a deep cultural discomfort with powerful women attempting to claim a seat among the leaders of the world.
Women who do stand in their power, in either the inner or the worldly sense, are often labeled as bitchy or uppity, even when those words aren’t deserved. I know I personally cringe when I’m called a bitch, and in the past, I have avoided behaviors that might earn me that title. Because most women deeply value relationships, we generally want to be loved—or at least liked. So speaking our full truth isn’t always a choice we make, especially if we sense our viewpoint will not be popular. Of course, there are many women, thankfully, who are skillful at wielding the sword of power. Those I most respect are able to share their wisdom in a non-judgmental way, even when their truth is stinging. In that scenario, their straight talk can shine light on a deep denial in a way that is helpful and evolutionary. I am always so deeply grateful for these women’s willingness to stand in the fire, with love.
But women in power are not yet the norm in our society. Here’s a few statistics pulled together by SF First Lady Jennifer Siebel Newsom, from her forthcoming movie MissRepresentation, about women’s under-representation in positions of power and influence in America.