The word ‘power’ is a loaded one. It makes people feel all sorts of things.
Try a little game with me.
When you think of people who are powerful, and not in a good way, who comes to mind?
For me the first name is Donald Trump. Harvey Weinstein. Larry Nassar. My second grade teacher who used to throw erasers at us and smash our fingers with her ruler. My Girl Scout leader who used our gatherings as a way to deal with her bitterness, my high school bully who egged my house, my voice teacher who spent more than 50% of his teaching time talking about how qualified he was to teach, the doctor who told me my results were all ‘fine’ when my body was screaming I wasn’t ‘fine’, the woman in my community who gossips about peoples’ deeply personal issues, the man I was alerted about last week who is driving around in his work truck stalking his wife who is in hiding from his physical abuse.
My list can go on. I bet your list can too.
It is understandable that we might be misaligned with our true power. I unknowingly decided long ago that power was the force of all evil and I was offended by the notion of it. I had witnessed so much misuse of power by both individuals and institutions that I defined power as one person dominating another, taking away their right to choose or live free from fear. I now understand that this is abuse of power and not what authentic power is.
We may be afraid to step into our power because we worry that we will abuse it too. Perhaps we already have misused our power and don’t know how to reconcile with the shame and fear that created. We are conflicted and afraid of pain and often reject our power as a result. This is a harmful choice and does the exact opposite of what we hope. By rejecting our power, we live out of alignment with our true nature and our choices are also out of alignment.
Examples might look like: when we hang out with people we know make us feel uneasy but we are too afraid to be disliked by saying ‘no thanks’ or the dreaded fear of missing out (FOMO); when we push down our emotions and reach for a glass of wine, fill a bowl with our go-to snack and turn on Netflix; when we subscribe to others’ know best and we take a job, choose a car or pick a home we know doesn’t feel right to satisfy someone else; when we spend the last of our monthly budget on the “It Bag” of the season and it makes us feel queasy when we leave the store with it; when we deeply disagree with someone’s opinion but we nod our head or murmur ‘mmmhmm’; when we don’t pay our fair share of the bill. Any and all of these moments when we step out of our truth which happens to also be where our power lies.
This is being unplugged from our essential self and when we ignore our instincts we end up unsure, unaccepted, unhappy and unsafe. When we don’t feel safe we are left with anxiety, a need to control, perfectionism, and judgment.
Now let’s think of people who live positively attuned to their power. People who are plugged in to an energy that is engaging and uplifting. We could talk about figures we all recognize: Ellen DeGeneres, the Dalai Lama, Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., but I want to talk about Oprah.
If I was to run into Oprah at an airport, my instinct would be to hug her. I would lean in, ask her things, share a meal, hear her perspective. I trust her.
Oprah owns who she is. Have you heard her talk about how when she first began as a journalist she tried to be like Barbara Walters? She even tried to speak like her. She soon realized that it was ridiculous, completely inauthentic, unsustainable and sucking the joy out of doing her job. Once she tried being herself, using her own perspective, voice, natural curiosity and desire for connection, her career started to take on a whole new trajectory. She talks and acts like who she really is, with everyone, all the time. She has integrity.
Other qualities that Oprah illustrates:
- She shows up and does her best.
- She acknowledges her mistakes and doesn’t blame others.
- She shares her experience as an equal and asks others to tell their stories.
- She uses her position of authority with discernment, not self-righteousness. She does not assert herself onto others. If she does, she makes reparations for it.
- She does not apologize for being successful. She does not brag about her success. She does not need others’ praise or affection to validate her experience of herself. The permission she seeks is her own.
- She is kind. She is welcoming and warm. She may not agree but she doesn’t use that as a reason to belittle another.
- She is solution focused. She keeps moving forward. She learns from when things go wrong and she looks at how to make it better.
- She shares her power happily. She knows she has a platform and influence. She uses this graciously to help others. Whether it is up-and-coming authors or young girls needing an education in Africa, she nurtures the gifts of others with grace and joy.
- She shares her power wisely. Oprah has strong boundaries and is clear on how she does or does not share her power, her terms of engagement and who she shares her power with. She trusts herself.
- She lives with a sense of abundance. That there is enough for all of us. That when one rises, we all rise.
Another characteristic that people who know Oprah or have spent time with her in person share is how they feel truly seen by her.
I take that to mean Oprah’s power is also rooted in the desire to have authentic recognition of and connection with others. Her experience of life and her own expansiveness is enhanced by witnessing and celebrating the power in those she interacts with.
Oprah is the Queen of her queendom because she wears her true crown. The crown bejewelled with the gems of truth, kindness, warmth, authenticity, discernment, non-assumption, presence, boundaries, graciousness and inclusivity. One might say these are the qualities of love.
A false queendom is built on dishonesty, domination, cruelty, coldness, inauthenticity, presumption, judgment, self-righteousness, disconnection, violation, self-service and divisiveness.
If you want to write the best story of your life you need to wear your true crown.
You need to get into the right relationship with your power and you need to use it. We commend courage, confidence, tenacity and faith because they help us make our mark. To live with these attributes you need to be rooted in your sovereignty. What a beautiful word. We are sovereign beings and we are born with the natural right to be the exclusive owner of our body, our choices and our life. Doesn’t that feel like the truth even as you read it? Turn toward yourself vs. turn toward others to figure out what it is to live with sovereign authority.
When we feel into our real power and make choices rooted in this energy, we feel safe. We feel creative and playful. We feel connected. We are not motivated by what others will think. We drop the inner critic. We drop the comparison. We drop the need to control. We know who we are and there is a deep satisfaction. We have the strength and focus to enforce our boundaries and we protect our ability to live boldly and freely. We can move through adversity with an unshakeable spirit. We thrive.
Trust yourself to reign as the masterful soul you already are.
“Your crown is your best friend forever, by far.
It tells the true story of just who you are.”
– Nancy Tillman, The Crown on Your Head