Part 1 Giving Away Your Power
Pushpa, a 32 year old mother of two, was coming home from Nairobi Airport in a taxi. Suddenly the taxi started weaving in and out between lanes in a mad dash and she was scared. She thought that something had gone wrong with the car. So absorbed was she in her deep fear, it took her a while to realize it was the driver that was playing this dangerous game for the sheer love of it.
Who was driving dangerously? The driver of course. Why? Because she had let him do so. He had not wrenched control from her. Inadvertently she had handed over her power to him. She could have taken back her power by commanding him to stop this reckless driving, but she did not. She ‘let it go’.
What Pushpa did is what many of us do. We do not make conscious choices. We live in auto mode. This means we tend to let things be, even at the cost of losing control of our lives. We abdicate our power to others.
What is personal power? Does everbody have it? The good news is that we are born with personal power. The bad news is that as we grow up we give it away without even realizing it. Social conditioning plays a big role in this failing. Men and women are equally prone to this drawback, women in relationships and men in their career and work.
Why do we give our power away? It is to do with winning approval. Very early in life, even as babies, we learn to differentiate between approval winning behaviours and those that bring disapproval. Smiling and cooing fall in the former category while crying and yelling fall in the latter.
This necessity of trying to win approval continues in our childhood, adulthood and even old age. It becomes deeply embedded in our psyche and after sometime, we do not even recognize it as anything alien or wrong. We are comfortable when we allow others to pull our strings, and uncomfortable when we challenge this status quo. So we continue to let others rules us: how we should dress, what we should say, even what we should think! We give away our power to our parents, siblings, teachers, friends, spouses, even to religion ……
All this to win approval. The opposite of that means disapproval and we can’t handle that for we fear disapproval deeply. The longer we are in this fear cycle, the harder it becomes to break out of it.
We start to believe that winning approval is the ‘correct’ way to live. It is a foolproof plan for ‘peace’. This need for external validation becomes a serious crutch leading to a downward spiral of poor self worth. The consequences? We feel victimised in our relationships. We may even become sitting ducks for abuse of all kinds, emotional, mental and physical.