For all of us, our private road to personal power has been strewn with awful events that challenged us, boulders that have unexpectedly tumbled down about us, detours signs we saw at the last minute, rerouting that we needed to figure out on the fly, moments, weeks, years we’ve gone through that no one should have to endure, actions we’ve taken that made us feel we might not survive, and yet to quote Lana del Ray in Radio we can all arrive at a point where we feel: nothing can stop me now. This iconic singer speaks freely about how she became powerful, by learning how to love herself. Her lyrics:
“No one even knows how hard life was,
I don’t even think about it now
because I’ve finally found you”
reflect her recovery and her happiness. “People will always hate, but I love myself now, and that’s all that matters,” she muses as she recalls her journey in finding her resilience.
What Lana del Ray is speaking about is our personal power, our resilience. Our personal power comes from successfully meeting, navigating, and coming out on top of our challenges from whatever source they stemmed: from being the oldest, the only girl, the responsible one, to being the smart one, the pretty one, the one who stood out, the one who didn’t, to our addiction, the abuse, or discrimination we survived.
We, like Lana del Ray, deserve to feel real good about ourselves, feel confident, even feeling impressed, because we have not only survived, but in many cases thrived in the face of the numerous tests we have experienced. But we often don’t feel pleased with ourselves. In fact, many times we don’t even stop to consider what we have just accomplished when we have been challenged, and for each of us our challenges are different – whether it was speaking to our son’s teacher, listening to our mother’s pain, driving into a new part of town, telling our partner enough. Somehow, it is so very complicated for us as women to embrace the resilient part of who we are.
Yes, our power can ebb and flow. It surrounds us, it lifts us, and it appears to vanish, but we know it is still there. But to consciously walk around feeling it? Yes, we’ve all had the experience of hearing “you’re so powerful” from a loved one, an employer, a friend, and simultaneously feeling our inner response of “no, I’m not.”
Recognition is always a humbling experience. As women we’re been trained to say “who me?” when special qualities of ours are noticed. So to notice what is right with us, is a challenge, a much bigger task, than fixing things for others, than helping out our friends, our family, shining at work. Because if we feel our power, then we need to own it, prompting us to answer the “who me?” that comes to mind, with the “Yes, you!” And of course, this is uncomfortable.
Having heard this from friends, family members, patients, and having felt this in moments within myself, I’ve wondered why do we become uneasy when we hear what is obviously a compliment. Or is it??
I’ve come to the conclusion that something about this statement, another acknowledging that they see our power, must feel so very threatening, yes threatening, but to what? What does being seen as powerful hit upon within us that often provokes such an immediate, and so common response? Could it be that being powerful doesn’t jive with our culturally reinforced image of how a woman should be seen? Could it be that being seen as strong, that loving ourselves as Lana del Ray sings, doesn’t comfortably fit with what has been drilled into our head that we are really vulnerable, that we are the loving party, but not capable of self-love, and to the assumed statement that we can be only one or the other, one culturally acceptable, and the other not as much?
By doing this we can choose to step into our power, and have a life sweet like cinnamon, as Lana sings. We can allow ourselves to be complicated, nuanced, maybe not so predictable, even to ourselves. We don’t need to live in a box, and we certainly don’t need to put our power in one.
Like the pebble in the pond, by releasing ourselves from being defined by others, we not only affect ourselves and our future, but in doing this, we can knowingly influence the next generation of women in our lives — our daughters, sisters, aunts, mother, nieces, cousins, the women in our office, our apartment building, our town.
How to do this? … Begin to embrace your resilience. Yes, your resilience, those skills we develop under stress, sometimes extreme stress. Need some motivation to own your power?
Listen to Lana del Ray’s Radio…
By Patricia O’Gorman, Ph.D.
The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (publication date 3/5/13)