“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.’”
– Toni Morrison -
I read this quote on Tumblr the other day (because I’m one of those people who still has a Tumblr account) and I couldn’t get it out of my head. It so perfectly sums up the privilege and honour that it is to be in a position of “power”.
According to the dictionary power can be defined as “the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way” or “the capacity to or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events”.
If you look up synonyms of power you get the following list of words: ability, capacity, capability, potential, competence, right, effectiveness, or strength.
POWER. That word often elicits a number of emotions, but I think the following two are the most common ones: fear or inspiration.
Fear because someone appears stronger than you, or they scare you, or they are threatening; maybe they bully you or intimidate you. This is a misuse of power, and more often than not is simply a coping mechanism for someone who feels powerless and wants to feel the opposite. And to achieve this, they feel the need to pull other people down so they can raise themselves up.
I used to think that being “powerful” meant that you were either physically strong, a bully or you were held in such awe that no one wanted to speak against you.
Powerful basically meant you were untouchable or unstoppable.
Throughout school, I was what you could call a “doormat”. I let so many people walk over me, I was so hesitant to share my opinions out of fear of being ridiculed for what my thoughts were, or maybe my thoughts were wrong, or simply because I thought that no one would care about what I had to say.
I had a teacher who taught me for a number of years. I watched him belittle a number of his female students (including myself) for close to 5 years but I convinced myself it was because he wanted me to succeed.
In retrospect, this was just a coping mechanism because I was too intimidated to speak up.
Instead I sat silently whilst he whittled away at my self-belief and built up his own. I wish I had believed in myself more at the time because those years ended up killing one of my passions.
He had no right to treat me that way. No one who believes in you and wants you to succeed has the right to belittle you in any way. Ever. They are simply intimidating you so they can feel powerful.
However, I am glad it happened as it did, because it served as a catalyst for a change in my perspective.
It inspired me. Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this now.
At that point in time, I didn’t understand what power actually was or what it had the potential to be.
But I’ve learnt that your power starts with you: with your responses, with your thoughts, and with your opinions.
As humans, our brains are constantly processing, thinking, evaluating, critiquing and questioning the things we witness and computes an emotional response to this. Our brain wants us to react. It wants us to have opinions, thoughts and feelings in response to situations we witness.
“NOTHING IS MORE POWERFUL THAN ALLOWING YOURSELF TO TRULY BE AFFECTED BY THINGS.”
- Amelia Olson -
In other words: you were designed to have an opinion.
That is empowering.
We live in a free country where we have the privilege to speak our opinions freely. Your thoughts are your thoughts. Someone else may have a similar idea to you, but they are still your thoughts; your reactions, your emotions, your impulses. If your natural reaction to a situation is to step up and do something, then step up.
Empower yourself to step up.
There is more than one type of power. Just like the definition said: power is the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way.
You have your own unique kind of power. It is found in your emotions, your passions, in what you chose to stand for, what you put your support behind, in what you say, you do and how you act. Your power is found in how you treat yourself and those around you.
There are so many people in this world who abuse their power. They use it for intimidation. They use it for self-growth, self-preservation and their self-esteem. And they will continue to, unless you stand up against it.
Let it be a catalyst. Let it empower you to stand up for someone or something. Be someone else’s champion, so they can then be a champion for someone else, and so on, and so on, causing a ripple effect of positivity and community.
No matter what your qualifications, no matter your job title, no matter your upbringing, your beliefs, you gender, your sexuality or your race; if you are a free person, if you are in a position of power, the most important life changing job you can perform in this life is to empower someone else to believe in themselves and their self worth.
Be empowered. Be empowering.