How We Define Power
Our culture historically has held that women should be most powerful in traditional roles that foster the growth of others such as mothering, nursing, teaching, etc. Most positions of social and financial power are still held by men. Many women fear if they use the traditional power models which are hierarchical, self aggrandizing, controlling, dominating, and potentially destructive, they will be abandoned by friends and family, and frowned on by the culture at large. Most women would be more comfortable wielding power if they believed they were enhancing the power of other people while simultaneously increasing their own power. This mutually empowering model is not how the majority of the world has defined power.
Women's views and concepts of power have not been taken into account in most studies of power. It seems important that women keep examining a feminine definition of power that is collaborative, nurturing and affects positive change in self and others. Many women would prefer to feel powerless and inadequate than risk the consequences of being seen as selfish or dominating. As a Woman's Life Coach, I have often worked with women to help them move out of "learned helplessness," and warn them at the beginning of our work together that as they grow stronger and begin to take control of their own lives, they may loose primary relationships that are based on their powerlessness. Some women prefer to remain helpless than risk these losses.
Many women believe they have power in their lives yet have no legitimate socially or economic power, leaving them vulnerable as they age. They become caught in unhealthy or even abusive relationships because they cannot independently support themselves. Women are also often the caregivers for husbands who become ill in later years. Then, when their husband passes, they are left with limited or no financial knowledge or resources for their remaining years.
It is important that women recognize the need to use their natural powers as they grow and mature. We need to help each other to understand and create a cultural awareness of a new definition of power that is collaborative, mutually empowering and enhancing. This kind of power, used in the context of the culture and world, would look for win-win relational solutions rather than domineering and destructive interventions. As leaders women require a "competent self," assertiveness and a willingness to speak up, a desire to create positive change, and a wide support network.
A New World
Once this new kind of power is embraced and understood by women, they can support one another in seeking new ways of discovering their unique gifts, exercising their natural powers, and negotiating change in their personal, professional and cultural contexts.
One Woman at a Time
When coaching women to create life changes, coaches must stay attuned to their client's foundational strengths, help them define a new kind of comfortable power, and support each woman as they create inner and outer change. As more and more women begin to understand that as they grow more powerful, they help others do the same, more and more women will be willing to take the "power risk."
Women and Power by Jean Baker Miller Wellsley College No. 1 1982
Women in Power by D. Cantor, T. Bernay, Houghton Mifflin Co., NY NY 1992
Question to consider:
In what parts of your life have you felt empowered and powerless? Not to change anything, but to at least bring it into awareness.
About the author:
Linda Lawless is one of the MomMD coaching affiliate members who represent Women To Women Coaching. They are dynamic teleconference/workshop leaders, and personal and professional life coaches who are dedicated to working with busy Professional Women/Moms who desire to create more success in balancing time and energy in work and home that will significantly impact their lives. Join a unique group of women/moms from all over the world with the courage to go after their dreams. We will be offering upcoming teleconferences through MomMD and welcome you to join us in these interactive teleconferences that will stimulate your creativity and help you be more energized. In addition, we will be posting forum questions and replies that motivate you to explore important issues. Check out upcoming events and teleconferences at our website at www.womentowomencoaching.com