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Last week, we started our series on Keeping your Activist Heart Happy by learning a little more about managing stress, and about how our minds instinctively hold on to some coping mechanisms that may have been useful once, but are now outdated and sometimes unhealthy. By identifying these, accepting that we were just trying to protect ourselves, and treating ourselves with a bit of love and forgiveness, we can do the “good work” to put them to bed and start integrating healthier mechanisms for dealing with our stress.
This week, I want to delve a little deeper. I want to talk about our Power and our Whole Self.
I listened to another lovely podcast by Brene’ Brown interviewing America Ferrera, where they spoke on Identity and Integrated Leadership, specifically the second part. Let me tell you, from what I’m getting from these podcasts, the second half is always chuck full of powerful lessons. Here are the biggest, most powerful nuggets that hit me deeply.
1) “Learn how to allocate the Resource of You” – America Ferrera
This is powerful. I don’t know about you, but just hearing this elicited a whole cadre of “but, but”’s from within my codependent fixer-self. It really does come down to this: My energy does not need to be spent on every request of me.
Give yourself the permission to say NO, the opportunity to say NO. Be a bit more choosy about your proverial “spoons”. What are you good at? What are the things only you can do?
America shared that we need to be ok with letting go: “Give away a little of your control, let go of your ego and ask for help, receive that help. Become better at and more efficient at the things we need you to do, because there is only one YOU!”
2) Stop Giving Your Power Away
This is kind of an extension of that first one above, but so much more. Often times, we find ourselves seeking people to fill a void in ourselves, such as “mommy & daddy” figures who we think will fix everything for us, “professor” figures who we think hold all the answers, “child” or “helpless” figures that we think we need to do everything for, or “authority” figures who we repeatedly seek approval from, respect from, adulation from. And, often, we end up silencing or changing parts of ourselves to fit their vision of us.
America said, “No one else holds the vision for my life but me.” We need to invite those parts of ourselves to heal and come back to us.
3) Our Power Comes From Our Wholeness
We are already powerful. We have the power to change, not just our communities, but also ourselves. But things can reduce our power. Stress is one, because it can dim our light. One way to rekindle or refuel our passion & activism is to do the “good work” on ourselves to clear out the stress and the unhealthy coping mechanisms where possible. Next is to make room in our sense of self to Step Into Our Power In All Things.
Brene’ said, “We’re always orphaning the parts of us we’re afraid we can’t protect or we’re afraid will hold us back, and everytime we cut some of our power off.”
There are many reasons we might diminish parts of ourselves, but an ubiquitous reason is that the society we live in, the prevailing culture, the proverbial “air we breathe” is laced with judgment against the marginalized. As a woman in Appalachia, I’ve experienced this to some extent. Don’t be too loud. Don’t be too bossy. Don’t make more money than your husband. Be pretty, but don’t be too attractive, because their lecherous behavior is your fault. Your opinion doesn’t matter. It’s real. However, being mostly Caucasian, it doesn’t even compare to the many microaggressions any person of color might experience on a daily basis. Each of these microaggressions tell us we’re either too much or not enough, and we are often encouraged to quiet parts of ourselves, for the “greater good”.
America shared some deeply personal experiences concerning her color, her shape, her gender, and all the many expectations and limitations the world had on her, and yet she still changed the discussion, changed the paradigm in the entertainment industry. But, one of the biggest revelations she had was that, in these rooms where decisions are made, it wasn’t changing the make up, the mix of who was in the room that had the biggest impact. The strongest power for change came from within each person, first.
“I don’t think anything changes till we’re willing to see where it [what needs to change] lives in us,” America shared.
“The only way things change, within our culture, is when we are willing to acknowledge where inside OUR bodies does that [old] value system lie. Where in MY decision-making process do I favor the thighs the culture has always favored? We need to be alert and attuned within these decision-making processes to what’s informing these decisions, why do I trust X more than Y, why do I lean to this person having more power in this situation than that person… who I trust, who I don’t… When does the energy in the room shift back towards ‘We’re just going to do it the way we’ve always done it?’ Where does the fear, the battle of attrition win, the doubt take hold and things go back to the default?”
Unpack that. Sit with it for a minute.
What inside ourselves holds us back, pushes us to ask permission to be in a system, to submit to a system, versus saying NO to a flaw in that system or to the whole paradigm of that system?
If the goal is to change the way things get done, we have to be willing to delve deep, starting with ourselves. We have to change how we make decisions, stay present with it and how it makes us feel.
America said, “If we don’t become aware of it, then it’s always outside of us, the problem is always outside of us and the solutions are outside of us, and nothing ever changes.”
We can’t change the world until we identify the diminished parts of ourselves and empower ourselves to grow, integrate back into ourselves, and change, so we can bring our Whole Selves to the table, with a wholly self-integrated active community, to change our community, our culture, our world.
Deep breaths, my friends. Let’s all find a quiet moment with our quiet inner selves, share some love and self care, listen, and embrace All Of Us.
PS: Here is another piece of music that uplifts my heart, My Friend, by Groove Armada. Enjoy.