I spoke this past weekend at the Power of Women in Business Conference in Chicago. A young woman asked me “how do you change someone’s perspective of you as a powerful woman when they tend to call it something else?” Well, we all know what that something else is, don’t we? Powerful women are called the “B” word (barracuda, of course). Or is it bossy?
It’s an age-old dilemma–the power trap for women. Powerful women are stereotyped as over-powering, angry, mad, strident, aggressive. The list goes on. Consequently, some women have tried to play down their power. They act as if they aren’t so smart. And whether you admit it, I’m sure you have been caught in the women’s power trap and used some power-hiding tactics to downplay your strength. I know I have.
But here’s the reality. The problem is not with you being powerful or strong, or brilliant or bright. The problem is with those who mislabel, stereotype, and even try to shame women who exude confidence and strength.
So the answer to this young woman’s questions is, “you don’t and you can’t change anyone’s perspective on you, if they are bent on seeing a powerful woman as something negative.” [tweetthis]Anyone who holds to the stereotypical belief that a powerful woman is a problem, is really the one with the problem.[/tweetthis] And until they are ready to become more self-aware about their own mindsets and misconceptions about powerful women, there’s not much you can do to change their mind.
So don’t fall for the lies about women and power. Don’t get tripped up in the trap. Instead, Visualize, Internalize, and Utilize the power you have.
Visualize–Look Within To Your Power Source. I really believe power is a spiritual force that starts from within each of us. It is delegated to us by God, and is manifest in our beliefs and values. This power gets cultivated through prayer, meditation and other spiritual disciplines as we listen to the Spirit within. Through the lens of faith we see the powerful woman being called forth to serve, work, and lead. When you know who you are and are comfortable in who you are, you influence people through your very being. People take note of you. You show them through the strength of your character who you are. They sense the confidence that comes from you being clear in your identity, being competent in your skills and gifts and being comfortable in your own skin.
Internalize–Define Power for You. There are many definitions of power, but the one I like best is power is the ability to get things done. Power is the ability to influence. You must define it for yourself in concrete terms. For instance, a powerful woman has the ability to get work down and to influence others. A powerful woman may be a business owner who gets things done for her clients and influences colleagues. A powerful woman may be a corporate ladder climber who gets things down for her company and influences her superiors. A powerful woman may be a community organizer who serves the under-served and influences policy makers. A powerful woman may stay at home to raise her children, gets things down at home and influences her children and other parents. Never let anyone’s stereotypes or limited thinking box you in.
Utilize–Use your Power On Purpose. You have power for a reason. You are called to use your power to get things done: to influence others for good. You have power to create, inspire, motivate, help, love, care for, nurture, direct. Your power is merely a resource you tap into to fulfill a grand purpose. No on can take that from you. And you really can’t hide it.
So women, stop masking your power and trying to change how narrow-minded people see you. Instead, show them who you really are by how you use your power.
You may know a woman caught in this power trap. Share this post with her and invite her to follow this blog. This is the site to inspire the leader in each of us.
(c) 2016 Dr Jeanne