How Women Can Embrace Their Power

Tips for helping women love their power.

Posted Sep 18, 2011

I'd like to banish the widely held myth that women are uncomfortable with power, that we aren't in touch with our power or don't like wielding our power. These statements are not true, and they damage the credibility of women.

I do believe it's true that women give away their power. But first we have to have power in order to give it away.

I also believe it's true that women don't like to publicly acknowledge their power. We don't tell other people that we enjoy having power, and we brush off compliments about the power we demonstrate. We do this because we still face criticism in social and business situations if we admit to enjoying the feeling of power.

The truth is, most of us like feeling powerful. But if we can't tell people this, we are not fully embracing our power.

We like feeling in control and don't like it when others try to take that control away. We like being listened to. We like doing important work and feeling that our work is significant.

So why do so many people keep telling us, "Step into your power"? Because we have a hard time saying, "I am powerful" even though we like the feeling. We blush when people say we intimidate others and respond by saying, "Who me? How could I threaten anyone?" Then we feel badly that these people think we are unapproachable even if we secretly like feeling tough.

Therefore, if you are a woman, consider these questions:

  1. What will it take for you to admit that you have talents, skills and wisdom that people admire and recognize?
  2. What will it take for you to feel pride for the effect you have on others?
  3. What will it take for you to appreciate being put on a pedestal because you are a model for others to follow?

Are you afraid people will negatively judge you?

Are you afraid you will lose friends if you stand proudly in your power? You might lose friends who are envious of you but gain those who love your show of confidence.

Are you afraid that you will be given too much power to handle? You won't know what you can handle until you try it.

What small steps can you take today to test whether your assumptions about the bad effects of showing your power are true? If you can prove to your brain that you will be admired more than criticized, that you will gain supportive friends to replace the ones you lose, and that you can handle the increasing responsibilities given to you (especially if you know how to powerfully ask for help), then your beliefs about your power will change.

Lastly, I'd like to share an idea I heard from Pattie Sellers, Editor at Large for Fortune magazine.

Pattie has been responsible for Fortune's Most Powerful Women list since 1998. Over the years, she has interviewed the most successful and powerful women in the United States. They all seem to wince at the word power until she had a second interview with Oprah Winfrey.

In her first interview, Oprah swore she didn't like the idea of being powerful. Three years later, she changed her mind.

Pattie explained that generally when people speak about power, they are referring to the male view of "power over others" or getting people to do what you want them to do.

Oprah told her that when she realized her power was to"have an impact with purpose," then she fell in love with the idea of being powerful.

Power over others is vertical, looking down on them.

Power as impact is horizontal, influencing the world outward from where we stand.

Are you a woman of impact? Whether you are impacting your family, your work group, your community or the world, you are wielding your power. The more you accept that you are powerful, the more good you can do.

And when you embrace your power, you are better able to empower other women.

Let's redefine power so we can love it, claim it and use it whole-heartedly. Then maybe people will quit perpetuating the myth that women don't like power.

Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D. is author of Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction. She is also the president of Covisioning, a leadership coaching and training company working with a variety of people and organizations around the world to develop leaders and increase employee collaboration.