To Whom Do You Give Your Power?

Dedication: It's International Women's Day, so I dedicate this post to my Mom and to all the women in my life who have encouraged me to be a strong, independent and compassionate woman.

I love kaleidoscopes because they remind me that in an instant, everything can change. In many of the “kaleidoscope moments” of my life, I have been able to see long-held beliefs or fears in a new and completely different way. So what does this have to do with our personal power, and how we give it away?

Two years ago, I wrote a draft post called “Do they hear you?” The point of the post was to raise the question of what we can do to ensure that our voices are heard in family discussions, board meetings, community gatherings, and anywhere we believe that we have something important to say. I never published the piece because it sounded a bit whiny and I (almost always) try to avoid whining. Here is an excerpt from that draft post…

……….I invite you to revisit the conference with me. A physician with impressive credentials, a bright and articulate women, was featured on one of the panels. Other panelists included two bright and articulate men, and once the discussion began, the dynamic was painful to observe. During the discussion, one of the male panelists actually moved his chair forward and leaned at an angle so he was facing the moderator and blocking the physician from the moderator’s view. When the panel ended I made a point of speaking to the physician, telling her that I found her contributions noteworthy. “I couldn’t speak over those men,” she said. “Did you notice how they dominated the discussion?”……….

Fast forward to a recent conversation in which I listened as a friend, let’s call her Anna, told about ending a significant relationship in her life. Anna is strong, talented, creative, and an accomplished professional in her field. But in her relationship, she handed much of her personal power to her partner, and her life at home was not as fulfilling as her life at work. Not so many years ago, this was also true for me.

In thinking about Anna and about several other women I know who are facing major transitions in their lives, the physician panelist came to mind. And in a kaleidoscope moment, I realized that she allowed those male panelists to speak over her. She did not choose to interrupt them when they interrupted her, she did not choose to call out the moderator for not enabling all voices on the panel to be heard. What I had witnessed that day was a brilliant and successful woman give her power away.

Our personal power is ours to use or relinquish, so here are some questions for each of us to consider…

… In what situations am I consistently aware of my personal power?

… In what recent situation/conversation did I hand over my power? To whom did I give it, and why?

… Are there any situations in which I feel I have no power? Do I understand why?

… In what recent situation/conversation did I observe someone else give way her/his personal power? Is there a lesson for me? Is there an observation I am willing to share with the person who handed over her/his personal power?

If you choose to give your power away, commit to asking yourself “Why?”

p.s. I have also posted this at

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Sharon Kathryn D'Agostino