“You don’t understand your power, your influence.” The tears were streaming down my face, I was in a seated fetal position and I was choking back sobs as I heard these words. This was not the first time I had heard these words and while my tears may have been coming from a place of hurt feelings, the pain that resonated more deeply was from a place within myself of knowing I was not truly owning my power. In that moment.
As caregivers, we take a backseat. As women, we take a backseat. We give to others before we give to ourselves, we figure out the best role to play within the healthcare team and we sacrifice our own words to decompress a situation, to soothe a suffering individual and in that moment move towards solutions of steady waters for a greater purpose. It’s a difficult balance, being humble and confident, having a voice and knowing when to use it, owning your strength and saying thank you versus brushing it aside. While it may be a humble thing to be gracious, be silent, be kind, it is another to dismiss what is YOU.
I remember the first time I allowed my power to take a backseat. I was a junior in high school and I decided to run for Student Body Secretary. Before we were to give our speeches to the student body, I found out I was running unopposed. Yes, unopposed. I thought, this is wrong, they’ve miscounted, but no….It was just me. I got home and told my Dad and sort of giggled in my high school, almost senioritis attitude, of “BOOM, bitches, take that.” He noticed the swagger and gave me the lesson in humility. He told me I would write a speech and frame it around the theme of voting for me because my peers wanted to, not because it was the only choice. I gave the speech and what came back at me were confused looks, crazy glares and me feeling idiotic. Dim light, check.
The next light check came my senior year of high school. I had worked my ass off, pretty much always, but especially my senior year of high school. I grew up fairly poor and knew if I wanted to get to college, I needed to get that money on my own. I filled out hundreds of scholarship applications during the year and hoped that any amount would help my hardworking parents send me out of Elko, Nevada. The night of the awards ceremony, I took my seat in the auditorium and opened the program. There was my name, again and again, scholarships and awards alike. There were times I wasn’t even back in my seat, when my name would be called again. Yes, I thought, YOU GO GIRL. The next day, I was met with backhanded compliments, half-hearted congratulations and “well you know, it’s only because she’s a Gilligan.” My family is well-known in Elko, but that had nothing to do with it. I was deeply hurt, I was utterly confused and my sense was….just dim your light girl. Fade in, smile and nod and just shine “enough.”
I have always known my own power, but I haven’t fully understood how to let it shine in its fullness with humility and grace, vulnerability and courage. As humans, it is not in our nature to lead the pack. It is in our nature to move with it and if you know your power and are leading the pack, there are some that will not understand it, misinterpret it or just flat-out be hatin’ on it. Know that as a caregiver, of yourself and others, you have a divine right and honor to not only know your voice, but use it.