Empowerment – How no one can give it to you.
Scarlett Johansson’s speech at the recent Women’s March was earmarked in every single media lead as a “smackdown of James Franko,” but her speech contained a message far more important than pointing at hypocrisy.
In the media, it, like so many women’s voices, went unheard.
She revealed a key insight into women’s empowerment (and indeed anyone’s empowerment) as she was, “Digging deep to understand where we are and how we got here.”
The word Empowerment is defined as “Being in control of your behavior. The process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.”
Johansson said that she, “…sometimes compromised what felt right to me…compromising my voice and therefore allowing myself to be unseen and degraded…it allowed me to have the approval that women are conditioned to need.”
Compromising your truth for approval that you are conditioned to need cuts to the heart of what becoming empowered means.
“In general, if we carefully examine any given situation in a very unbiased and honest way, we will realize that to a large extent we are also responsible for the unfolding of events.”
― Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness
As I grew up I was told that becoming a man means owning your truth, walking your path regardless of cost, and at the expense of the approval of others. It certainly didn’t mean taking advantage of those less powerful, but not every man got that memo. There were other social narratives at play that were a lot easier to follow.
Johansson realized she felt a “rage on behalf of herself.” Over time, I have slowly come to realize that when my own boundaries are ignored, the rage I feel is of two parts; the lesser part for the imposed injustice, and the greater part for myself at failing to protect those boundaries. It is not an easy admission. The unempowered feel a dichotomy of rage, rage toward those who were willing to take their power merely because they could, and the rage at themselves for failing to define and defend their own boundaries and truth.
Realizing and owning the latter is the difficult part, and the most important. For women to confine their rage only to “those terrible men who did this to me,” is the very thing that will keep them, victims.
Without a realization by the unempowered, that a full part of their rage, though projected outwards, is truly reflected upon themselves, there can be no personal change such that will end their victimization.
Scarlett Johansson reveals each side of this dichotomy:
“How is it okay for someone in a position of power to use that power to take advantage of someone in a lesser position just because you can. Is that ever okay?”
“I have made a promise to myself to be responsible to my self, that in order to trust my instincts I must first respect them.”
Taking this responsibility means being willing to give up the approval we are conditioned to need.
Compromising your truth in a bid for approval and respect will never gain you genuine approval or true respect. As you choose to own your truth, be ready to give up the approval and respect of some others.
“No more pandering,” Johansson concluded. “No more feeling guilty about hurting someone’s feelings when something doesn’t feel right for me.”
This path is not easy, but it is part of becoming an empowered woman or man. Ultimately, there are no excuses and no blame that will bear fruit. No one is going to hand you your empowerment. This is what we must teach the next generation of men and women. It is only when we learn to value our own self-worth and voice our rights, that the social narrative will turn and engender compassion and respect for those with less power.
The good news is, that the approval and respect that you do receive by owning your truth, using your voice, and being responsible to yourself, will be both genuine and true. And it will be worth it.
Labels are important. The #MeToo tag means “I too have been a victimized.” I would like to think that it also means “This is about me too.”
The #Time’sUp tag seems closer to the mark. “Your time of taking advantage of the less powerful is up.” I’d also like to think that it means, “We are putting you on notice that we have decided to own our truth.”