Owning a BMW car is not the only route to empowerment !
Power is a heady word. It brings to mind images of men and women in black suits, who step in and out of long, flashy cars and have unlimited expense accounts; or handsome actors and glamorous actresses that draw the attention of millions. The idea that we could be in their shoes is heady. Many people dream about having the same status- the wealth, influence and control these powerful people embody.
Because most of us harbor this stereotypical notion of power, we tend to overlook how powerful the people in our every day lives are. How powerful, in fact, all of us are, by virtue of the choices we make every day. Should I get married or enroll in the business college that has a seat waiting for me? Is it better to stick to the job that is draining every ounce of my energy or take a chance on finding a new one? Every choice we make reflects the feeling we have for ourselves and takes us to a higher or lower level in our lives. The reality is that empowerment is a slow and steady process that takes place when we’re not even looking. And there are lots of people that support this journey. Going back and thinking about those who have made us stronger in some way is an enlightening exercise.
Several people stand out for me. The first is my father, who insisted I study, and study, and study. “Getting married is secondary,” he would say. “ The first thing is to have a degree in hand that will enable you to earn a living.” He said this to my sisters and me when we were barely in our teens, and all three of us resented him at that time. Today, we thank him for his progressive stance and the qualifications we possess.
And then there’s my physics teacher, Mrs. Mookerjee, who converted my hatred for Newton and his three laws into pure love. She enabled me to see the logic in physics, empowering me in the process by proving to me that I was capable of scoring higher marks and doing better than the boys in my class in a subject that was considered male domain. Years later, it was Nandini Mehta, a senior editor at the Indian Express, who helped me change careers and gave me faith in my ability to become a writer. I remember walking into her office and telling her I was a microbiologist who wanted to write health articles. “ Fine,” she said. “ Go out and bring me a story on the science behind herbal cures. And why does everyone make so much fuss about fast food…. you tell me.”
Six months later, I was a regular health writer for this publication.
And my sense of self, or power, had risen significantly.
These are just three of the many people who have helped change the view I had of myself. And that, finally, is what empowerment is about for me; it challenges assumptions we have about the way things are and can be. It changes the way we view and define ourselves and finally, helps us gain control over our lives. We really don’t need to wear a black suit and drive a BMW to feel its influence.