Sunday, August 18, 2013

Waiting to Exhale

Angela Bassett

Remember the scene from the movie Waiting to Exhale when one of the characters, played by Angela Bassett, ceremoniously burned all of her soon-to-be ex-husband's processions? That iconic moment gave women a reason to cheer.  Angela Bassett's character in the movie, based on Terry McMillan's popular book of the same name, was reclaiming her power.  However dramatic, within that moment she snatched back what she had willingly given away.

The radical and perhaps uncomfortable truth is that when people treat us poorly, we are co-creators of that poor treatment.  Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."  Our consenting to giving our power away general starts in childhood when we adapt to the constructs of the authority figures in our lives.  As children, it is natural and often necessary to adhere to the rules of love and punishment our authority figures, in their own best way, structured for us.  If we were loved for being smart, we strove to get all As.  If we were loved for being of service, we served irregardless of our individual needs.  If we were loved for controlling our emotions, we trained ourselves never to visit our emotional landscapes.  Many of us continue to carry these ideals of love and punishment into adulthood even though those ideals no longer serve us.  Absent the physical authority figure, we often re-create the same standards of love from our childhood and even punish ourselves through toxic relationships, drink, drug, food, sex, shopping, people-pleasing and a host of other ways when we fall short. 

Being a former woman waiting to exhale, I now understand that giving my power away to another in order to receive love no longer serves me.  Missing in our culture is the simple study of loving the self.  I tell my youngest son when he makes a "mistake" to forgive himself, love himself and to be grateful for whatever lesson that "mistake" taught him.  What we may call "mistakes" or "failures" can be re-framed as gifts and learning opportunities if we train our minds to view them as such.  

When we love the self, we can finally let go of our childhood beliefs about receiving love because we understand that the true source of love is within us.  That spark of the Divine that resides in each of us is a wellspring that we often fail to tap.  

If you do find yourself standing in that place of giving your power away, know that you can forgive yourself, love yourself, and have gratitude for the lesson learned.  What is even more powerful, you don't have to burn the car.  More on forgiving others as a means of empowering ourselves in the next post.