Grappling Power: What is power and how do I access it?
The first law of thermodynamics, also known as Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.
Power is work over time elapsed.
These are metaphors for power, accessing it and bestowing it.
The way physics breaks down very complex ideas into digestible concepts is a metaphor for how power is accessed and distributed. It shows the importance of having complicated ideas that can be made accessible to the world. Well-revered geniuses and political scholars such as Angela Davis, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison believe ideas belong to everyone, so they work all their lives to condense their ideas, so they become compelling and contagious.
I hold the personal belief that power is continuous work over a period of time that is earned. Any power that is forcefully taken, is unnatural and with time will fall and be transferred to those that have worked and earned it over time. I am a Libra and I couldn’t think of a better sign to represent me. The scales of balance. The world functions due to everything working in harmony, in a fine balance and I believe power between humans and society also must strike a balance. If there is an imbalance, structures topple over. For example, I am Nigerian, the power imbalance of Britain in Nigeria is something that I think about a lot, it makes me extremely angry. The imbalance existed (and persists) for many 100s of years but eventually, the power balance had to shift slightly and that is why Nigeria is an independent country today. They fought to get back that balance. The effects of colonialism still affect Nigeria because Britain through new methods still stand to maintain this power imbalance.
My personal journey with power is difficult, seeing it misused by those around me in school and the workplace growing up warped my internal perception of power and who wields and bestows it. It seemed for a long time the police and teachers had the power to predict my future and change people’s perception of me and this at times made me feel powerless. I am in a much better place to use that hindsight to advocate for others. I know that ultimately my journey is an extremely fruitful endeavour and an experience I would have regardless. Sour Lemons has accelerated the process of stepping into my power by showing me that investing time and energy into myself is worthwhile. For that, I will always be grateful. Grappling is a good word to describe the relationship and journey I am on trying to access my power. Before I could truly grapple with my power, I had to grapple with self-doubt, trauma, abuse, society and its treatment of black women, something I am still managing today and probably always will.
My power is in my grasp but acknowledging it’s sheer expansiveness is the next step on my journey. Sour Lemons is enabling this journey through the therapy sessions I’ve attended where a professional can hold up a mirror and help me reflect on myself, my experiences and work through doubt. Support from the Making LEMONADE members and Sade when I feel alone or when imposter syndrome threatens to ruin an opportunity. The guidance given to me by my mentor when navigating new situations and exposure to the knowledge of possibility held with institutions and the world.
I spend an unprecedented amount of time as a result of the programme and innate curiosity, especially during quarantine, thinking about where power is, who has it and how we can access it. I now understand that it lives within me, outside of me in the physical (what we see) and in the collective community. It’s a concept that I’m still wrapping my head around, but I am understanding the subtle and important difference between each type and how to tap into each one. This is what I have come up with regarding tapping into each one:
Self-care: As Sade constantly tells us, you can’t pour from an empty cup. So, to transfer energy that becomes ideas that you spread with everyone with the power to change the world you must first have that energy within. So, taking care of yourself by keeping healthy (whatever that looks like for you), maintaining strong boundaries and listening to your body is the key to tap into your personal power.
Therapy: This isn’t accessible to everyone but if you can get it, I would highly recommend it. Earlier I spoke about having to grapple with lots of different things before getting to grapple with the magnitude and extent of my power and what that means. Therapy in its many forms makes sure you don’t fight that battle alone and an expert can help you navigate difficult feelings and events that may be barriers to you embracing your full power.
Exposure: Exposing yourself to as much knowledge and reading (or audio) of power structures that exist and have existed in the past. Understanding the path that a variety of people have taken to get power can enable you to tap into your own.
Self-care: Similar to above but worth mentioning again as when you feel good on the inside it reflects the outside. This may also seem simple but when shopping for clothes to match your internal power pick places that validate you and make you feel good. Avoid places that will wear down your self-esteem. For example, as a 6ft2 woman, most of the high street does not make clothes for me so I stick to the places I know will have clothes that fit me and have surroundings that will bring me joy. The key message here is picking your battles where possible to maintain your internal energy.
Understanding of privilege: It is important to understand how you navigate the world and the power you externally hold in society and how some privileges are afforded to you. For example, as a cis-gendered Black woman, I understand society is taught to treat me as a second class citizen, however, being abled body I have the power to move and navigate an ableist world so this privilege/power means I must acknowledge this and use this power to elevate others without this privilege to make society better for everyone. By making a society where everyone can participate, we can tap into collective power.
Understanding of the human experience: Understanding and openness to all people and all of our nuanced differences when creating and building ideas will help tap into collective power when everyone involved can feel they can access it. Seeing people as individuals is important to later create a powerful collective.