It takes courage to stand up to authority. Even more so if you’re a woman. I know.
As a teenager, my Dad would shout at me aggressively for the simple “impertinence” of proffering a different opinion. Occasionally, he would hit me. Once, he thwacked me round the face so hard, I landed on the floor with my jaw locked in place.
This, I realised - shockingly recently - was abuse.
It makes me sad to remember this. I’d been an exuberant, gifted, smart and sassy girl – a leader, a creator, brimming with ideas and potential. I’d attended a forward-thinking, international school, that encouraged me to question everything and fully express my uniqueness.
But then we moved back to the UK (from Germany), where for a few brief weeks I completed my primary education and was fairly and squarely put in my place by an authoritarian teaching ethos, that told me I had to trade my beloved jeans for a skirt, “because I was a girl” and I couldn’t ask questions - because the teacher said so.
My parents didn’t support my feisty outrage and demands for non-compliance, telling me to suck it up and obey – like a good girl.
For the first time in my life, my spirit felt crushed. And so my conditioning into compliance began.
For some reason, it hadn’t bothered my Dad what I said, when I was a girl, but the minute I blossomed into puberty – menstrual blood, curves and a burgeoning intellect – he couldn’t take it.
In the arena of his increasingly controlling and abusive behaviour towards all 3 women in the household, the vibrant young girl I had been morphed into an introverted teen, who blushed if she had to speak up in school, even though her mind and gifts were formidable.
I’ll spare you the full-length account of my subsequent search for authenticity and empowerment.
Suffice to say, even though I got to an outstanding University (the first in my family), even though I started work in a top management consultancy, even though I founded my own successful business, I never felt fully at ease in my skin, had boundary issues and avoided conflict like the plague.
If I had to speak up to defend myself in the rare instance of a perceived injustice, I usually burst into tears instead of showing any anger. I felt scared, especially of authority figures or men, who physically resembled my father.
Healing and integrating all of this has been an ongoing process, that I would happily have side-stepped, had I not swerved onto the awakening path almost 20 years ago.
And so, life kept bringing me opportunities to reclaim my power: a boss, who harassed and threatened me; being bullied by a fellow Nia teacher; entering into co-dependent relationships and – most recently – advocating for my dying Mum in the face of my bellowing, instransigent father. LOL !
I’d like to say that it was a simple case of “see it, say it, sort it”, but if I’m honest, this has probably been one aspect of my shadow I’ve found hardest to come into mature acceptance and balance with. Neither reactive, nor submissive.
I’ve had to see and own all the ways I avoided conflict, made nice, wheedled to maintain connection, chose the easy option, deferred to another, swallowed my truth – and felt diminished in my being as a result.
Not because I’m a bad person, but because the wound of that childhood trauma festered deep in my unconscious. Keeping parts of me girlish. Encouraged by a culture that teaches compliance and a society, where grown women – or men for that matter – are few and far between. (And yes, I mean psychologically and emotionally if you’re wondering !)
I guess push came to shove, when I got entangled with a narcissist a few years ago. It was an unavoidable wake-up call at the hands of Goddess Kali to own my fucking power.
And it was the first time in my life that, eventually, I stood my ground and allowed the full force of my fury to erupt through me and out in words towards a physically imposing older man.
My fierce feminine power had risen in the past to defend my children. That was easy. But now She was finally rising to protect me!
Fast forward to the present day and a situation, that is compelling me to stand in my integrity, because I simply refuse to abandon my self as I used to any more.
I’ve had to overcome my Libran preference for being liked and maintaining harmony, and face my residual fear of authority by going shopping without a mask and – a week ago – joining 1000s of others at a Freedom rally in Trafalgar Square.
Discounting government guidelines and standing against the tide, not only of mainstream public opinion, but also my family, neighbours, as well as certain friends and students.
I’ve felt compelled to speak out publicly, thus exposing myself to all kinds of reactions, including the loss of a treasured client.
This isn’t me on a power-trip, but me acting from a soul-sourced imperative to stand in my authenticity at this time of great spiritual and social change. Yet, ironically, it is in that, that I am discovering more of my power.
Perfectly timed, as I’m teaching that very topic – Authentic Power & Sovereignty - in my Awakening Shakti Online Group Programme right now; I’m living and learning the question: how do I embody true power and self-responsibility as a woman?
I’m seeing even more clearly all the ways our society and culture condition us to acquiesce.
To trust and fear authority, whilst relinquishing our bodily and psychic autonomy.
To remain emotionally and spiritually immature in our dysfunctional relationship with father state.
Teaching us a paternalistic model of leadership that has us clamouring for heroes and saviours or blaming the elite, yet not stepping up to be what we’re demanding.
Nor recognising our inter-dependence – with all of life.
I recognise in myself, still, the ancestral memories of the Priestess, who was betrayed and the witch, who burned.
Those encoded tendencies to shut my mouth and submit to the leader. Fear of death.
I’m honest enough to say that I’m still doing the work, yet wise enough to reject anyone, who claims to know it all.
I see now, that authentic power isn’t what my father modelled: who can shout the loudest or coerce most compliance (through violence or fear), but s/he, who dares to stand true to self, honest, humble and open-hearted.
Who dares to ask questions and voice what they really believe, even when everybody else speaks differently. Even if there might be consequences.
But also, s/he who listens. Arrogant certainty is prized by patriarchy, yet all too easily tips into tyranny.
As a woman, I claim the awesome power of my body’s intelligence, loving heart, sacred feminine energy, intuition and receptivity. Finding there the transformative force and grounding wisdom that, yes, is still largely discounted or misunderstood, but which I know without a doubt is the rocket-fuel for our global awakening. Working hand-in-hand with my brilliant mind. Anchored in and through presence.
I know it’s far easier to turn a blind eye, stay cosy, take no risks or keep on repeating old patterns. But that’s a path that sickens the body and erodes the soul.
Life is calling us to awaken. We can’t do that without saying YES! to our power.
As I write these final lines, I notice I’m sitting in my late mother’s armchair. A woman, who lived her life a victim. She showed me what I didn’t want to be. She couldn’t muster the will or courage to say YES. But I hope that in some small way she’s cheering me on now.