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Fork in the Road: Beauty's not the only thing in the eye of the beholder

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Opinion | October 7th, 2013

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The cynic in me has an easy sassy reply to the question we'll be mulling over this month: “What is power?” Between Chanel No. 5 ad campaigns and the lyrics to a rather catchy AC/DC tune, at least according to the North American sensibility, having power is equated to possessing two things in life: beauty (well, sexually titillating looks, I should say, which may or may not be “beautiful,” but that's a whole other topic of discussion!) and... money. This clearly shows you where our priorities lie, especially because with the latter you can buy more of the former, should you feel so inclined.

The sociologist in me, however, sees things VERY differently, acknowledging that like knowledge, what defines power is also bound to cultural, generational, gender and socioeconomic factors. Even within the same era and similar terrain, one group's conception of how to acquire power and what it represents could be vastly different from another's. For example, among tribal societies, some leaders are elected based on their viciousness and kill records, while in other groups power is asserted to those who are best able to maintain peace and equality.

From a physiological stance, power equals strength: the ability to lift heavy weights or run long distances. Psychologically speaking, power comes down to recognizing one's personal agency, taking charge of one's life/responsibilities and accepting one's character in its entirety — soup to nuts — through the practise of introspection.

If you look up the definition of “power” in a dictionary, a common analysis of the word states: “it's the capacity to compel others.”

This brings me to an interesting conversation I had with a dear friend of mine just the other day. Like me, my friend is extremely outspoken, opinionated and unabashedly/unapologetically herself irrespective of the situation. She is who she is. She knows her strengths. She knows her weaknesses. You either “get” her or you don't, and if you don't, her attitude is that it's YOUR loss.

Unsurprisingly (and also like me), my friend tends to get herself into trouble, given her disposition, as she's strongly opposed to the concept of “changing with the tide” to get along in social circumstances as she feels doing so is being disingenuous to herself.

Throughout our conversation, my friend further expressed to me her extreme distaste for those who are seemingly people-pleasing chameleons able to alter their views, attitudes and self-expression to match the atmosphere of any given setting.

She then noted that although she and I have highly similar personalities (i.e. she's basically me on steroids), something she admires about me is my ability to be “graceful” in social circumstances wherein clearly our personality type/views are in the minority.

After making it clear my ass is only saved half the time because there are some things I just can't keep my mouth shut about, I explained to her (wait for itů) MY definition of power. Beyond simply being able to “compel others,” having power allows you to decide if and when you will or will NOT compel others. In other words, having the “grace” to know if and when my strong personality will be accepted puts me in the dominant position, not the other way around!

I DECIDE how much of myself I will give to others. I DECIDE if the situation calls for my opinion or views. I DECIDE if the atmosphere will be receptive to my feelings. Therefore, I DECIDE how I am perceived. That is power — perhaps the most important power to possess: power over oneself also known as self-discipline, combined with the ability to analyze situations objectively.

Put more simply, Lesson #3 of this series: not everyone nor every circumstance deserves (or can handle) you firing at mach speed. As my mom would say, “Don't toss pearls before swine.”
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