There is Great Power Within
I have been fascinated by how women’s roles change as they age (as I am aging), the power dynamic that shifts throughout this process and have been engaging in many conversations around this topic lately.
This has been on my mind increasingly since I attended a workshop entitled, “Maiden, Mother, Queen, Crone” by Wind Hughes, MA. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the idea of how we don’t just automatically shift into “Crone” once we finish being “Mother” since we now live so much longer.
Although I learned much about the innate qualities each stage contains (and how we integrate them all), there was little talk about how our culture perpetuates some of the shadow sides of these archetypes.
This inspired me to write my story and my hope is that through sharing it, and asking some questions, it might spark more conversation about these issues and how we can change our collective story.
When I was young, I had so much joy, wisdom, innate knowing and trust in myself – I fantasized about who I would marry, what I would do as a job and I felt like I could be anything I wanted when I grew up.
As my brain developed and my imaginary world became more concrete, I began to be constrained by my external world. My step-mother was very restrictive and I suddenly got into trouble for things I hadn’t known were wrong. I depended upon her for everything and began to decrease connection with my own truth.
Then came puberty and suddenly, my internal trust in myself and sense of agency changed even more drastically. I became the focus of a different kind of attention and there was power in it. I both enjoyed this and felt confused by it…but attempted to navigate it as well as I could without much direction.
Gradually, I became more dependent upon that external validation for my sense of feeling good, right, and accepted (which felt familiar as my worth was dependent upon what I did from early on).
I moved out of the house before I graduated high school and when I was 18, felt incredibly independent. The world was my oyster (as they say, though I never understood that phrase) and I had agency!
But I followed the “normal” route of going into college, dating, getting my own apartment etc, still being very ruled by others’ views of how I was.
In this way, I was easily manipulated by a culture that idealizes the young girls’ beauty but not so much her brain.
There is a biological basis for our youth and beauty culture – women who are of childbearing age and more beautiful will often be more successful in terms of mating and progenation (survival as a species has depended upon that since ancient times) but this has become a toxic trap where we give up our internal power without recognizing it. And I did.
As an attractive girl/woman, I saw how that made my life easier. I also saw how this power could be abused – at one festival, l I hung out with this “Barbie” looking girl who manipulated her way to anything she wanted as the boys drooled over her looks.
I remember noticing that and although appreciated what we were given, did not like how those interactions felt. Luckily I kept enough of my own sense of agency and was not overly attractive in that way, so I developed other aspects of myself.
As I became a mother, my identity shifted and my individuality became merged with that of my daughter on many levels.
Although times are changing somewhat, when my baby was born, I stepped into a different role in our society. My value felt dependent upon my selflessness and the focus was on my child, rather than myself.
As my daughter individuated, I had to work to develop more of a sense of myself separate from being a mother. I had not lost that entirely but still, felt a bit adrift in terms of my role in the world.
Grad school helped with this process as did losing my own mother. Although these were not easy, they forced me to look at my identity and my own mortality with new eyes…and both brought into sharper focus what truly mattered.
I have begun to notice, though that as I am aging, I receive less attention from the outside world. I am on the precipice of this new arena where I see my wrinkles and my body feels the passing of time.
I have struggled with this because I feel the difference both externally and internally, and I don’t always appreciate it, nor want it. I realized that I have enjoyed the attention and sometimes feel invisible and even somehow not as worthwhile next to someone younger.
While some of this is based on a primal need/drive to be accepted (in primitive times, we died if we were excommunicated from the group), this makes me see how much of the external societal beliefs I’ve internalized as well.
On the other hand, I have also been increasing a sense of my own agency, trusting in my growing wisdom and reconnecting with my internal world. There is great power within, when I can source from the inside, rather than out.
In our patriarchal society, women are often silenced – but what happens when they speak their minds? Do they become their own authority?
What happens when women are no longer controlled by whether someone else approves of what they do? How scary is it for a woman to step into her own knowing rather than being more easily manipulatable?
This can be threatening to everyone – and it’s not just men who feel this way. We all internalize the culture we grow up in and this is reflected in the behaviors we exhibit (and the attitudes that drive them, often unconsciously).
By bringing this topic out of the shadows, it illuminates what is happening in our world and we can shift to appreciating our unique wisdom, strength and inner knowing.
When we truly honor ourselves, we can honor each other for doing the same – and this empowers us all.