Spectrum of Consistency: The Power People Hold Over Us

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It’s funny that the posts I intend to write are never the ones that end up being written – at least right away. There’s usually something else on my mind, something deeper that I have to dive into. Something I haven’t acknowledged in my conscious state that finds its way through this mode. Today I was hoping to talk about shame in relation to work, which is definitely coming soon, but instead, I’m going to discuss power. Specifically, I’ll be talking about the power people hold over you. Or rather, the power we allow people to hold over us.

Power is an interesting thing. As a child and growing up, I recognized it as something fatalistic; an egoic way of being. If your life were directed towards gaining power, then you were likely on the wrong path. I understood power in relation to anger. Both of them must coincide, I assumed, mostly because that’s the way I saw it play out in my own home. Power was inflated with money and anger. Power instills fear in others. In the spectrum of a black and white world, power is the most negative of them all.

As I grew, I found myself battling others in a way that I refused to let them have power over me. I was a variation between a pushover and someone who was obstinate. I became better and better at catching someone when they were trying to take advantage of me. In the same respect, I put myself down every time I let it slide and forgave them without even acknowledging the matter of fact. In some cases, I find that I really was getting better at recognizing the parasites I allowed into my life. In other cases, I was only inflating my triggers.

I was an extremist – either letting people walk all over me or cutting them out cold. There was no room for compromise. In my world, there was no reason for it to exist at all. I like giving everything I have to the people I love, but I found that I often attracted those who simply liked to take. So my theory of power therefore was proven time and time again.

In psychology, this sort of behaviour is theorized as the confirmation bias – aka, as the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of your existing beliefs or theories. I was looking for these people, attracting them, for the sole purpose of remaining consistent in my belief.

These people in my life were power-hungry, I imagined. That must be the case. And I, aloof, ignorant, and not nearly as self-aware as I am today, can only continue to get caught in their web. There are only two types of people in the world: Those who want power, and those who want freedom. I, of course, fell on the latter. That’s the way I understood things to be. It was easy, simple, and black and white. But now I understand that it’s also not true.

I think I reached a point where I was willing to be more openminded with what power can actually mean. And from there, I learned that power has its own spectrum and that spectrum is dependant on intentionality. The truth is, there is nothing simple about what this word really means and similar to success, it can vary from person to person, depending on their beliefs and experience in the world. But in general, I think of power as the ability to have an effect on others whether that’s on a small or large scale.

If that’s true, then where power is rooted from is really who you are, because as we all know, our energy transfers and connects. Our effect on others, therefore, is contingent on our relationship with ourselves. Funny how everything always trickles down to this.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we have an effect on every person we meet, and even those we just walk next to on the street. We have an effect on our friends, our family, our partners, our neighbours, our co-workers, our clients. That is power. How we use that, and what we use it for, well, that’s dependant on our own nature. It’s easy to presume a negative connotation of power, but it’s like the sun. It can give you nutrients. It can shine light on your day. It has been proven to have a huge effect on your mood. But then again, it can also burn you. It can blind your eyes. It can do a lot of damage. But experiencing any of these results doesn’t make us turn to the sun and instill some sort of persona upon it. It just is what it is. Not good or bad, but whatever you make of it.

Another example being money – something many of us, myself included, have had a negative mindset about or maybe still do. But money is just a resource. How you use it is dependant on you.

When I understood ‘power’ in that same manner, it felt like everything shifted for me. For one, I didn’t feel like I had to submit to weakness only to avoid being egotistical. And secondly, I felt this sort of strength within myself (that was always there) finally find a space to expand itself. Having this belief system not only meant holding myself back, but it also meant actively suppressing certain parts of myself simply out of fear.

Like Leon Brown once said, “It all begins and ends in your mind. What you give power to, has power over you, if you allow it.”

Courtesy and Misconduct: When to Hold on to Relationships

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I get blinded very easily. Not to say that I trust easily, but when I do, everything turns cloudy. My black and white vision suddenly becomes grey and all I can see is their rightness, even if that means that I’m in the wrong.  I don’t have a lot of pride when it comes to the people in my life that I love. Everything that comes with social conduct falls away and all I want to do is protect them from anything and everything. Sometimes that meant holding their pain for them. Other times it meant standing up for them. And then, in those odd cases, it meant leaving them behind to protect them from me.

I’ve talked about how that’s often led me to stop their growth, but what I haven’t discussed much is my own aloofness. How all of this didn’t just harm the people I love, but it also hurt me. Distractions are funny that way. Some people wander over to binge watch tv shows, others scroll up and down their phones for hours; but for me, I focus on everyone else’s problems.

I’ve been thinking about being courteous lately. Dating someone new means that they don’t always fall in line with what you’ve been used to in the past. I’m not going to lie, it did bother me. When you’ve been with people who fall under the same line, it’s a strange thing to experience something new. New behaviour, new voices, new laughter, new ways of expression. It’s a funny thing to learn about another human, to get close to another human, and then on top of that, it’s even stranger when that human doesn’t match what you are used to.

So back to courtesy. I’ve been making attempts to dissect it and what it actually means, and what I’ve realized is that it is just following societal expectations. It might just mean looking for social cues to accommodate yourself to. There are rules to dating, unwritten ones and written ones that we tend to follow intentionally. But what happens when someone doesn’t? Would you rather them play the role of being courteous, or would you rather them be authentic?

What I’m trying to get at is that I think our expectations for people tend to hold us back from new experiences. I know that mine have and I know that sometimes they still do. I also know that we’ve skewed away from the meaning of some words like courtesy for example. Something that was intended to mean politeness towards others later became mangled with the notion of chivalry.

I’ve been working on setting my priorities straight, creating a mental and physical note on what is actually important to me in any relationship whether it be a friendship, a partner, a family member, etc. What are my non-negotiables and what am I able to withstand? What do I want versus what I actually need?

In making the effort of becoming more intentional with everything that I do, I also want to apply that towards who I surround myself with. Our people have a lot to do with how we feel, what we expect, and how we communicate and think for ourselves. As social beings, there’s no way to avoid the mixing of your energies – that is unless you decide to completely isolate yourself from all of humanity for the remainder of your life. Either way, if you plan on holding on to relationships, remember that who you let into your life is a choice and you can say no (which was a hard lesson for me to get a grip on).

When you learn to accept instead of expect, there are fewer disappointments. But when it comes to other human beings, I think we have to really become clear on ourselves first. I remember going through a time of transformation when it felt like everything in my life was being ripped away from me. But looking back, I see it now for what it was: a decluttering. Sometimes we need that, too. But I think that before that, we have to know what we need and before we know what we need, we have to know who we are. Because we are always becoming, there’s always going to be the ups and downs, changing and restructuring. That’s the hard part (and the interesting part).

I think to avoid all of that gunk, we choose to stick to the standard rules of expectations that were given to us. But easier doesn’t always mean better. And I would argue that it’s actually more painful to live that way. To shut everyone else out. To hold on to belief systems you never bothered to look in to.

As Ziad Abdelnour once said, time decides who you meet in your life, your heart decides who you want in your life, and your behaviour decides who stays in your life.

something to look forward to

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I don’t pay attention to the
world ending.
it has ended for me
many times
and began again in the morning.

– Nayyirah Waheed

It would be easy for me to say that things are going well, but I think it’s more truthful to say that I worked towards making them better. These past couple of months felt like they were testing me. Each day, a new battle for me to learn how to conquer. Everything felt like a challenge. Everything felt uneasy, breakable, and anything I felt I had, disposable. It was only until I took a trip back home a few weeks ago that I came back to my sense of gratitude. I guess literally looking at the life you left behind can do that for you sometimes.

We forget, a lot of times, our progress because it tends gets diminished by our day to day routines, just like we can’t notice the changes in our physical appearance until we look back at photos of what we used to look like. In that same sense, we can forget our spiritual, emotional, and intellectual progress. The changes are so slight each day that it’s only when we take a trip down memory lane that we realize we wouldn’t make the same decisions if we went back. That our mindset, our perspective, our outlook is just different. That we, as a whole, are new.

A friend told me something in passing and I don’t think her intention was to completely change the way that I think, because it never really is. But that’s exactly what it did. When telling her about my trip back to Toronto when I had initially booked it in spontaneous fashion, her response was, “That’s really good! It’s always nice to have something to look forward to.” Something about that struck a chord with me. It was like knowing something all along but finally clueing into what it actually means.

It’s always nice to have something to look forward to.

That was it. That was the answer I was looking for without even realizing the question that was hidden in my subconscious the whole time. The times in my life when I was happiest was when I had something to look forward to. And it didn’t always have to be big. It could be looking forward to going home and taking a nice, long bubble bath and reading. It could be writing. It could be trying out a new class which I’ve been doing a lot lately. It could be spending one-on-one time with a friend. It could be booking a trip or taking a long walk in the snowfall. But it’s always nice to have something to look forward to. More than that, it gives you a boost of energy, excitement, and enthusiasm when you have something to look forward to. It puts a beat to your step. It makes you dance awkwardly alone in your bedroom in the morning. It gives you hope. It gives you meaning and purpose.

I think a lot of times, at least speaking for myself, I tried (and still sometimes find myself trying) to create purpose and meaning in my life through accomplishments that are viewed as societally successful. But the truth is, the meaning of it all is to remember that all of this could be taken away from you at any moment. The meaning is that you get to make this time whatever you want it to be. The meaning is happiness and joy. To find it within yourself and then spread it like wildfire.

I’ve been really intentional about making it a point to have something to look forward to each week. I booked a trip to Hong Kong and then Thailand. I’m spending more time with friends that I have a strong meaningful connection with. I’m actively putting myself out there, taking dance classes, going to kickboxing, trying out different yoga studios and barre classes. I’m walking around in the snow I feel followed me here to Vancouver. I’m reading new books that are giving me life. I purposefully move myself to the other side of the street so that the sun can touch my face and I can rest in its warmth. I’m writing on this blog again. All of which are things I get to look forward to, each week and each day.

So you can say that things are going well, but the truth is, I am actively working on making them better. And it all starts with having something to look forward to.

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