Are You Powerful or Just Jerky?
Have you ever done something that, immediately following, you get that icky “that-wasn’t-my-best-me” feeling? I recently I got it, and I’m still questioning what I shoulda/coulda done differently.
We’ve been in NY for about a couple of years now but I still feel like I’m learning the ropes. Things happen fast here. You need to be ready to take action . Fast. You need to be assertive. My husband coaches me that I need to be more “aggressive”. I’m all about owing your own power, but I think sometimes the line between “powerful” and “jerky” gets blurred. And one of the reoccurring tests for this can be found in the simple exercise of hailing a cab.
When we first moved here, it took me 20 minutes to get a cab. Having just moved from Dallas, where men always open doors for women, I wasn’t prepared for the competitive sport that is cab-hailing. I was naive. And this often brought out the petulant, self-righteous-girl-child in me. “Not nice! How rude!”
It did me no good. I just ended up looking like a grumpy fool standing on the corner, while everyone else was relaxing and texting from the backseat of MY cab (that they stole!).
I have slowly, over time, gotten more wily in my cab-hailing-ways. More assertive. Last month, when a group of sharp-looking-business guys tried to jump in the cab that I spent 10 minutes trying to hail, I owned my power and let them know in no-uncertain-terms, that it was mine (thank you very much!) and jumped in.
But then recently, when the L-train broke down and I spent 20 minutes underground waiting for it to run, I emerged from the subway entrance in a panic to find a cab that could propel me to the meeting for which I was late. And I did it.
I stole someone’s cab.
Someone had just jumped in the cab I had hailed moments before. I did the NY-hustle to move to a better cab-hailing position. The red-headed-woman in front of me, seconds before I got there, raised her hand. I raised mine. I was in a better position. The cab, wanting to not park in the crosswalk, drove right next to me and… I jumped in. Leaving the red-headed-woman in the dust.
That’s when it hit me. The “I-just-did-a-jerky-thing” feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Now, some people would say, “What’s the problem? That’s just what you need to do to get a cab in NYC. You’ve got to be aggressive!” And some people would hear this story and say, “Ooooooh… Kimberly…What’s become of you? You used to be such a nice person!” And really the truth probably lies somewhere in between. I’m a nice person who just did what I thought I had to do. It was “survival” stuff.
But does that make it right?
And I know, that over time, I could train myself to accept that it’s justifiable, and I suspect I’d stop getting that icky feeling in the pit of my stomach. But is that really wise?
Because maybe those “icky feelings” are our own personal compass that keeps us in alignment with who we are? Or maybe it’s just old baggage that keeps us from owning our power? Two very viable possibilities.
What I know to be true, is that I didn’t feel good about what I did. And I think, that’s where the learning is for me. Because, right or wrong – good or bad – when we’re not behaving in alignment with who we are, we can’t escape that truth. We feel it.
If we define “personal power” as the ability to have influence over others, the source of which resides in the person instead of being vested by the position he or she holds, then wouldn’t actions that are out of alignment with who you are personally, keep you from being your most powerful self?
It’s an interesting question. I would love to be able to tell you that I’m 100% clear about what I should have done in this situation. About the best choice – for my most powerful self. But I’m not.
I am glad though, that I’m asking the question.
For if someone else’s definition of “powerful” ultimately doesn’t feel good to us personally, how “powerful” can that really be?
©OnStage Leadership, 2014 (revised from post originally posted December, 2013)
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Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop. Click here to read what people are saying!
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