Powerful- The Indian woman’s guide to unlocking her full potential by Nirupama Subramanian, Excerpt

Powerful by Nirupama Subramanian
Powerful by Nirupama Subramanian: Changing the conversation from how stereotypes shackle women to how they can enable them, Nirupama Subramanian in Powerful: The Indian Woman’s Guide to Unlocking Her Full Potential uses the wisdom of archetypes to provide practical advice to women to claim the powers they need to achieve their goals. An Excerpt:

My story of powerlessness

When my daughter was 8 months old, she fell badly ill with a severe case of e-coli infection. The nanny who was looking after her had to be hospitalized for emergency surgery. It was a harrowing time as I ran from two hospitals to office and home trying to hold everything together. I felt both helpless and angry.  Guilt and shame drained my energy at home and work. I quit my job and vowed never to be in such a situation again. A part of my identity as an economically independent supermom had just collapsed. I felt like a failure.

Are we really in a brave new world?

We believe we are in a brave new  world. We believe that the glass ceiling can be broken. We   want to integrate with the rest of the world and embrace ‘modern’ values without letting go of  our traditions. Many women are heading companies and thriving as doctors, lawyers, performing artists and  entrepreneurs.  Yet, we face challenges that are a little different from those faced by men. Women struggle with different questions.

Should I fast on Karva Chauth even if I don’t believe in it?

How can I disagree with my boss when I have been brought up to obey elders?

Will be a bad mother if I leave my child at a creche and go to work?

How women have been kept from power

In the East, especially in the Indian subcontinent, the subjugation and repression of women has been  more subtle, more insidious. The practices to keep women from power have become cultural norms stemming from deep rooted beliefs and women have been coopted successfully into their own repression. Our myths and stories are also full of cautionary tales, stories of crime and punishment, of rewards and redemption for virtuous women. These have successfully been coded into our DNA, become a part of our cultural blueprint to the extent that these practices seem almost ‘normal’.

There are four main strategies used by the powerful to retain power and prevent the others-the underclass, from even staking a claim. These four have been used intensively and extensively by the system of patriarchy in our culture.

What are archetypes

Archetypes are fundamental structures of the psyche. They exist in the collective unconscious and are encoded into the human brain. We can spot these patterns everywhere, even in the gender socialization that occurs in every society as children grow up. In the West, baby girls are dressed in pink and boys in blue. Girls are given dolls to play with, while boys play with fire trucks. Both boys and girls are told how to behave and what is expected from them. Socialization happens through storytelling, role modelling and enforcement of gendered norms by the authorities—parents, teachers and elders.

How do we  become powerful?

The journey to power is not about grabbing power along the way, or making it to the list of the ‘Ten Most Powerful Women in the World’. It is not about toppling men from their pedestals or taking their place. It is not about being a badass or kick-ass or a she-devil. There is a difference between being in a position of power and feeling powerful. Becoming powerful is about a personal transformation that makes the most of your unlimited personal resources.

All of us have experienced those highs in our lives when we are in the flow, completely in the moment, experiencing joy and connection. We feel invincible, we feel we can do anything. There are no blocks to our power. We are doing exactly what we are meant to in this universe. This is power.

Becoming powerful is a choice. It is not just about managing one situation alone, it is a journey to becoming the best whole version of ourselves.

The six archetypes—Kanya, Apsara, Veera, Rani, Ma, and Rishika—are also guides for the journey to becoming powerful. Knowing about the powers innate in us and understanding the powers represented by the other archetypes, is important. Imagine you are going to a strange new land. It helps if you have a map, have some understanding of the language and some tools to navigate the new territory. Instead of blundering in this new land and learning only by trial and error, you now have something valuable to help you.

Excepted with permission from Powerful: The Indian Woman’s Guide to Unlocking Her Full Potential by Nirupama Subramanian published by HarperCollins.

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