Power Shouldn’t Be a Bad Word

Women of the world: What are your associations with the word “power”? Are they negative, positive, or neutral? Where do these associations come from?

I also wonder, are you comfortable applying the word “powerful” to yourself? Would you describe another woman, or a girl, as powerful? Would you apply the word to a man or a boy? Or do you reserve the word “powerful” for objects like jet engines and tidal waves?

As the owner of a business called Nikki Bruno, Power Coach for Women, I’m fascinated by these questions. Some women have shared with me that the word “power” makes them feel uncomfortable or somehow turns them off. They don’t relate to it or don’t want to be associated with it. Yet, other women learn about my business and say, “Get in touch with my power? Amen! Sign me up!” And I’m signing them up.

For me personally, the word “power” has positive associations. But I understand that the word can come across as aggressive, cold, intimidating, or . . . masculine. And I understand why.

Here’s my position: I think it’s tragic that power has a bad reputation. I want women to have more power, especially in the wake of situations or events when their power has been stripped away. I strongly believe that the world would be a better place if women had more power. And I struggle with the idea that other women would disagree with me.

I want to be super clear about what I mean by power. For the most part, when I talk about power with my clients, I’m talking about personal power. This is the natural power that lives inside each of us. It’s what Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy calls the ability to access our inner resources—strength, knowledge, skills, talents, and so on. 

But my clients and I also talk about positional power, economic power, social power, and cultural power. I want women to have more of these kinds of power, too.

Now, here’s what I don’t mean by power. I’m not talking about control, or domination, or might, or intimidation, or force. And goodness gracious, I’m not talking about masculinity. 

Power goes wrong—it gets a bad name—when people of any gender abuse it. But think of how often power goes right. Power goes right when a woman gives birth. Power goes right when a teacher leads years’ worth of students toward empathy, public service, and tolerance. Power goes right when a woman defends herself and her children from an attacker. Power goes right in millions of ways every single day.

Earlier this year, I discovered that my role on this planet is to help women know and understand how amazing they are. My life purpose is to help women get in touch with their mojo, their moxie, their chutzpah. Their power.

Sure, I could call my business Nikki Bruno, Life Coach, and it would apply. I am a life coach. But how do I differentiate myself—how do I communicate the magic sauce of working with me, and how do I attract clients who would benefit from working with me—without using the word that my soul directs me to use?

Women. Ladies. Sisters. I believe that power shouldn’t be a bad word. Power is native to you… and you… and you. It’s yours to discover, to claim, and to use for good.

What do you believe?