The Paradox of Empowerment
Empowerment is scary. The idea that we have to constantly transform ourselves is very unpleasant. So also is the process of that transformation. This is what leads to what I call the paradox of empowerment which says that in us lies the ability to resist pain and suffering even though we need pain and suffering for our progress. Also, in us lies the gift of ambition to discover, explore and push limits.
Essentially, in us are two sides of a coin. The first is constantly avoiding transformation. It wants to play safe and avoid pain. It is constantly looking for fun, easy and pleasurable things to do. At the sight of pain or suffering, it triggers our body to run, hide, refuse or resist until pain or suffering is out of sight.
However, another part of us desires adventure. We want to know what it means to fly, make things, and change the world. We want to write a book, start a business, record a podcast, climb a stage, sing a song, or do any of these beautiful things. We spend time romanticizing the idea of what it means to be great. We want to wear the shoes of our mentors, heroes, and role models. We want to know what it feels like to be part of the greats but the only thing stopping us is the other side of the coin.
There is a constant battle between self-preservation and self-authoring; between pain and ambition. Many of us are drowned in this battle so much that we never go on to achieve anything. It is the battle of self and it is the paradox of empowerment. We wallow in trying to understand how we can be so scared of pain and at the same time want the reward of hard work without the pain. So we become depressed or become a victim of overthinking which most times leads to the fear of not being good enough.
But you see, we miss the point. The natural desire in us to avoid pain is a gift and not a curse. It is there not to stop you from following your ambition but rather to have you relish and appreciate the joy that comes from/after the pain. Think about it, if you are not afraid of pain, you would not appreciate how much work you put in to get the desired results you were seeking.
How will you value the art you have created if the fear of pain did not try to cripple you. How will you appreciate the work you put into the article you have just published if you did not second guess yourself? Imagine a world where creatives do not feel pain or fear. Oh, what a disaster. There would be no beauty to relish. There would be no proud moments. There would be no, “at last, I made it” moment. That is the joy of the artist, that after all the challenges and hurdles, I am here. I did it.
The Paradox of empowerment is not about enduring or avoiding hardship. Rather it is about understanding that we become the best version of ourselves when we embrace the duality of pain and joy as an essential part of a fulfilled and fruitful life. Hence, we should not because of the fear of pain, become directionless and out of control or become victims of circumstances and fate. Rather, we should learn to embrace the pain, and use it to do something meaningful.
It teaches you to embrace the chaos and discomfort because you know that within these is where rich transformation occurs. In the words of the poet Rumi:
“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”Rumi
Also, in Victor Frankl’s “Man search for Meaning, he says, “to live is to suffer, and to survive is to find meaning in the suffering”. Most importantly, our job is to find joy in the meaning.
to be continued…