Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Whole "No Power Over Me" Thing

I was planning to write this another time but it's the middle of the night and I can't sleep and I've got Farewell Continental playing on my ipod, so I guess I'll write it now.

I like to write stuff on my hands. (Bear with me.) It's a thing of mine. I scribble song lyrics on my hands when I want to remember stuff. I could argue that it's just a tic or something to fill the time but to be honest, it's because whenever I'm feeling something and I don't want to forget it, it's easier to look down and see it scrawled out in lyrics on my skin.

But recently, I've been writing something else on my hands as well.

It's quite simple, not too much of a big thing: YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME.

That's what it reads.

I first heard the line in the film Labyrinth when it was mentioned in a Rookie article about toxic relationships (which I recommend you read because it was great and also because come on, it's Rookie.) And ever since then, nearly every day, one of the first things I do in the morning is write it on my hands. (The current lyrics on my other hand, if you're interested, are It's not the way you plan it, it's how you'll make it happen from "Hello, Cold World" by Paramore.)


Those words can actually help, you know? It can be good whenever I'm walking through the world, or at least trying to carve out my little corner of it, that I can look down at my hand and see those words.

I like to think of myself as an individual. I like to think of myself as someone who speaks her mind. I like to think of myself as someone who doesn't care what other people think.

But I still do worry what other people think. That doesn't always stop me saying what I want or doing what I want, but I still do worry. And I think most people, if pressed, would admit they worry.

Sure, I worry less. I worry a hell of a lot less than a lot of the people I know. But I still worry.

And in some ways, I still fall into the trap of defining myself by what other people think sometimes. Not in the typical way. More in the I-want-to-be-different-does-this-make-me-look-different-enough kind of way.

So I was proud of being different and that I didn't care what other people thought but at the same time I cared about people knowing that I didn't care what they thought.

The thing is, it's difficult sometimes, to know who you are in all the melee. All the melee of people telling you how you should be or how they think you are. You can find yourself falling into the same role over and over or sitting back again and again because you're so comfortable with everyone else's definition of who you are, that it's sometimes kind of surprising when you work out it might not fit with your definition, anymore.

It's a strange thing when that happens. And it can mean you want to figure it out your own way. Without thinking about what other people want you to be.

And so, then it can help to look down and see those words. YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME.

Because at the end of the day, no one does. No one except you. You decide who you are. No matter how it feels, you decide who you are and no one else. It's not up to them. It's up to you.

But those words can help. And they can help with the whole "being a girl" thing too. Sometimes, it's really freaking hard to feel powerful as a girl or woman today. We've got songs telling us that guys are dominant, that we should be flattered by their attention, that we're "chicks", that we should put up with them harassing us in the street because "it's a compliment." We are taught that we should behave like ladies. I can't count the amount of times I've been told to "look more ladylike" or "behave like a lady."

I can, on the other hand, count the amount of times I've heard a guy be told to "behave more like a gentleman."

(Twice. My memory might be clouded on it, but I'm pretty sure it's about twice.)

And it can be hard as all hell to feel powerful when we're constantly being told that we're powerless. That we need the men to come and save us. That we should "be ladylike."

And so those words written on my palm can really help.

And then there's the other misconceptions. There was a quote from Ed Sheeran on Tumblr today.

I don't know the key to success but I know the key to failure is trying to please everyone.

You should wear skirts. You shouldn't wear skirts. You shouldn't wear that, you'll look like everyone else. You shouldn't wear that, you won't look like anyone else. You should be a model student and go to university and get a secure job. You should drop out because school's just another function of societal control and you should just do what you want and who cares about money? You should curse all you want because it's a free country. You shouldn't curse at all because it's not polite and it could affect how people see you. You should say your opinions because otherwise, you're a wimp. You should keep quiet because otherwise, you're pushy. You should cut your hair because he'll like you better. You shouldn't cut your hair because she doesn't want you to. You should break up with her because she's too controlling. You should break up with him because he doesn't take enough of an interest. You should be with someone, people will think it's weird if you're not. You should be single, otherwise people will think you're one of those people who can't exist without a relationship. You should hook up with a few people, you should be having fun at your age. You shouldn't be having sex with anyone, you'll get a reputation. You shouldn't wear make-up, people will think you're not confident in how you look naturally. You should wear make-up, people will think it's strange if you don't. You should, you shouldn't, you should, you shouldn't, people will think, people will think, people will think....

And it's nothing to do with them.

That's the simple truth of it. No matter who pushes every bit of this on you, it's nothing to do with them. And they have no power over you.

No matter what they say, they can't control your actions. You do. And you decide what's best for you.

And if they decide that they need to bother  you for not doing what they think the right thing is, you've found out what they're actually like and you're better off without them.

But you have the power. You can walk away if you want. It's really easy to feel trapped, like your life is going in some direction you can't stop, like you've become a runaway car heading down a road you don't know if you want to go down because other people are pushing you down that road. It's easy to feel like your life is already mapped out for you, simply by dint of what everyone else says.

But it isn't. You can rip up the map. You can slam on the brakes. You can turn the car another route. You can abandon the car and find another. You can change gears. You can change passengers. You can control your own life.

And sometimes, it's scary. Sometimes, you want to go back to everyone else controlling it. Anyone else. Because let's face it, when you're in control, when you inevitably screw up, there's no avoiding the issue. It's all on you. And that's scary as hell.

But everyone screws up. And if you're in control and you made the choices because you wanted to make the choices, then at least you know it was you who made that mistake, not somebody else making you make that mistake.

And that can be difficult and freaky and scary but maybe a lot of the stuff in life that matters is.

And whenever I feel like that, I can look down at my hand and read the letters on my palm: YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME.

I can control my life. I can decide what to do with it. And so can you.

And you can. I mean, if Sarah managed to defeat evil David Bowie and get out of that weird castle without having to be his slave and without having to go through that maze again, then anyone can.


  1. woah. i think i should start writing that on my hand it sounds like i probably need it haha

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