“Are you a good witch?” The question wasn’t so much asked as barked at me, the producer’s voice sharp and demanding. Everything inside of me groaned.
I would bet that most of you are familiar with that sing-songy question a la The Wizard of Oz: “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” Really, I can’t think of any situation where that’s a fun question to be asked – if you’re actually a Witch. Sure, there’s that whole public-image thing – decades of trying to show we’re not scary, evil, or fulfilling other fantasy stereotypes. The last couple of years have been full of blog posts and articles in the community debating whether or not that’s a good thing. But that’s not what I want to talk about.
Rather, let’s talk about personal power vs. expectations and the desire to please. Because I’m pretty sure that’s how I got into the above situation in the first place. I was dealing with this person because I was trying to please someone else, despite my gut feeling. It’s also a character flaw/ingrained behavior a lot of us fight with.
I love helping people, seeing them happy. I enjoy creating opportunities for others to grow and shine, teaching and expanding knowledge, sharing art. It’s pretty much my default mode, and generally works out well. But sometimes the people-pleaser in me gets me into trouble.
One of the Major Arcana cards that often comes up for me in a reading is The Empress. To me, this card speaks of a woman in a position of power, in charge, able to make things happen for others, to grow. But her flip side is that she has a problem saying no. And when you say yes to too many people, suddenly the Empress is no longer sitting on her throne, and she can’t rule effectively. Her attention and time are divided, her power reduced or drained.
Society has long tried to train women to be pleasers: be a good girl, follow directions, don’t cause trouble, put others before yourself, don’t be selfish, keep the peace. (FYI – I’m not saying society doesn’t screw with men either, it definitely does, but I need to speak of my personal experience here.) It becomes so embedded that it’s near instinctual. We try to please our parents, our teachers, our partners, our friends, our bosses and coworkers, and even people we don’t know. While that can certainly be very nice, especially for others – we’re often doing harm to ourselves. It’s great to help and take care of others, but you can’t do that if you don’t take care of yourself first. Part of taking care of yourself is being mindful of your own power.
This truth applies to mental, physical, spiritual, social, and metaphysical well-being. To maintain a healthy level, you need to make conscious choices about how you use your energy. Yes, you CAN try to make and bake twenty varieties of cookies all at once, but they’ll probably turn out better if you choose to do 1-3 kinds instead. Same is true for dealing with people. (Yes, everything is about cookies.)
Before instantly saying yes to things and people, take a moment to ask yourself:
-How much energy does it involve for me to do this? Is it something within my means and wheelhouse, or will it take a lot of extra time, materials, brainpower?
-What are the likely short-term results? How fast/quickly can the thing happen, does it solve a problem, or create more?
-What are the long-term implications? Is this a relationship or behavior you want to foster?
-What are the benefits? For them, for you, for the big picture?
-Are you considering doing this because it’s something you truly feel you need to do, or because you feel obligated?
The reality is that not everyone who asks you for something has your best intentions in mind. Simply, they’re thinking of themselves and their own needs. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, or that you should seek to have an equal exchange of energy always. Rather, some people will ask without thinking or considering the consequences – for anyone. Children do that, because they don’t know better or understand yet. Adults do it because they refuse to have agency or think beyond themselves. Helping them is like pouring a glass of fresh water in the ocean versus watering a plant. It’s wasteful and pointless.
You can try and be a “good witch” and help everyone out all the time. Or you can shoot for better, and lend your energy where it counts the most. It means saying no, it means disappointing and possibly angering some people. But you need to care of you, otherwise you’re not going to accomplish much. You need to follow your own expectations first and foremost.
So my answer to that infamous question at the beginning?
I said: “I’m an effective Witch.”