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Published
Jul 09 2013

What are the roots of feeling agency?

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What makes some people feel a sense of agency while others do not?

There are people who believe they have power, can make a difference, can affect their world. And there are people who are resolute that they cannot or perhaps don’t even think of the world in those terms.

What makes us feel that we can make a difference? Are we born that way? Are we raised to feel agency? Do we have experiences that shape our sense of power in the world? It is a combination of all that and other unseen forces?

I have always believed that I could make a difference, and I was certainly raised to believe that it was my responsibility to try to do what I thought was right and to make the world a better place. My experiences have not always reinforced my belief that I can change things that matter, but that hasn’t slowed me down in trying. For me, I think there is a core part of my being that compels me to try and makes me deeply believe that I have agency (at times, all evidence to the contrary).

For people who don’t have a sense of agency, are there equity issues to consider? If you don’t feel a sense of control over your personal safety or where your next meal is coming from, you can’t feel much power over the bigger world or even have the luxury of musing on the “what if’s” of personal agency.

But what about everyone in the middle of the bell curve – people who have addressed the basic necessities of life but don’t place themselves in a bigger world? Do they actively think that they can’t make a difference? Do they not envision what a different world might look like? Do they not think they have time or money or power or other resources that are required? Have they not been given opportunity and access to the literacies of change? Or is this all an abstraction that doesn’t enter into people’s daily thoughts and realities?

What would the world look like if more people had and exercised a sense of agency?

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