My daughter often speaks in absolutes. “You never do x” or “you always say no”. These statements are often uttered with the immortal words of “it’s not fair”. Today, she said she’d had the worst time at the park because she was hot, thirsty and she’d had no-one to play with. I was tired and I snapped at her “all you’ve done today is complain!” Taking a deep breath, I apologised. I acknowledged it was hot and that I too was thirsty and we would go and get a drink.
We talked about how we could have made different choices, from going out during a cooler part of the day, to remembering to take a drink, to asking her friend to play a different game.
As a child, she has very little control over her life. I try hard to ensure she does still have some choices. I explained to her that today she gave her power away when she chose to do things that she then regretted.
It’s not just my daughter who does this. I have given my power away on many occasions and I know lots of others who have too.
What does giving your power away mean?
Giving away your power means that you don’t believe that your feelings and thoughts are valid. It means you allow others to influence you negatively in terms of how your day goes. In short, you believe you have no influence over your life or the choices available to you.
In the scenario with my daughter, she was giving away her power by complaining all day and I gave mine away by allowing her bad mood to affect me…the difference? She’s a kid and doesn’t have the same cognitive regulation as I do.
How does giving away your power affect you?
When you allow others to have a negative influence over the way you think, feel, and behave, you might feel that you cannot be yourself or allow your voice to be heard. This stops you reaching your full potential.
Giving away your power might mean others define your self-worth, that you may have weak boundaries or feel like you have too much to do. It could mean that you change your mind based on others’ opinions or because you feel guilty. Another scenario is that you might allow others to define your mood or to bring out your worst qualities. It can keep you trapped in a victim mindset.
Limiting beliefs that give away our power might sound like, “I’m not enough”, “I can’t trust people”, or “if I’m made redundant, I won’t be able to handle it well or easily.”
How to take back your power
When you take back your power, by definition you empower yourself. Here are some ways you might take back your power:
Asking for help
You might give yourself permission to ask for help and connect with someone. A wise friend of mine who is a therapist said to me recently that there’s a saying in therapy which is “we’re only as sick as our secrets”. When we keep a secret that eats away at us we live in fear of being ‘found out’ but when we speak our truth we find power. That power comes from being courageous and vulnerable enough to reach out. In doing so we often find we are not alone.
Express what you want
There is power in expressing what we want or need (while being mindful of someone else’s boundaries). When we develop our “voice”, we’re taking back our power. Consider the statement “See you tonight!” which is more empowering than “Are we still on for tonight?” By subtly changing your language, you start thinking and acting in a new way and the act of making a stronger statement reinforces your power.
See all of your choices
We take back our power when we see that we have choices and that we can weigh the outcome of those choices without being ruled by fears, such as being unable to manage difficult feelings that might arise. This allows us to free ourselves from repeating learned patterns of behaviour, from our limiting beliefs and empowers us to know and stand in our worth.
Being mindful of your power doesn’t necessarily change the reality of your situation, and it probably won’t modify another person’s actions or beliefs (that’s not your job anyway). But, as you become more aware of how you give away your power, and as you practice empowering yourself on a regular basis, you will likely feel much better about your relationships — with yourself and with the people around you.