“Power is the faculty or capacity to act, the strength and potency to accomplish something. It is the vital energy to make choices and decisions. It also includes the capacity to overcome deeply embedded habits and to cultivate higher, more effective ones.”
— Stephen R. Covey
How do you view power?
Many of my clients want to ‘own their power’, and yet they have a distorted relationship with power itself.
When they think about their own power, they know it’s an important part of themselves. They also recognise that they’ve given it away, as they feel disempowered. Others feel that their power has been taken away from them, leaving them vulnerable and powerless.
These people want to feel ‘empowered’, but they don’t always know what empowerment would look like. All of their previous experiences with power have been situations where someone or something had dominance over them.
Those experiences involved a power ‘over’ something or someone else, rather than a power from within. And because they don’t want to be like the powerful people they’ve encountered before, my clients all-too-often shy away from empowering themselves.
It’s easy to understand their concerns.
We’re all surrounded by people and systems that misuse power. We see it in unhealthy relationships, corporations and systems of government that can all take advantage of people, and prioritise using their power to look after their own interests, regardless of the cost, emotionally, physically or financially, to others. No wonder we often view power with suspicion or see it as something negative. More than one person has told me that they’re afraid of ‘stepping into their power’ because they don’t want to hurt others.
Yet the only way we can become fully expressed is to reconcile our relationship with power – and in particular, with our own personal power.
What is personal power?
Personal power isn’t about money, status or influence over others.
Instead, it’s about your relationship with yourself – your own self-awareness and inner authority. It’s about being confident in who you are and what’s important to you.
Without this kind of relationship with your personal power, you’re more easily affected by the expectations and judgements of other people, and of your culture and your society.
By contrast, somebody who has a healthy relationship with their own personal power is generally:
- confident in themselves and their choices
- comfortable in their own body
- emotionally intelligent
- grounded and present to themselves and others
- responsible for themselves and their actions
- responsive rather than reactive
Notice what disempowers you
We’re energetic beings.
Everything is an exchange of energy, and this energy fuels our personal power.
Think about the language people use when they’re not feeling great:
- “I’m drained”
- “I’m overwhelmed”
- “I’m exhausted”
- “I’m running on empty”
- “I’m burnt out”
It’s the language of energy and power.
When was the first time you remember feeling power leave your body?
Perhaps it was when you were embarrassed, felt shame, wanted to hide or made a mistake?
Perhaps it was a time when you betrayed yourself and what was important to you. Maybe you didn’t speak up, or you did something that was expected of you when you didn’t want to do it.
Maybe you feel it every time you people-please or prioritise other people’s comfort over your own truth.
Regardless, it makes sense that when power leaves your body, you feel dis-empowered.
For example, someone might casually comment, “I don’t like that top on you.” If this bothers you, it will drain your power.
And if you start noticing where you’re losing your power, you’ll actually feel it leaving your body.
To stop that loss of power, you need to begin to confront the issues that drain you.
This is your journey to empowerment.
Sometimes, power drains hide in unexpected places
Now don’t get me wrong – not every ‘drain’ is due to a loss of personal power. Sometimes you might just be ‘drained’ because you need a good night’s sleep.
But before you assume there’s no connection with power, ask yourself why you need a good night’s sleep.
What’s keeping you up at night?
If you just had a one-off bad night, perhaps there’s nothing to pay extra attention to.
But if it’s a regular occurrence, then something’s out of balance for you.
Maybe you’re regularly going to bed too late. Maybe a frustrating or worrying situation in your life keeps you tossing and turning. Perhaps you’re getting up early because a ‘productivity guru’ tells you it’s better, when your body’s authentic truth is that you’re a night owl.
It can be difficult to identify – let alone release – habits, beliefs and even people that drain your energy, leaving you dis-empowered. Some of these patterns can be deeply woven into your identity, and your personal, family and cultural stories.
So the first step is to notice what, or who, leaves you feeling drained. What is it about the pattern or interaction that dis-empowers you?
Taking back your power
Once you’ve identified what’s draining your power, the next question is what you can do to prevent yourself feeling this way. Here are a few options to consider:
- Start by listening to any intuitive nudges you receive and then acting on them. No more ignoring them, or ‘pretending’ you’re not sure what they mean.
- Give yourself permission to do more of the things that make you feel like you – and then DO them. That may mean less people-pleasing and doing things out of obligation or expectation.
- Get to learn what you do and don’t like. We can be so conditioned to be a particular way that we can lose touch with what makes us feel like ourselves. Experiment, try new things, revisit things you loved as a child. Be curious as to what makes you feel more like you again.
- Begin to question yourself every time you realise you’ve said something mean to yourself by simply asking, “Is that true?” Chances are that it’s not. Maybe you’re just tired, hungry or feeling emotional. If so, address the real issue, and change your self-talk to be more supportive.
- Set boundaries and enforce them, especially with yourself. In particular, use boundaries to break unsupportive, impulsive habits that may make you feel better in the moment, but that your future self won’t thank you for.
- Don’t get caught in the trap of trying to prove yourself or prove other people wrong. We can often do this when we feel vulnerable or misunderstood and it’s rooted in a lack of self-worth. Instead, become more accepting of yourself and your choices, so that you begin to trust your experience and become more confident in yourself.
- Don’t look to others to validate you. Instead, know that you’re enough and your choices are yours to make.
- By the same token, take responsibility for yourself and your own emotions. Let other people take responsibility for theirs, remembering that you don’t need to ‘fix’ them or make anything better for them.
- Support other people – start by giving genuine compliments. Having enough personal power of your own to empower other people is a great thing. It increases your sense of self-esteem and empowers other people too.
All of these seemingly small actions may feel uncomfortable at first, but they’ll make it less easy for your own behaviours – not to mention other people, events or circumstances – to drain you.
You’ll start to feel more confident. You’ll also notice when your energy and power begin to leave your body, so you can take action to prevent it.