Personal Power. What exactly is it? And how do you enact it?
We’ve been exploring this recently, asking three colleagues of ours to experiment with being more powerful. What follows is the recent interview with the second of those three colleagues:
Q: We asked you to choose one day a week during which you would refuse to give up any personal power. Did you manage to do that? If yes, what did you experience? If no, why? Did you conveniently forget? Did you think you were too busy? Or was there some other reason?
A: “It’s ‘No’, but I don’t know why!
“Okay; maybe it’s a combination of conveniently forgetting and being so busy just trying to keep my head above water. But it’s just as likely I thought it wasn’t possible in the first place, and also that I was too uncomfortable to do it.
The concept is delightful, but in practice, it’s pretty scary. I worry about the possible consequences and the fallout. I.e.: I might upset people; I might encounter more conflict; I might stop working with clients; I might end some relationships.”
Q: What kind of catalyst would it take to move you beyond those fears?
A: “Actually, as we sit here speaking, I’m realizing that maybe the catalyst just recently, and has been building over the past few months. The feeling I have right now is: Enough BS! I’ve experienced too much BS! That’s enough!”
Q: I know you’re angry today about some things that are going on in your life right now, so the question then becomes: is the ‘enough BS’ feeling sustainable? Or is it passing rage?
A: “As I’ve had more and more moments of accepting BS and betraying myself, my tolerance for it slowly diminishes, and I become more willing to experience the consequences of my choice to be powerful and not sell-out on myself. I guess for me, it’s more of a slow learning process.”
Q: Those words sound a bit distancing and like a bit of deflection, and I get the sense you’re still trying to avoid experiencing that ‘one day per week’ scenario of not giving up your power at all.
A: “Yes, probably.”
Q: So what would make you commit to that one day?
A: After a long pause… “Today, and this conversation. But actually, I think my commitment is going past just one day, because I’m suddenly realizing I’ve been killing my spirit slowly with self-betrayals and self-sacrifices ‒ the proverbial ‘death by a thousand cuts’. Furthermore, I’m realizing that if I do not honour myself properly from now on, I’ll feel like my life won’t be worth living.”
Q: But is this really the best day for you to make that choice, because we’re asking you to come from a place of genuine power and today you seem angry and frustrated. What I mean is, aren’t you making that choice from anger rather than from power?
A: “I agree, today may not be the day to IMPLEMENT the choice, but it might be a good day to MAKE the choice. The famous self-development expert Tony Robbins says that most big choices/changes happen in a moment. That moment is often preceded by a series of developments that bring the person to that point, but the actual decision happens in that moment when we say, ‘Enough! Or Yes, or I do’, and so on. To be clear, I’m not saying that Tony Robbins is the ultimate guru or the font of all knowledge, but I believe he has good stuff to offer, and that nugget of wisdom is one of them. What I can tell you is that this slow learning process has been taking place in me for years, and a big choice/change is happening to me right now… right here in this moment.”
Q: Do you think your worries about becoming powerful will dissipate as a result?
A: “Not necessarily, but I’m not going to let them ‘own me’ anymore… I’m not going to let my worries and my fears make my decisions for me. Instead, my decisions are going to be based on what I need or want. What I’m really trying to say is that I’m willing to experience the consequences of my decisions.
I know my fears are strong, but my decision to be true to myself ‒ to my authentic self ‒ has suddenly become stronger. Yes; maybe all my fears will come true… I might upset people; I might encounter more conflict; I might stop working with clients; I might end some relationships, all because I’m standing up for myself. But I’m finally realizing that those losses are far less important than the loss of not being true to myself.”
Q: Where do you think the belief that you had to be inauthentic… to be someone less powerful than you truly are, stemmed from?
A: “It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally looked back at my childhood and discovered that the root cause lay in the interactions I had with my parents. As a child, I came to believe (at a subconscious level) that I was only worthy of parental love if I DID the right things… the things that made the two of them happy and won their approval. I didn’t believe I was loved just because of who I was and because I was their son. The love was conditional; it had to be earned. And love, as Rachel Naomi Remen said in Kitchen Table Wisdom, is never earned. It is a grace we give one another. Anything we need to earn is only approval.
That need to earn love caused me to often forfeit myself – my needs, my wants, my sense of self-worth. By the time I reached adulthood, that pattern of forfeiting had slipped into all areas of my life. It operated on auto-pilot, under the radar screen, hidden from my view. And it caused me to betray myself on a daily basis, and on a MASSIVE scale.
I don’t blame my parents and I’m not angry at them for how they were; there was a lot of societal pressure back then to have one’s children perform/behave in a certain way, and they were new immigrants… .
Anyway, that’s the past. It’s now time for me to bear the consequences of saying, “NO” or “That’s enough!” or “Not that way” or “That’s not ok with me”. Because the consequences of saying those things are far less costly than the alternatives.”
Interviewer: It has been a privilege to witness this turning-point moment in your life. Thank you for your honesty.
Interviewee: “You’re most welcome. Thank you for the role you played in helping me get there.”