Six Ways We Give Away Personal Power

Shayan Qadir Blog Leave a Comment

Power runs every aspect of our lives.  I’ve been paying more attention to how I use power and have noticed that how we define, perceive and use it differs massively.  In this post I will explore six ways we give away personal power.

Based on our experiences, we tend to perceive it as either good, bad or neutral.  Often we don’t realise our relationship with power until we consider how it shows up in our lives on a daily basis.

When we see power as neutral, we can step back and see it objectively.  Then how we decide to use it makes all the difference.  Like electricity, it can be used to power a city or launch a nuclear bomb. A universal definition for power is:

The ability to get what you want, given what’s available
With this definition, power is purely an internal ability.  It cannot be hoarded or stored and no one can truly disempower us unless we let them.  In the words of psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Victor Frankl
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Power comes from our ability to make a conscious choice about our response in the moment.  This means stepping outside of our habitual reactive patterns.When we’re lost in the past of how things “should be” or in the future worrying about what “might happen” we’re powerless for the moment to make a new choice.
There are no set characteristics of a powerful person.  Someone can demonstrate their power by their visibility and how they lead a group.  It can also be subtle and unspoken, like a parent who allows their child to explore and make mistakes within safe boundaries.

How We Give Away Personal Power

We are all born powerful to get what we want. Equally we are taught at a very early age how to disempower ourselves.  This is usually done with the best intentions, but in our pursuit of love we lose our ability to use power effectively.  Here are six ways we give away our power:

1 – Approval Seeking

By constantly seeking validation from other people, we’re communicating ‘I am not good enough, I need you to give me power’.  Being reliant on others to empower us leaves us open to manipulate others and be manipulated to try and meet our needs.

By learning to support and empower ourselves, we’re less reliant on others to feel powerful.  This allows for more authentic relationships where we empower each other, instead of using each other.  Truth is, there’s no way we can please everyone.

2 – Putting Others First

We need to fill up our own cup before we can fill up others.  In fact, i’ve learnt that my cup needs to be overflowing so I can give it freely to others.  By putting someone else’s needs at the expense of our own, we give away our power.  This inevitably leads to resentment since we find that others cannot give us the power we need to give ourselves.

When you’re someone else’s prime support, it’s even more important that you take care of yourself first.  If you’re not giving yourself the best, how can you give it to others?  Like the safety instructions on a plane, put your safety mask on first.

3 – Avoiding to Say No

No is an incredibly powerful word.  Avoiding to say it links back to approval seeking.  Not learning to say no will spread you too thin and drain you.  When you can’t say no to the things you don’t want, how can you say yes to the things you really do want?  An unwillingness to say no means settling for mediocrity.  In the words of Warren Buffet:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

If people can’t count on you to say no when you aren’t available, how can they trust your yes?

4 – Asking For Permission

We too often believe we need the permission of others to live our life.  When it’s clear you need permission, always ask.  However when ownership and accountability is ambiguous, consider taking a risk through action.  If you are correct, you can continue.  If you’re wrong, you will learn from your mistakes.

5 – Not Knowing What You Want

Until we can identify and give ourselves full permission to get what we want, there is little likelihood we will get it.  Our power is lost when we are scattered in too many directions, instead of focusing it in one direction.  Having an aim and consistently developing a discipline towards achieving it is incredibly empowering and inspirational for others.

6 – Blame

Whether it’s the job, family, partner, economy or government, blame gives away our personal power.  It blocks our energy from finding creative solutions and focuses us on how we are powerless.  It keeps us trapped in a loop instead of finding lessons to be learnt which can allow us to move beyond the situation.  If you’re ever feeling powerless, ask yourself the question:

How am I powerful in this situation?
This helps focus us back on our ability to choose differently and creates space for new creative solution to emerge. The more we value our uniqueness and see a situation for what it is, the more likely we will be able to use our power to make the changes we want.  Knowing how we are unique in each moment helps us discover our true power to live more creatively and effectively.

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