When I was a little girl, I was held to a higher standard because I was the pastor’s daughter, trained to be a good example for the other children. I was quiet much of the time because I wasn’t sure if what I would do or say would be an embarrassment. I learned to shut down and follow a script. But my peers expected me to be someone different, so I learned how to be a hypocrite.
I learned to say one thing and do another. I lost my virginity at the age of fourteen because I wanted the acceptance and street credibility. I had learned the art of secrecy and was able to go on being who I thought everyone wanted me to be.
In my struggle to be perfect, I only learned how to lie to myself and to others. I had given all of my power to everyone except myself.
The Consequences of Giving Away Your Power
Holding on to your power means being confident in who you are and the choices you make, regardless of what other people think.
Seems simple enough, right?
Sadly, if you were raised in the church like I was, you were probably taught to “turn the other cheek” when you’ve been disrespected. Maybe you learned that saying “no” meant you weren’t a very nice person. Or maybe you’ve always wanted nothing more than for people to like you.
When you choose to let other people dictate your life, you miss out on getting to know the real you. Consequently, over time, you’ll lose sight of your own needs, wants, hobbies, interests, and general sense of self.
Let’s say you have a friend who’s rather needy as she’s working through her recent divorce. Sure, you love her and enjoy her company, but she often oversteps her bounds by showing up to your house unannounced, calling you at all hours of the night to complain about her ex, and inviting herself to all of your family functions. Even worse, you find that if you spend too much time with her, she starts to pick a part your looks, your decorating—anything she can find to make her feel better about herself! Worried that you’ll hurt her feelings and risk her not liking you anymore, you keep quiet and allow her to continue her behavior, even at your own expense. But after a significant amount of time passes, you find yourself angry, bitter, irritable, and resentful.
Since you’ve decided to bite your tongue around your friend, not only does your family get the brunt of your frustration, you find yourself more tense than normal. You’ve bottled up your emotions, and now you can hardly enjoy life without being on edge, waiting for her to show up unannounced or interrupting your alone time.
When you don’t set healthy boundaries with people, you’re choosing to allow them to control your mood and your relationships.
Here are just a few other consequences you risk by giving away your power:
You depend on people to control your emotions and give you self-worth.
Giving away your power means giving away your emotions—you let other people dictate how you’re going to feel. If people are treating you well, you feel happy. But if someone disagrees with you or makes a dig, it can ruin your entire day. And unfortunately, even when you get a split-second of feeling good, it’ll never be enough if you depend on others for your self-worth. Sadly, you’ll only feel as good as someone else’s opinion, and no amount of positive feedback will make you feel worthy enough.
You play victim instead of getting to the bottom of your problems.
When you give away your power, you’re giving away your ownership. You’ll no longer accept when you’ve made a mistake or own up to your problems. You’ll blame others for making you feel a certain way, instead of improving a certain aspect of your life. You’ll find any excuse to shift the focus onto someone else other than you.
You risk ruining your relationships.
You’ve heard me say it a million times, but boundaries are not selfish. In fact, boundaries are a way to enhance your relationships. Oh, also? It’s okay for boundaries to look different for each person in your life. In other words, the way you show love for one person may look completely different from how you show love for another. If you don’t speak up when someone is encroaching on your space, your values, or your beliefs, you will grow resentful towards them and risk ruining your relationship. On the other hand, if you speak up in a healthy manner, you’ll be saving any discomfort down the road.
How to Reclaim Your Power
If you recognize yourself as someone who has given away her power in the past, here are three questions to ask yourself in order to get ahead of it in the future:
1. Who has taken my power away from me?
Take a moment to consider those who you’ve given your power to. Who is getting all of your time and negative energy? Are they friends? Family? Co-workers? Random strangers? An in-law or a friend’s new boyfriend or girlfriend? Once you’ve identified these people, ask yourself this question: Do these people deserve my time and energy? If not, it’s time to set healthy boundaries (you’re probably giving them more power than they deserve).
2. What messages am I telling myself and others?
Do you often find yourself saying things like, “It’s not my fault, they made me do that!” Or, “That girls makes me so mad sometimes!” Maybe you didn’t get a job with a company you interviewed for, so you say something like, “I’m just not good enough.” The reality? No one can make you feel anything. You are completely responsible for your own emotions. True, someone can have influence over your feelings, but you ultimately decide how you carry on. And if you feel “not good enough” based on one assessment, you’re letting others have power over your self-worth. One person’s opinion shouldn’t sway how you feel about who you are.
3. How am I choosing to react?
When you’re dealing with someone who drives you crazy, you might be used to yelling at them or saying nasty things. But the minute you react poorly is the minute you give those words, and the other person, your power. Once you identify who these people are in step #1, you now have the time and ability to think through how you’re going to react when you’re around them. You may choose to take some deep breaths, walk away from the situation, or distract yourself. You may also choose to kindly say, “I would prefer we have this discussion when we’re both calm.”
It’s time to reclaim what’s rightfully yours. And trust me, it will definitely take some hard work to stop these familiar patterns, but in order to move forward with your own goals, needs, and wants, you’ll need to learn to take back your power.
Have you been giving away your power? Leave a comment below to share your story!