Does your personal power need a jolt?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

I had three people this week ask me to do something that I did not want to do.

A nice person would say yes, right?

But I am a nice person.  And I said no.

It’s not that I couldn’t do it – I could have changed around my schedule, cancelled a few appointments, overscheduled, and put myself into a situation of stress. Saying yes to them would have meant me saying no to things I already had set up and was looking forward to working on. It wasn’t that I couldn’t – I just didn’t want to.

In my people pleasing days, I would have said yes, even if it created a burden on me and others. Like many of us, I was taught to accommodate others first at a young age and was told I should always put the feelings of others before mine. As objectionable as it sounds, I actually attended a college where if a guy asked me on a date, I was expected to accept, whether or not I wanted to go out with him.  Serving others was of highest priority.

The thing is, helping others is a good thing. Having an attitude of service toward others is a competency of emotional intelligence. But so is the competency of personal power.  And there are times that we need to stand up for who we are, for what we believe, for what we want – and that’s OK.

“Saying ‘yes’ to one thing means saying ‘no’ to another.”  — Sean Covey

Does the thought of putting yourself first make you cringe?

Personal power is a sense of self-confidence with an inner knowing that you can live the life you choose. It’s the confidence that you can meet life’s challenges and navigate difficult circumstances, having those tough conversations when needed, and speak your truth.  It’s not about being rude – or hurtful – or careless of others’ feelings. It’s the ability to do all the above in a quiet, sincere, assertive and appropriate manner.

People who have a strong sense of personal power have a calm inner conviction about who they are. They are not afraid to go after the things they want in life. They are able to tell the difference between the things they have control over and the things they do not. They know they can determine the direction their life will take and make efforts to head that way.  They define themselves as capable and can give their convictions a strong voice.

“Remember, NO ONE has the right to control your emotions, thoughts, and actions, unless you let them.”  — Kevin J. Donaldson

For some of you, you’re nodding, recognizing these traits in yourself.  If that’s the case, kudos to you.  Those around you are most likely blessed by your confident leadership and sense of self. It’s a delight to be around someone who believes in themselves and can portray that with a calm, kind spirit. We’re not talking being bossy or demanding, which often indicate someone who is trying too hard to show others they have control.  Someone with personal power doesn’t need to be the center of attention or try to control everything (or everyone!) around them.  They are solid with who they are and how they fit into the world.

But for some, exhibiting personal power can be a struggle. These folks tend to avoid confrontations even if it would lead toward resolution of a problem that’s slowing them down. They have difficulty speaking their mind, for fear of overstepping bounds or being judged, and lack confidence in their own judgement. They avoid challenges, give in easily, question their abilities, and don’t set clear boundaries. They can be labeled as a pushover or a doormat. Often, though they say yes to something, they want to say no, and end up resenting the situation or the people involved. They tend to need approval from others and fear rejection or disapproval if they say no. Is this you?

“It’s better to say no now than be resentful later.” – Chantalle Blikman

If your personal power needs a little jolt — good news!  As with all competencies of emotional intelligence, we’re talking about behavior, and behavior can be changed.  Here are some energizing tips to try if you struggle with personal power:

  • Make a list of your accomplishments. Try to recapture how you felt when you reached your goals.
  • Take note of the things you excel in, whether it be a simple task or a specialized skill set.
  • Listen to see if you put yourself down and take notice in which circumstances you tend to do that.  Next time those situations crop up, make an effort to avoid self-deprecation. If you can’t say something nice about yourself, don’t say anything at all!
  • Examine your boundaries with others. Do you let people take advantage of you?  Do they walk all over you?  This is not about their poor behavior so much that it is about you allowing them to.
  • Let your no mean no and your yes mean yes. If you do not want to do something, practice saying, “No thank you”, “I ‘m not available”, or “No, I don’t want to.”  And you don’t need to make up an excuse as to why!
  • Did you mess up on something that is gnawing at your confidence? Congratulations, you’re human!  Admit your faults then let your failures go, learn from them, and move on.
  • If you don’t know something – no need to feel shame — own it and learn to say, “I don’t know…but I’ll find out.”  If it’s something you’re not comfortable with not knowing – get out there and research the answers.
  • Can’t control a situation? Hooray! You won’t believe how wonderful it is to let go of things (and people) you can’t control. Try it, you’ll like it.
  • Journal about your best self. Dream a little dream and write down how you’d envision yourself as if you were living out that dream.
  • Learn to speak loudly and clearly so others can understand you on the first try. The simple task of having to repeat yourself too many times can tug at your confidence.
  • Consider reading a book or taking a course on assertiveness.
  • Team up with a social + emotional intelligence coach to help you make shifts toward increased personal power.

Sometimes it’s helpful to take a step back and look at yourself in third person. It is hard to see a friend not stand up for themselves and allow themselves to be walked all over. Think of yourself as a friend and treat yourself with dignity, respect, and honor as you learn to stand tall and live out your life as you desire. It’s OK to put yourself first sometimes, especially when not doing so threatens your confidence, health, and mental well-being. Practice saying no when appropriate and release the guilt that can accompany not always putting others’ needs first.

We need people who will stand up for what they believe in, speak up for themselves, and act in a courageous way according to their values. It means living in integrity and is vital to strong leadership — and this world needs good leadership! Exercising personal power gives others something to follow. Always giving in to others, especially when it’s in conflict with your values will not benefit anyone. If you’re not used to standing up for yourself, this will be difficult – I get it – a lifetime of patterns can be hard to break.  But behavior can be changed. Isn’t it high time to learn to embrace and use your personal power?

“You have a lot more power than you are giving yourself credit for.  Please embrace it.”  — Queen Tourmaline

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