This blog is designed as a place to start on your journey of reclaiming your personal power, understanding what that is, and understanding how it affects you in your life.
1. Know who you are
2. Use your voice
3. Assertive vs Aggressive
Where ever you learned to, "Do as your told.", "Don't ask questions.", "Keep your mouth shut and follow instructions." are the same places you learned to give away your personal power. Put another way, you learned that those making the rules know more than you do, that your voice isn't that important, and that you should be ashamed of yourself for thinking otherwise.
Having said that, this post is not intended to put-down any person or situation that taught you this. There is a prevalent philosophy in parenting, running businesses, and certainly functioning in a time of survival (such as the military/war) that calls for this kind of structure.
The point of this post is to assist all those interested in moving beyond this approach, because your life can be negatively affected if you don't. Here is a picture of what I mean: If you are in a flash flood, and the rescuer is giving directions, almost everyone will listen and do as they are told. This is an emergency, and everyone wants to be saved. That worked nicely and everyone is now safe. However, now you are not in a flash flood. You have no emergency, but you go from relationship to relationship expecting your partner to give good instructions and take the lead, but he/she keeps letting you down. You are not in a crisis, you are in a situation where you need to be able to lead yourself. It is not your partner's fault that you have not reclaimed your personal power.
Let's get started on this journey.
Know who you are
It is a funny thing to say, "Know who you are.", but many of us were taught who to be, how to think and the "right" way to respond or believe in many situations. If you have come to a point or a cross road in your life where you want to understand more about yourself and decide for yourself who you are, what you believe and where you are going, this is a first step in reclaiming your power over your life and your life decisions.
Exploring who you are today and who you want to be tomorrow is definitely a reason people seek out a therapist - a professionally trained person who can help guide you on your self-exploration journey. Here is a link to one of my previous blog posts on how to find a therapist. Of course, you can start your journey on your own. Becoming aware and making the decision that you are in charge of your life, is the beginning to knowing who you are.
Use your voice
It is common that people say, "Yes" to many things they do not really want to do. Learning to say, "No", or learning to articulate what you are willing to do and what you are not willing to do is an important part of using your voice, and more importantly, it's an important part in reclaiming your personal power.
A colleague and dear friend of mine Markais Littlejohn, who owns and runs Kairos Korner, helps others "live the life" they want. He uses vlogs to give free tips on how to speak up for yourself and your needs. You can find him here for free tips on how to speak up for yourself. Using your voice for the betterment of yourself and those around you is a critical part of reclaiming your personal power.
Many of us start on the journey of reclaiming our personal power with very little experience or understanding. Some people have been taught to believe that saying, "No", or setting boundaries are bad, unkind ways of being in relationship. Think about it though - when someone tells you they can meet you only if it is this day or that time, you have no problem understanding that coordinating schedules is important. However, if asked where you want to meet or go, do you usually say, "I don't care?". Nothing wrong with that, but what if you do care? What if that person always wants to eat at a certain restaurant and you want to try a new place - or meet closer to your work - or some other thing that makes it easier for you? You have a right to say so.
Okay, so you agree that you have to speak up more, and you want to be more clear in your needs and wants. In learning to set these boundaries or asking more often for what you want or need, sometimes, it is not as easy as other people say it is. You could sound unlike yourself, not what people expect, and be described as being aggressive or "in a bad mood". It could be that the other person is not used to hearing you speak up for yourself, and they do not know what to think. It also could be that you are new at speaking up and come across as stern, because you do not want to back down, and you don't know how else to "say it like you mean it".
All of this takes practice, just like learning any skill. Feedback from a therapist or trusted friend is important. I remember when I first learned to speak up for myself or set a boundary in an intimate partner relationship, his response was, "What is wrong with you?" My therapist explained it like this - it is a new skill, and maybe you even hold some resentment for not speaking up for yourself sooner - so you come across as "I really meant it!". It takes practice and feedback, and a level of comfort before your perfect your skill.
Bonus thought from my dad -
"There is a time to lead and a time to follow. You need to know the difference and develop the skills to do both."
- Tom Kirchner, Sr.