Hello dear one,
When I think of personal power, I think of things like:
– Making shit happen
– Feeling confident and clear
– Influencing other people and situations (ideally so everyone’s better off)
– Manifesting our dreams
– Standing our ground and using our voice
– Turning around failure and humblings
– Backbone, staying power, and stick-to-itness
– Staying open and loving in hard situations
But those are ways we USE our personal power.
They are not what GIVE us personal power.
There are some key ingredients that — when combined together — form our personal power, and then allow us to use that power in ways we want.
Here are the three:
1. Liking yourself.
This goes for all parts of yourself, even (especially) the parts you’d prefer to hide.
This means getting to know what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, what you like, and what you don’t. Embracing your vulnerabilities. Refusing to shame yourself for any of it.
When I was in my early twenties, I lived with a group of bohemian dancers, musicians, and artists in Amsterdam. One night we went out to a club to go dancing. We were getting a bit of a late start at 11pm, when one person in the group decided we needed to stop for a bagel.
While everyone else moaned and groaned and just wanted to get to the club and told him he was being a pain, my bagel-desiring friend replied, “Don’t judge me. Love me for it.”.
I was so absolutely struck by how, in that moment, he could have felt badly about himself, gone on the defensive, or backed down on his bagel idea, but he didn’t.
Instead he just asked all of us to love and respect this part of him the same way he did — a part of him that would risk making a whole group late and cranky for the sake of honoring his quirky desire for a late night snack.
“Don’t judge me. Love me for it,” has stuck with me for the last 30 years. I offer it to friends and clients, as well as myself.
“If I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me.”
– Abraham Lincoln
2. Listening to your feelings.
This means letting your emotions out in skillful ways, rather than burying them (until they come out anyway, but sideways). Self-compassion. Getting to know what will “trigger” or “activate” you, and have you become defensive, lash out, collapse, or go mute.
Here’s one way I do it: After years of paying attention to (and respecting the heck out of) feelings, emotions, and triggers, I can now tell the moment I start to “leave my body” and lose my power.
I can catch it at the moment my personal power starts to wane, before I’m all the way gone and powerless.
If I’m talking, I notice that my voice starts to get higher and higher, and that instead of coming from my belly or pelvis, my vocal register sounds like it’s coming from my chest and then my head, getting thinner, squeakier, tinnier, and more constricted.
So then I breathe into my belly and speak from there, and that grounds me into my power and truth, and resets everything beautifully.
“To feel better, get better at feeling.”
– Walter Sipe, MD
3. Trusting yourself.
This means developing a strong bullshit detector. And learning to listen to it. So you can tell what’s not right, for you, and make choices based on what it’s letting you know.
Because what is utter bullshit for one person might be right on for someone else.
Self-trust is something we often claw back from the jaws of our personal upbringings, history, and the dominant culture. But we all have it, even if we have to dust it off a bit and refine our relationship with it.
“Don’t cry!” “We don’t talk about that,” or “Be nice!” demand that you override your natural instincts.
“You’re crazy!” “You’re wrong,” or “It didn’t happen that way” deny your perspective and shut you down without dignity for your lived experience.
Every single woman I get to work with — who is working through a betrayal, being lied to, abuse, a lifetime of being gaslit, self-loathing, or just trying to make sense of her existence in a culture that relentlessly devalues her — has had a moment (or many moments) in her past where she felt “something’s not right here.”
It’s a feeling in her gut or heart or body somewhere. It is her body calling bullshit.
And although she may have disregarded it in the past, when we revisit it and honor it, she gets to reclaim that bullshit detector for herself.
“Your body doesn’t lie.”
– LiYana Silver
I’m all for your personal power and the confident, clear, loving ways you’ll be using it.
Heading straight to “making shit happen” before you actually like yourself just means you get really good at the grind, running on fumes, and burning out.
Heading straight into “staying open and loving during hard moments” before you actually know how to listen to your feelings and disarm your triggers just means you get really good at spiritual by-passing and lightwashing things that deserve a deep, respectful examination.
Heading straight into “self-development” and “backbone, staying power, and stick-to-itness” before you actually know how to trust yourself, means that you are more likely to stay in situations that are harmful to you, way past the point you should.
I must admit I’m quite excited for the process of you liking, befriending, and trusting yourself that must happen first if there is to be full personal power flowing in your life.
To your personal power,
COACHING / COURSES / COMMUNITY
Moving you through the dark night & into your one wild precious life
PS: I’m appreciating the book, Power: A User’s Guide by Julie Diamond, Ph.D, as recommended by my assistant, Elissa.
Thank you for getting me in front of some of the most important thinkers, especially speaking to uncommon and marginalized topics. 🙂
PPS: Image by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.