You’re giving your power away when you do acts of needless and largely useless self-sacrifice, give-in to what others want you to do while postponing or negating your own real needs, and when you go along for acceptance or conformity’s sake and act against your own best interests. Especially do you give your power away when you surrender what’s healthy for you to do so that others are unnecessarily and more selfishly benefited.
You significantly give your power away when you let others influence you to lose control and get angry, let others guilt-trip you, shame you, embarrass you, intimidate you and, of course, control you. In a more subtle way you give away your power whenever you have time to think things through and forget to think about how your acts concerning others are going to effect you, your health and your well-being, and effect those you care about. In fact you may give your power away when your actions, your thoughts and your feelings do not contain at least some healthy self-love.
Let’s briefly look at the foundation concept for not giving your power away. Remember the 3000 year old admonition “Love others – as – you love yourself”. Let me suggest that the little word “as” means love others and yourself at the same time, in the same way and to the same degree. You perhaps were religiously taught to ‘love others and put yourself last’. Then perhaps you learned the secular, selfish message ‘love yourself and let the rest fend for themselves in our ‘survival of the fittest’ world.
From my mental-health practitioner’s point of view “Love others as you love yourself” is a superior idea to both of those teachings. That’s because loving others as you also act to love yourself means there doesn’t have to be any losers. If I love you and not myself I can be the loser. If I love me and not to you, you can be the loser. It’s better that we both be winners. Consequently the teaching “Love others as you love yourself” provides a ‘win win’ way. This is the extremely important background concept for learning healthy self-love and not giving your power away.
I retain my power when I don’t let your words or actions trigger me into anger, defensiveness, surrender or automatically feeling bad about myself in any way. I retain my power when I choose my thoughts, feelings and actions pro-actively rather than reactively. I retain my power when I don’t lose control and act in ways I am later sorry for, ashamed of and regretful about. I retain my power when I give myself permission to act the way I choose to act, to think and feel my own thoughts and emotions instead of in ways others would pressure me into acting, thinking or feeling. I retain my power when I let others have appropriate influence but not control me.
How do we do this? It takes a fair amount of work to learn how not to, rather automatically, give your power away. That’s because we all started life without any power and were dependent on the power of others who were called parents, family and care-takers. Thus, we all learned, to one degree or another, to give in and go along with those who had more power than we did. Maybe later you learned to rebel but that also can be a kind of slavery to ‘do the opposite’ and, thus, not really do self-directed, self empowered living. As an adult you have more power than you may realize or be using. Mother Nature would have us be individually and independently powerful for healthy self care in our own lives. To actualize this power it helps to ‘own’ our power and not give it away.
To start learning more about how ‘not to give your power away’ you may want to began asking yourself these four questions in the many and various situations of your life:
1. Am I doing, or about to do something that includes sufficient, healthy self-love?
2. Am I acting by my own choice or am I reacting?
3. Am I paying attention to what’s good for me in this situation as well as what’s good for others?
4. Am I acting assertively (calmly putting forth my points) as opposed to aggressively (attack and harm) or submissively (give-in, surrender)?
Those who learn how ‘not to give their power away’ to others or to old, destructive training tend to live more powerfully, enjoyably, effectively and peacefully. They also live more self-directed, healthful lives, and likely are able to do more good for others.
Not giving your power away usually takes a fair amount of revamping your way of thinking about how people work. The biggest thought that has to be eliminated is the one that begins with the super common words “you made me …”. If I keep my power and don’t give it away you don’t get to “make” me feel, think or do anything. I’m not meant to be anyone’s puppet. I’m meant to be a self-directed individual whenever I choose to be so. You may ‘influence me’ but you don’t ‘make me’ anything. I do that myself, possibly with your help. Whenever I think or say “you make me … (feel, think or act)” or “he, she, it or they made me … (feel, think or act in various ways)” I probably am giving my power away, at least a little bit. Once you really “own” this way of thinking you can begin to be so much more self dependent, and self-directed, and paradoxically you probably can be better to and for others. Then we can work together in co-equal cooperation, collaboration and other forms of democratic co-action.
Well, there’s lots more to learn about not giving your power away but hopefully this is enough to get you started on the healthful, self loving actions of ‘not giving your power away’ and, therefore, taking good and better care of yourself as you also act to be good to others.
As always Grow and Go in Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Are you more likely to think “others may help but my feelings are in me, thus, I own them and, therefore, it’s my job to channel them healthfully”, or are you likely to think “others and circumstances make me feel what I feel and, therefore, I’m virtually powerless to influence my emotions and the acts that flow from them”?