Recently in a conversation, I heard someone say, “I gave away my power—so wrong of me, I now see.”
We hear it a lot, don’t we? Maybe we even say it about someone else or ourselves. Even though I’ve over-given plenty in my life, something about this statement never settled rightly with me.
Listening to a client a while back, it dawned on me why—and maybe you’ll find this as useful as I have.
It occurred to me that people who capitulate to others for unhealthy reasons are not really “giving away” their power. Power is what they never had much of in the first place, and it’s not their fault.
If we are chronically disempowered, the chance are it happened in early childhood. We were kids! We had perceived, usually with some accuracy, that if we expressed ourselves powerfully, we were in trouble with parents or teachers. One way or another, we came to believe that we had to give up what we wanted—or die or be utterly isolated. We didn’t have words for it at 4 or 5, but we knew it. Whatever personal power might have developed in us simply never did.
So if I have little sense of personal power, of course I’m going to go with whatever any other significant person wants.
When, as an adult, I wake up enough to see that this doesn’t serve me well, I may say “I gave away my power,” but it’s not true. I never had power in the first place! So now, when I see enough to say this, it is much more accurate to say, “Now I’m ready to develop my personal power.”
Isn’t that better—and truer—than an accusation against myself for being so silly as to give power away? Doesn’t it feel stronger to understand that I’m now seeing clearly enough to begin to develop the potential (which is, after all, power-in-future) that’s been waiting in me all this time?
I’ve found this a useful re-frame for issues of capitulation for the sake of approval. I hope you will experiment with this awareness of developing personal power and find out if it’s useful to you, too.