The concept of personal power is one that I deal with a lot in my work. Put simply, this is the degree of influence a person feels they have over their experience and circumstances in life.
One of the key goals of therapy is to move a person from a place of disempowerment to a place of empowerment.
A disempowered person believes they have no control or power over their circumstances and experience of life.
An empowered person believes that they do.
When I begin working with a new client one of the first things I do is assess where they stand on the personal power spectrum.
I look for clues in their words, behaviour and body language that suggest they feel disempowered.
For example, do they talk as if life happens to them? Do they express feelings of helplessness, exclusion, overwhelm, or despair? Do they speak in a meek and unconfident way? Are they dismissive of themselves and their needs and desires? Do they exhibit low self-worth? Do they allow those around them to regularly silence them? Do they believe they have little control over their thoughts, feelings and reactions?
In other words, do they act like a victim? And, if they do, who or what are they giving their power away to?
Fortunately for me, the vast majority of my clients come with a certain degree of empowerment. The mere fact that they’ve shown up to see me shows that they believe it’s possible to change their situation and/or reactions.
I say fortunately because it’s hard work trying to facilitate change in someone who doesn’t accept that they have the power to alter things in their life.
Some people fully understand that their experience of life is down to them. They choose to take full responsibility for what happens to them and how they react.
Having this positive, empowering attitude is what sets successful people apart from unsuccessful ones. Empowered people understand that if they are the ones who hold the power in their life, they have the ability to change their situation or themselves.
Some people on the other hand refuse to take responsibility. They believe they have little, if any, control over their life. They’re usually the ones who like to complain about everything, but do little to better their situation or change how they react to what happens.
So how about you? Where do you stand on the personal power spectrum?
Do you take responsibility for yourself, your reactions, and the state of your inner and outer worlds?
Or do you like to play victim and give your power away – either to other people or circumstances?
Perhaps you believe that others control you.
Or that you can’t change because you don’t have the strength of character, intelligence, or presence of mind.
Empowerment is actually a mindset that anyone can learn, cultivate and nurture.
All change begins with turning inwards and becoming aware of your own thoughts and feelings. It’s then about identifying and phasing out those thoughts and feelings that negatively influence your reality, and adopting and reinforcing those that positively influence your reality.
Here are the five hallmarks of an empowered mindset. Which of these do you recognise in yourself already?
I am in control, and I choose my own responses.
The most empowering belief you can adopt is that you are in control and that you always have a choice.
You choose your own beliefs, you choose what you want to focus on, and you choose the decisions and the actions that you take.
This is a very powerful belief system because it means that you take full responsibility for your actions without having to deflect blame onto others.
It’s true that you don’t have control over everything that happens around you. But you can control the meaning you assign to external events and how you react to them. (To read more about this, go to my blog ‘How to Transform Your Emotional State Through The Power of Reframing’ by clicking here.)
I have faith that the right things will come to me as a result of my actions.
Part of having a positive and empowering mindset is to trust that as long as you do what can be reasonably expected of you the right things will happen.
There’s no need to worry unnecessarily that things might not work out, or to imagine what it might be like to fail. In fact, focusing too much on the things you don’t want is likely to derail you because you attract the things that you focus on.
Your beliefs determine your reality. If you believe you will fail, the chances are that you will.
Spending time worrying about the things you can’t control is wasted energy. Empower yourself by being proactive and by focusing on the right strategy for life, and trust that success will follow.
There are powerful and exact laws that operate in the Universe. Your intentions are what matter; these are the energies that will determine your future.
I see the opportunity in every situation.
A great way to set yourself up for success is to make sure you don’t get discouraged or distracted by the issues or obstacles that you come across.
We all encounter problems, but the difference between successful people and those who are not is the way in which they deal with the unforeseen. Successful people approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered, rather than as threats to be avoided.
When something unexpected happens, ask yourself how you can move forward in spite of the issues, and which new opportunities have opened up as a result.
You have the choice to focus on the opportunity and the way forward, rather than the obstacle itself.
I believe in myself, and I am my own greatest cheerleader.
Empowered people always have a strong positive regard for themselves.
They listen to their feelings, they monitor their thoughts, and they’re clear about their intentions in any given situation. Above all else, they fully and wholeheartedly accept and love themselves - exactly as they are in the moment.
We all have qualities and habits we don’t like in ourselves, but an empowered person addresses these issues from a place of self-compassion, as opposed to a place of self-criticism and vilification.
Empowered people don’t waste their energy beating themselves up and feeling bad about themselves. Instead they use their energy to facilitate change. Self-worth is a high priority for them.
I know there’s no such thing as failure; there are only opportunities to grow and learn.
An empowering mindset is also one in which you refuse to let the fear of failure hold you back. This involves altering your view of failure into something constructive and allowing yourself to feel the fear and do it anyway.
Your failures provide the opportunity to learn and grow and will genuinely move you forward - as long as you take on board the lessons.
When you change your thinking pattern into one that doesn’t label things as failures, you take away an enormous chunk of negative energy and worry. You free yourself up to pursue that which is truly important.
The concept of personal power is an important one. As babies, we’re incredibly powerful! We only have to cry a little, and people frantically run around giving us food, water, hugs and clean nappies.
As we grow older though, our families, our communities and society gently start to strip us of our power.
We’re told what to do, what to believe, how to behave, and even what to think.
Some of us stray so far from who we are that we have no internal reference point at all. We don’t even know ourselves.
Life is all about living up to others’ expectations - be that of parents, teachers, employers, extended family members, friends, or religious organisations.
Until, that is, we wake up one day and realise that we’ve given all our power away. The life we’re living is not our own. The goals we’re pursuing don’t inspire us. The relationships we’re in aren’t fulfilling us.
Only when our inner world starts to crumble do we realise that something is seriously wrong. Our discomfort compels us to look at how much personal power we have and how much of this power we’re using.
We find ourselves at a crossroads. Do we take our power back – and step into a life that we can live happily, enthusiastically and healthily?
Or do we continue to deny and give away our power, and spend the rest of our days being miserable, depressed and unwell?
The stakes are high.
And, at the end of the day, the choice is ours.
As Louise L. Hay has said: