This year the word I chose came to me slowly, bouncing around the periphery of my life. When I first thought to choose it, I was concerned people would misunderstand. Then I realized that was exactly the clue I needed to know it was the right word for me at this time.
The word I choose is POWER.
So often, POWER is viewed as a negative, especially when we believe others have it and we don’t. There’s a kind of victimhood thinking involved, it seems to me, when we see power only as something someone else holds over us.
The POWER that I’m thinking of is personal power and is, in effect, another way of thinking about self-care. The POWER that I’m thinking of means that I’m able (and eager) to take care of myself.
Sounds easy enough; it’s not!
In adopting POWER as my 2020 word, I’m embracing the “courage to change the things we can” part of the Serenity Prayer, which comes AFTER that part about accepting the things we cannot change. The distinction is critical.
Personal power means I own what is mine to own: my reactions, my emotions, my expectations, and my choices.
Personal power means I stop blaming someone else for any distress I may feel. My distress — whether it’s anger, fear, or sadness — is mine.
Having personal power means I needn’t feel guilty if someone doesn’t agree with my choice. Feeling guilty is my choice too. If I do, I’ll own it; it’s mine. No one “made me” feel that way.
Owning my power means I know what my choices are and I make them without guilt. Though I may offer an apology.
Owning my power comes with knowing I have a right to my feelings, no matter what they are, and no matter the other person’s reaction. I am not responsible for other people’s reactions to me or expectations of me. If I feel angry, it’s mine; I can own it. If I feel threatened or afraid, it’s also mine. When I blame someone else for it, I give away my power to do something about that feeling.
Owning my power means I trust myself to make the right choice for me, to listen to my instincts, to stand firm in my beliefs, and to change my mind when appropriate.
Owning my power means I acknowledge that others may have things to teach me, they may appear more confident or assertive than I do. Owning my power helps me see that the personal power others possess, does not diminish my power. Quite the opposite actually. I believe the more each of us can own our power, the better off we all will be.
When I had my short-lived consulting business, my tag line was, “Social change through personal empowerment.” I still believe that’s how we do it, by allowing each individual person to find their power, to feel the power they already possess, to see the impact they are able to make in the world around them, to know they can make a difference.
Power is NOT a pie, despite what the politicians may think.
Owning my power means I take responsibility for clearly communicating my wants and needs.
I’m all about connection, community, cooperation. And personal power in no way excludes the need to have others in our life. We are social animals, after all. We need people. What we don’t need is guessing who they are or what they want.
My best role models have been strong, powerful women. Women who spoke their minds clearly and directly; who liked who they were and presented their most authentic self; and who admitted when they didn’t know something. I hope I can become that same type of role model.
Do I hear rumblings: What about tact? What about diplomacy? What about getting along? What about being polite?
What about it? These are not mutually exclusive. Tact is important; polite conversation has its important place and time; diplomacy has kept us out of war on more than one occasion. Motives matter. Too often I have refrained from saying something because I fear the other person’s reaction. It’s the walking on egg shells phenomenon we hear so much about.
The other person’s reaction belongs to them; I do not control it; I do not control them. And I won’t pretend I do by manipulating my words. Owning my power means I remember the difference.
Owning my power means I recognize that others cannot read my mind, no matter how cleverly I might hint or how smoothly I might model the behavior I desire. And owning my power means I can recognize when the other person is doing just that.
Owning my power means I can be assertive when necessary.
I can choose how I want to spend my time and with whom. I can decide what and when I want to eat, how I will dress, what I will read, and when I will engage with someone else. I do so without guilt. And I offer others the same opportunity.
These days, when so much around me seems out of my control, I will remember what I do have power over: my attitudes, my behaviors, and my choices.
And I’ll remember that when we come together, we can accomplish even more. What’s that old saying? If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.
How about you? How are you owning your power these days?
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