Giving Away Our Power

Jul 01, 2019 by Renee Linnell
There is all this talk about giving our power away. People say it all the time. “Don’t give your power away.” Or, “You gave your power away.” I’ve been saying it over and over as I travelled around doing my book tour: 
“I gave my power away when I was in the cult.” 
“Anytime you let anyone else tell you who you are, you hand them your power.” 

But, I still wasn’t exactly aware of how often it happens, how insidious it is, or what it really means. I mean, how does one really quantify losing power? 
I figured it out on my plane ride home:

It means caring what someone else thinks of me. Anytime I care what someone else thinks of me, I hand that person my power. I basically say, “You decide if I’m attractive. And let me know.” 
“You decide if I’m worthy. You decide if I’m likeable or loveable. You decide if I’m good enough, funny enough, smart enough, sexy enough. You decide if I’m a nice person. You decide if I'm a good writer. You decide . . .”
Isn’t that crazy? That I do that? That we all do that? That in subtle ways we do that all the time? That we allow strangers to decide if we’re being appropriate or if we’re worth getting to know. That we allow strangers to decide if we’re attractive? That we care so much what other people think of us? That we allow people on social media to decide if what we posted is “likeable”? It’s crazy!

It makes sense, in a way. As children we learned immediately that our survival depended on being liked and loved and included. If we were not, we would be abandoned and die. But, unfortunately, it became so ingrained in all of us that as adults we don’t realize how often we do it. We over-stretch in yoga class to appear more flexible to strangers. WTF?! We lift too much weight in the gym to appear stronger to strangers. We women wear shoes that kill our feet in order to appear sexier to strangers. We order food we don’t want to eat or drinks we don’t really want to drink. On and on it goes. I’m laughing out loud as I write this. It’s ludicrous, and yet we do it all the time.

I was on the plane coming home at the end of my book tour and an incredibly handsome young man sat down next to me. I suddenly noticed I went from completely relaxed and absorbed in my book to uncomfortable the second he sat down. We started talking and I worried about what I was saying, what I was wearing. Did I have food in my teeth? Did I look sweaty and tired? Suddenly what this stranger thought of me became important. And I heard a small voice inside my heart say to me, Don’t give your power away to this man. And I got it. In that instant. It was lovely to talk to him and I enjoyed his company, but in that instant I made what I thought of myself the only thing that mattered. And with that decision I took my power back. I went from feeling anxious and insecure and small to confident and secure and expanded and calm. Funny thing is: he clearly found me more attractive once I did that. His actions told me so.

I know it seems like a minor detail, but to me it’s huge. This memoir journey has taught me so much. It’s taught me I have to believe in myself. It’s taught me I have to trust my voice. It’s taught me I have to trust my way of doing things and I have to have my own back all the time; that I need really strong boundaries. And even with all the wisdom and all the strength gained, I was still giving my power away each time I worried what the audience thought of my talk or I worried if I wrote the right thing in someone’s book or even if I worried that what I posted on social media was not right in some way. I couldn’t figure out why I left so many of my talks feeling drained, and then it all hit me on that plane ride home: Anytime we worry what someone else thinks of us, we are handing them the ability to decide for us how we are. It’s not okay and it needs to stop. Let’s make a supreme effort together to notice each time we do it. 

I realized that when we lose our power the result is loss of clarity. About ourselves, about our path, about our worthiness. We lose the ability to make the right choices for ourselves. And in the confusion we get depressed and out of balance and start to lose energy. And in this uncomfort we reach for action of some sort that will make us feel better, but we are acting from a place of confusion, so we make bad choices and end up in social situations or romantic situations or any situation that actually makes us feel worse and even more powerless. It becomes a downward spiral. 

Here’s an example: you have a crush on someone. That person does not reciprocate. Suddenly you decide you are not attractive because that person is not reciprocating. (Even though you have no idea what is going on with the other person. You could be the wrong gender, for f*#k’s sake, something as clear-cut as that.) But, then you decide you are unattractive and not-loveable. Maybe you decide you are too old or too fat. And then you get depressed. And then, instead of wanting to go exercise or go socialize with friends, you decide to stay home and sleep on the sofa. And then you feel worse about yourself because now not only are you too old and too fat and too unsexy, but now you are also lazy. Lol. It’s terrible. And yet we do this to ourselves. 

Giving your power away is: you walk up to a stranger and say, “You decide if I’m ____(fill in the blank here). And I’ll base my feelings of self-worth on your decision.” Yuck! Let’s stop.