The word “power” can conjure up a lot of opinions and reactions, especially for women.
Many of us, when we think about powerful women, imagine (best-case scenario) Olivia Pope in all her white-wardrobe glory or (worst-case scenario) Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada—no-nonsense, borderline-aggressive, delegating pros wearing power suits and designer heels.
While I’m all about great shoes and bold women, the distinction I want to make here is that powerful does not need to mean power over other people. In fact, the most truly powerful women are those who are self-empowered.
So what does that actually mean? I think the word “empowered” has become so overused that it’s almost lost its meaning. To me, empowered means feeling charged, confident, proud, inspired, and passionate. It’s feeling like you’re in the driver’s seat of your life (instead of in the back seat, watching your life pass by through the window).
Sadly, most of us don’t feel empowered on a daily basis… maybe not even a weekly or monthly basis.
What can you do to feel more powerful and in control of your daily life?
Consider the areas of your life that currently feel disempowering.
Maybe you feel trapped, stuck, or unfulfilled at work. Or maybe some of your relationships are making you feel undervalued or invisible.
Feeling disempowered can make you feel completely out of control and at the mercy of your situation. Most people’s default reaction to feeling disempowered is to either 1) shut down and want to give up or 2) to blame someone or something else. In both cases, you relieve yourself of responsibility, which only serves to make you feel more powerless.
So how can you take back your power over one small (or large) piece of this situation?
Here’s a great example:
I was working with one of my life-coaching clients recently, and she was feeling completely powerless about her work schedule. She really values freedom and flexibility, and she hated that she had to sit at her desk until 5:30 or later every afternoon, regardless of whether she’d finished her work for the day or not.
Every hour that she sat at that desk, with no work to do, she felt increasingly more resentful. It got to the point that she was considering quitting because she was so frustrated.
I asked if she’d talked to her boss about having a more flexible schedule, based more on productivity rather than arbitrary hours. “Oh, no, I can’t ask that. That’s not how my company works. Plus, I’m afraid my boss will think I’m lazy.”
But eventually, her misery outweighed the discomfort of having that conversation with her boss. She decided to take action and ask for what she wanted; we even planned out, in advance, how she could frame it as a win-win for her and her company.
The result? Her boss was completely open to the idea, and now she has a much more flexible work schedule. She feels valued and unrestricted at work now, and her resentment and powerlessness evaporated.
That’s exactly what I mean about getting back in the driver’s seat of your life.
Consciously relive your wins on a regular basis.
When was the last time you feel completely charged, confident, proud, inspired, and capable of anything?
Whether it was yesterday or six months ago, you probably haven’t thought back on that moment much since it happened.
But the criticism or negative feedback you got about your last project? That’s probably running through your head on repeat.
As humans, we’re wired to hone in on the negatives and quickly forget about the positives in our past. It takes consistent effort to consciously rewire your brain to relive your past wins more often than your failures.
One way to do this is to create a personal “Brag Sheet”—I’m not talking about a résumé, here. This is a list of all the things that you’ve done that have made you feel proud and amazing, big or small. No one has to see this but you, so you get to include anything you want.
Keep your brag sheet somewhere visible—on your computer desktop, the notes app on your phone, or the nightstand by your bed—so you can see it regularly and continually add to it.
Bam, instant internal power boost.
Challenge yourself to face your fears regularly.
A while back, I wrote an article called Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You, which was inspired by the book, My Year With Eleanor. In the memoir, the author, Noelle Hancock, released her social anxiety and regained her confidence and passion for life by facing one of her fears every single day for an entire year.
While I’m not necessary suggesting you to go extremes like she did, I do believe that deliberately facing down your fears (whether it’s speaking up in a meeting or going skydiving) is an instant confidence booster. It puts the other stressors in your life in perspective and makes you realize, “If I could do that, then I can do anything.”