Personal power and mental health
What is personal power?
We can all feel powerless at times, especially in challenging situations when external forces have caused something to happen to us. Though we cannot change what happens to us, or perhaps our initial reaction to something, what we can do is learn different ways of coping. Improving our resilience and speaking up for ourselves. How often can we find ourselves in situations in our personal and professional lives where we want to speak our truth but often don’t. Perhaps because of fear of what would happen if we did. Understandably we can’t all go around saying whatever we want all of the time. But, I believe if we are often agreeing to things we actually don’t agree with and saying yes when we want to say no problems can arise.
Personal power involves responding to events from a place of within, not from a place external to ourselves. Decisions are based on our own values, feelings and needs.
What feeling powerless is like
If you’re feeling powerless it could look a lot like this;
Constantly working hard at work but not getting the recognition you deserve
Being the friend who always has time for others but rarely feels it’s reciprocal
Being the family member who everyone looks to in times of stress, but no-one notices how stressed you are
Feeling guilty for saying no to people
Easily feeling ‘beneath’ people in authoritative positions
Believing good people do all they can for others
Thinking putting yourself first, is selfish
No matter what you do, it never feels like enough
You feel angry but can’t express it
You want everyone around you to change
If this sounds familiar you are not alone and to a certain degree we can all have moments where we feel similar. The difference is, if you feel empowered you are able to express your needs and feelings, without being fearful of the reaction of others. You’re able to value yourself the to the same degree as you value others and realise it doesn’t make you a bad person by saying no.
Personal power and self-esteem
I believe there is a relationship between personal power and self-esteem. If we aren’t confident about who we are, we can feel less likely to feel worthy of speaking up for ourselves. If we’re not confident about who we are we value how others see us. To ensure others see us positively we end up agreeing to things we don’t want to because it matters more to be liked and accepted. The problem is, this is a never ending game we get caught up in. Once we become the ‘people pleaser’ it can feel impossible to stop the behaviour. The fear of not being liked grows. We silence the part of us that tells us what we want to do, want to say. We silence who we are
How to gain personal power
Feeling empowered doesn’t come overnight. The first step is believing that change is possible. Second comes the intention to start listening to how you feel. How you feel when someone asks you to do something and even if you’re unable to say no, notice what comes up. Notice what what you feel in your body, what thoughts pop into your head. Are you able to let it go and accept what you’ve said and done or are you then left unable to shake the annoyance you feel towards yourself? Other questions may be useful to ask yourself; what do I gain from feeling this way? What are my fears about changing the way I see myself? Be gentle with yourself. It can be painful to look so intensely inwards, past and current wounds can be re-opened. Part of healing is recognising those wounds and allowing them to be felt.
Think about which situation / relationship would be most possible to become more assertive. Next time you find yourself with an opportunity to say no, or express how you feel give it a go. It may feel uncomfortable at first but keep going. Building up experiences of having your needs met by valuing how you feel, will change your behaviour.
What was previously impossible becomes possible.
Points to remember
All to often the way you feel can seem silly or completely your fault. It’s neither of these things. Your experiences whilst growing up and beyond shaped you and your behaviours are a response to how you have felt in certain situations. The one thing that will most likely cause you to remain powerless is feeling bad about yourself.
The first step in believing. Then having the intention to allow the awareness to grow.
Counselling can offer a relationship in-which you are able to look inwards whilst feeling supported and encouraged. Person centred counselling is about balancing the power between counsellor and client. We don’t work in a way that encourages dependence on us. We want clients to realise the vast resources they have inside of themselves that they’ve lost touch with.
“Personal power can only be reclaimed or discovered. It cannot be bestowed. It is therefore a nonsense to speak of empowering others. The person centred approach doesn’t give power to the client. It’s just that it doesn’t take it away.” Carl Rogers