6 Ways to Define and Own Your Power
May 10, 2018
Does that word intimidate you just a little bit? Maybe make you take a step back?
There seems to be only a few accepted versions of “powerful” people—either they’re effortlessly juggling 18 plates at once (without dropping a single one) or they’re a hard-charging badass who doesn’t take crap from anyone.
But being powerful doesn’t have to mean you’re running a Fortune 500 company or slaying the Met Gala red carpet. Everyone can be powerful, and there are so many nuances to creating and untapping your most powerful side.
Power doesn’t have to be all biceps and barking at strangers.
Power doesn’t have to be all biceps and barking at strangers. There’s also power in practicing empathy and compassion for the people around you. There’s power in standing up for your worth. There’s power in defining and owning what you want—and not being afraid of what other people think.
If your power switch has been turned to OFF lately, here are some ways to channel and find your own unique strengths. Think of this as a choose-your-own-adventure guide for the most powerful version of yourself.
1. Find Your Power Source
If you peeked into everyone’s basket in the Trader Joe’s checkout line, you’d notice no two hauls are the same. A dozen avocados here, frozen orange chicken there. Our versions of power are kinda like that—infinitely varied and specialized to each person. Rather than accepting the traditional interpretation of “power” (aka slaying at every part of your life), you can discover what power looks like to you.
One way is to pay attention to what lights you up. Maybe it’s delivering a hilarious critical analysis about your latest Netflix binge, or talking about your food-truck idea, or coaching a friend through her latest Tinder drama.
Pay attention to what lights you up.
When you find yourself breathlessly talking about something, that’s passion—and in that passion lies your power. Pay attention to the things that make you feel awake and alive, then feed them.
2. Remember the Most Powerful Version of Yourself
It was probably eight years ago at this point, but I’ll never forget walking out of a job interview, standing on the busy streets of midtown in New York, and feeling like an absolute badass. I knew I had conquered that interview and been my best, most in control, and persuasive self.
“This is what power feels like,” I thought to myself, and I’ve returned to that moment often during periods of self-doubt or insecurity.
You likely have a similar experience, whether it was nailing a job interview, deploying a perfectly-timed joke, earning a “this was so helpful” after a friend’s vent session, hitting a dreaded deadline, or even racing through a finish line during a 5K.
Think back to that moment now—I'll wait.
Didn’t it give you a little boost, to see your might?
Playing that version of yourself on repeat will create a positive feedback loop and condition you to get back there again.
3. Accept All the Praise
Have you ever received a compliment by ducking your head and saying, “Oh, well, I had a lot of help at work.” Or, by saying “Really? I didn’t give that great of advice...”
We do this because it’s often hard to bask in praise from other people—it can feel uncomfortable or obnoxious to agree. But one quick way to own your power is to accept the praise you are given—and know that you have earned it.
Accept the praise you are given—and know that you have earned it.
When someone compliments you, don’t think they are just “saying something nice” for no reason—believe them. And trust that they’re seeing your power, too.
4. Help Someone Who Really Needs It
Here’s a secret: giving leads to getting.
“Helping others triggers a release of oxytocin, which has the effect of boosting your mood and counteracts the effects of cortisol (the dreaded stress hormone),” explains Eva Ritvo, M.D.
This feel-good chemical isn’t only a mood booster, but it can make you feel more secure and in control of your own life.
Try donating to someone’s GoFundMe, volunteering for a non-profit on the weekend, or even just holding open the door for the stranger who’s struggling with four Bed, Bath & Beyond bags behind you.
These little moments of empathy will help others and boost and benefit your brain as well.
5. Surround Yourself with Powerful People
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” is one adage that doesn’t mess around. When you think of powerful people, your brain might gravitate to the biggies: Oprah. Sheryl Sandberg. Jeff Bezos. But there are plenty of people in your own life—if not in your direct social circles—who can be your own pillars of power.
Maybe you met a friend-of-a-friend at a networking event who was super confident—ask him to grab coffee! Or, maybe there was that former coworker who always seemed to manage her life effortlessly—shoot her an email! Or, maybe there's a podcast you love that interviews powerful people—tune in!
Pulling these powerful people into your orbit will rub off on you.
6. Become a Student Again
Remember how it felt when you finally learned calculus (only to promptly forget it years later, of course)? Or, when you honed and developed a new skill, like playing your first guitar chords or getting to the final level of Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega (just me?).
These little wins and additions to your skill repertoire are essential. Researchers in the U.K. discovered that learning “boosts self-confidence and raises people’s aspirations,” which sounds a lot like owning your power to me.
So think about a new skill you’ve wanted to gain, and go for it. There are so many ways to learn today: you can sign up for a class, ask someone for their advice, or even watch YouTube videos to get the lay of the land.
Remember, you’re in control here—of your reactions, your body, and just how powerful you want to be.
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