As we head into February, it is important to reconnect with the vision of the most incredible year of our lives. This is a time when it’s easy for our visions to fade or for us to get distracted by the busy-ness of our daily lives. But one way to ensure that we continue to commit ourselves to creating the best year of our lives is to claim all of our power by using this Right Question: Am I standing in my power or am I trying to please another?
It doesn’t matter who we are — how rich, famous, talented, or educated. At some point each of us will face the choice of claiming our power or giving it away by trying to please someone else. Pleasing others is a habit that some of us developed when we were young. We learned that if we did something special — if we were cute, danced, used good manners, or received good grades in school — we would gain the affection and the approval we desired. Some of us learned that we had to forsake our own needs to fit in with our families. We kept our opinions to ourselves. We stayed silent, even when we longed to share our views. We followed along with the crowd rather than making waves. For most of us, this pattern of behavior began in our interactions with our parents. Now this habit is embedded deep in our psyches. We’ve learned to give away our power for the approval of others. We deny ourselves the gift of our voice, our opinions, and our authentic expression. Obligations, “shoulds”, and guilt become the dictators of our actions.
When we’re stuck in the pattern of people-pleasing, we do not have access to making clear choices. We are driven to fulfill others’ needs in order to be loved. In order to stand in our power, we must have the option of saying no. We have to be willing to give up the need for others’ approval and give up our need to make others happy. The truth is that not everyone will like us and it’s not our job to make others happy — just as it isn’t the job of others to make us happy.
It’s so easy to give our power away to oblige our partners or console our families. But if the choices we make rob us of too much of our private time, if they deprive us of our joy or our inner peace, if they prevent from expressing our creative gifts, then ultimately they are violations we are perpetrating against our own souls. These violations do not affect just us in negative ways, they affect all those around us. When we don’t take care of ourselves because we are trying to make others happy, we build up resentment toward the very people we are trying to please.
The Right Question, “Am I standing in my power or am I trying to please another?” allows us to stand in our power and to be clear about our priorities. If I choose to ignore myself when I am in desperate need of my own attention, I will resent those I have deemed more important than me. Even though I might spend the day trying to be happy and pleasant, underneath I will feel angry because I have made a choice that depleted me. This underlying resentment will inevitably come out no matter how hard I try to deny what I feel.
We set ourselves up to lose every time we give away our power and minimize the importance of our own needs. Many people I work with truly believe that they don’t matter. They think it’s okay to abandon themselves as long as they are making someone else happy. They tell themselves that they are strong enough to withstand the neglect as long as it’s in the name of making someone else happy. Or they tell themselves that it’s their job to be the sacrificial lamb. This is often what we were taught when we were young, and it sets us up to violate ourselves and play the part of the martyr. Each time we ignore our own needs to please another, we disconnect from our own ability to love and nurture ourselves. Please remember that pleasing another is not the same as caring for another. The important thing to realize is that we can’t really care for another if we do not first care for ourselves. By consulting ourselves to see whether the choices we make come from a place of standing in our power or one of needing to please another, we are forced to confront the subtle and not so subtle ways in which we violate ourselves.
Transformational Action Step
This is the week to reclaim your power in every aspect of your life. You may feel that you have your power in some areas of your life, but certain people and situations are bound to come along that will temporarily blindside you. It is precisely at those moments that I invite you to remember to breathe deeply, check in with yourself, and ask yourself this important question: Am I standing in my power or am I trying to please another? It’s time to take back your power!
photo credit: m3shaff