You're probably hearing a lot about New Year's Resolutions right now – but before I hear any more about that, I want to talk about the most crucial aspect of making change: stepping into your own power.
Many people I meet today are independent, motivated, hardworking, all that good stuff. But just as many of them consistently wait for permission before trying something new. It's like they think they need someone else to tell them it's okay. Often, this is unconscious. They don't realize they're doing it. Which can be even worse, because then they never do any of the work to overcome that tendency.
Earlier this year, I worked with a client I'll call Liz, who wanted to branch out on her own in business. "I've worked in IT for twenty years," she told me, "and now I have an idea for my own consulting business."
"Great," I said, and we began talking about her vision, her strengths, a potential action plan.
That's when things got hairy. When I asked her if she'd commit to a certain action (one that she came up with), her tone of voice changed.
"Well," she said uncertainly. "I don't know if I should commit to it just yet. I feel like I should check in with my husband first."
At first, I didn't know what to say. Her action was to do some research – so, it didn't require a big financial commitment, or anything that I'd expect had to be talked over with a spouse.
"Maybe talking it over with him could be your first step, then," I suggested.
"Oh, I've already talked it over with him," she said. "He's totally supportive. He actually encouraged me to come to you, so I could get started."
"Oh," I said, confused.
It took me a few more conversations to figure out what was going on. The problem wasn't that Liz's husband was controlling. (As far as I could tell, he wasn't.) The problem was this: Liz had trouble taking a step in a new direction without his explicit approval.
Over the next few weeks, it became clear that this was a pattern. She had trouble advocating for herself.
So that's what we worked on.
Liz is not alone in this. I see it all the time, in clients, friends, acquaintances. Very often, people have trouble giving themselves permission to do what they want. We feel like we need someone else to say it's okay.
That belief often comes from a place of fear. We're afraid that we don't know enough. We don't trust ourselves. We think other people know better than we do.
And what's worse is this: if we keep outsourcing our power, then we stay in that place of fear.
We need to give ourselves permission to stop needing permission!
This looks different for everyone. Some people (like Liz) consistently turn to a specific person – a spouse, an employer, a teacher – for that permission. Other people feel the need for approval in a certain area of life – work, creative projects, fashion – but they don't always turn to the same person. I once knew a woman who had to "check in with" someone – her hairdresser, her doorman, anyone – before trying a new diet.
In November, my weekly Twitter chat discussed the importance of advocating for ourselves in issues of health. That's such an important topic, because if we're not assertive when it comes to speaking with doctors, asking for a specialist, asking for certain tests – we could be putting our health at risk. Yet it can be so hard to be assertive in a doctor's office, where it feels like the doctor knows best.
That's true in life, too. We might believe that someone else is an expert, so our experience or our questions aren't worthwhile. We might believe someone else has the answers, so our feelings don't matter.
We need to speak up for ourselves. We need to advocate for our own needs and wants. (Of course, I'm not telling you to be a bully, or not to be considerate of others. I am telling you to stand fully in your power. As Brene Brown said, "Don't shrink. Don't puff up. Just stay on your sacred ground.")
But how? How can we go from a place of fear to empowerment?
A few months after she first came to me, Liz's new IT business got its first client. I got a thank-you card from her (isn't it wonderful to get real cards in the mail?), where she wrote,
Thank you for all your wisdom and guidance, not just around my new business, but more importantly, around my self-esteem. You made me realize that I was giving away my power – and ever since I've begun to claim it as my own, I've felt so much happier and more confident. What a gift it is to stand in my own power.
So what about you? Is there an area in your life where you've been giving away your power?
Are you waiting for permission, when you could be going out and changing the world?
If you want some extra help around those New Year's Resolutions you've set, and/or in claiming your own power, then check out my latest coaching program Mindset Reset. It starts January 15, and for a limited time, it's on sale – so check it out and register here!
Then go out, claim your power, and shine.
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