Who Do You Give Your Power To?

I am starting to realize how much we hand our power over to others without realizing it. We all tend to recognize when someone is in a cycle of abuse and he or she has lost power. We recognize that in some relationships based in hierarchy, such as work environments, we have limited power. However, many of us don’t realize how much power we lose through our relationships.

Stay with me for a minute. I know this post might be a little harder to follow, so let me give you some examples:

I am a recovering “people pleaser.” In the past, I got upset if a teacher, friend, coach, or parent looked at me sideways. I am a deeply feeling person, and I love when people around me are happy.

People pleasing has its benefits. I did well in school, have had success in my careers, and have always gotten along well with others. The problem with being a people pleaser is that, at times, you cross your own boundaries trying to make others happy. Every time you cross your own boundary, you hand your power over to someone else. When you say yes to something although every cell in your body is screaming no, you have just handed over a bit more of yourself. Next, you might feel a sense of unease, or even dread surround you. Ultimately, crossing your own boundaries, or putting your needs aside leads to feelings of resentment. I have seen clients who have tried to please another for years, and at some point they are so resentful that it is difficult to recover the relationship.

Do you ever feel responsible for others’ emotional reactions? As a pleaser, I have spent a lot of time trying to keep everyone around me in a state of happiness. If someone responded to me in anger, frustration, sadness, embarrassment, or any of those other pesky emotions, I would try to bring them back to that happy place. It may seem like a nice gesture, but in actuality, trying to be responsible for everyone’s emotional experience can be exhausting.

Instead, it is so important to act from a place of your personal values and integrity, and then allow others to experience what they need to based on theirs. I see so many couples where one partner tries to dance around the other partner to prevent them from being upset, but it always leads to feelings of resentment if they cross their own boundaries.

It is so important for us to act from a place of authenticity as individuals because it creates trust in ourselves: we know we can draw the lines we need to, and we trust that others will do them same for themselves. For example, my husband is gone for work this week. When we were planning for this, and I started looking at Volleyball Mom duties, work, and getting everyone ready for school, my anxiety went up….and I may or may not have been a little cranky. Brad might have tried to “fix” everything by staying home, but that would have been crossing his own boundaries and would have created underlying resentment. Ultimately, I know I can handle the home front on my own, but I also want the space to be cranky for a minute or two. We all have to work on allowing our loved ones to move through their own emotions on their timeline.

How many people out there struggle with fear of judgement? Sometimes we are directly criticized or belittled, and at those points we have a chance to either hold on to our power or hand it over to the other person. I always take a moment to reflect on the validity of the comments they made, but I work to not allow someone’s opinion to define who I am.

Another way to hand over power is to focus your attention on what others will think. I have watched people make pivotal decisions based on fear of what their friends, family, church, or community will think. Again, reflect on your core values and act from your integrity. Trapping yourself based on the opinions of others is suffocating.

In my work with couples, I am continually reminded how key it is for people to live from a place of individual power. If individuals know who they are, what is important to them, and what lights them up; if they can communicate their needs, wants, and desires, they can have a thriving relationship. Of course we won’t always agree, and we will find compromise, but that is not handing power over. That is being able to look at what I need, and what you need, and find common ground.

Brandi and I are gearing up for the Fall Thriving Relationship Online Workshop. In this twelve week series, we help couples gain more insight into themselves so they can more clearly communicate with their partner. The only way to avoid handing our power over is to understand who we really are as individuals. Only then can we can connect with our partner from a place of authentic integrity. To learn more: http://www.shannonkayjohnson.com/thethrivingrelationship

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