From the moment we enter this world, women are taught harmful messages about who we are, how we are and how we should be. Unfortunately those messages take a toll over time. These messages can make owning our power a herculean feat if we’re not careful. Below are five ways many of us women give our power away—pay attention and stop doing them:
1. Refusing to choose. You struggle with choosing what to wear, what to eat, what job to take, whom to date and on and on. You may not want to make the wrong choice or hurt someone’s feelings or be judged or [fill in the blank], so instead you choose to not choose. When you choose to not choose, however, that IS a choice—a disempowering one, but still a choice. If you’re going to choose by not choosing, you may as well choose. Do your due diligence and make choices for your life.
2. Saying “I don’t know” way too often. Regardless of whether you’re asked about what to eat, what you think or what you want to do, you often have the same answer: “I don’t know.” If you don’t know what you think, then take the time to think. If you’re too afraid to share what you think, then find the courage to use your voice. If you don’t want to say what you think because you’re not ready to, then say that you’re not ready to share that information right now. If you don’t want to choose because you’re afraid to make the wrong decision or be criticized by others for your decision, take a deep breath and make the best choice you can make. Leave the “I don’t knows” for only those times when you truly don’t know—otherwise, take the time to find out.
3. Brushing off compliments. The appropriate response to compliments is, “Thank you.” If you find yourself constantly brushing off compliments with statements like “Oh, it was nothing” or “I really didn’t do much—they really deserve most of the credit” or “Oh, I wish I looked good, ha ha,” etc., then you have to work on this self-doubt. When you‘re given a compliment, take it in. When you brush off compliments you do yourself a disservice and minimize you. Stop minimizing your actions or yourself and say, “Thank you.”
4. Sleeping with men in an effort to get a man. Don’t ever have sex with a man in order to get him to like you; his sleeping with you does not mean he likes you. When you feel that your main, or only, way to attract a man is through sex, you send men—and yourself—the message that your only worth is what you can do sexually—a very dangerous message. Put the sex on hold and, instead, raise your bar regarding the men in your life.
5. Looking for answers from others. Do you ever doubt yourself so much that you ask others for the answers for issues to which you already know the answers? Have you then ever changed your answer because their answer was different? Women have been taught for far too long that others know more, are wiser and more rational than they are. Don’t buy in to these crazy messages. Trust yourself. Answer your own questions. If you need to research, then do so—and then come up with your own answer. Trust your instincts, use your brains and share your insights rather than relying on others to share theirs.
A key aspect of true power is having the courage to formulate and stand behind your own answers, actions and beliefs. Power is not about aggression, money, fame or status. True power comes from within and is about a matter-of-fact confidence in who you are, what you believe and how you act. Find the courage to stand behind yourself. Act on that courage. Know thyself and proudly step in the world on your terms, in your own way. Stop worrying so much about being liked. Focus on being authentically and confidently you. Be respectful in the way you show up, share your ideas, fight for your beliefs and go after what you want—and demand the same in others. Refuse to play small in a world that truly needs you to step up and rise. Embrace your power; don’t shrink from it or yield it to others. Own it.
Challenge: Get conscious of all the ways you play small in your life. Choose one of the above areas that you are struggling with and begin to step in differently in that area. Focus on it every day for as long as necessary in order to change it. Tackle the first area and then move on to the next and so on. Start the journey to finding and owning your power today.