Facing inequity in relationships — both personal and professional — is a common experience for women. If you say “not me” to that statement, that’s wonderful; however, in my years of work and writing about the psychology of women, inequity and the negative impact is the most common concern I hear, whether in individual therapy, consulting or presentations. As a result of those stories that describe failing to know what to do, I wrote RELEASE FROM POWERLESSNESS: TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE. The first edition came out over 20 years ago. A third edition is now available. And the point of that information is simply to share that I find very little has changed — either in the way systems function, in the role of women in systems, and the struggle women still experience to hold their ground and to trust their ability to do so. If you read this blog regularly, you’ve seen several posts on power, discrimination, and systems that don’t work…. it’s on my mind! So, here are some questions for you to use to analyze your own history and experience with power.
POWER IS ABOUT BOUNDARIES. That means you need to know where you draw the line in the sand with another person. As a kid, I recall taking a piece of chalk, drawing a line on the sidewalk, and daring the other person to step across! I like to think I have better techniques to explore, but you perhaps get the point….that didn’t work well!
Adult boundaries mean: 1-saying NO when you want and need to; 2-asking for what you want; 3-giving and receiving negative feedback; and 4-giving and receiving positive feedback. You can explore all these ideas in depth in my book, but here’s a way to get started in your self-exploration.
1-who is the hardest person for you to say no to? You might need to list more than one.
2-who is the hardest person for you to ask for what you want? Again, a list if needed.
3-who is the hardest person for you to give negative feedback to, and to receive negative feedback from
4-who is the hardest person for you to give positive feedback to, and to receive positive feedback from
Now make some notes on what you feel when you ask these questions and think about your answers. You have identified people who have far too much power in your life! And when people have too much power in our lives, it’s typically because we have “given it to them”….and that means taking it back is not just challenging — it’s sometimes dangerous. This is where some deep exploration is necessary. Changing your behavior takes time, exploration, attention to your history as well as current behavior and the situations you find yourself in…..go SLOW. Ask for help. Read, write what you discover and feel, and share with a safe person.
In future blogs, I’ll share more on the “how to” for taking back power you have given away. Know that we don’t give it away consciously….it’s typically just what we learn to do. That, then, means we can learn to handle power differently, more effectively!