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Last Updated on January 25, 2021

Take Back Your Personal Power (Part 2)

Take Back Your Personal Power (Part 2)

In part one of this post we discussed the tendency some of us have to allow situations, circumstances, events and even other people to control our lives; in essence, giving away our power in an attempt to be accepted, valued, appreciated and loved. By trying to “fit in and not make waves” (as someone shared with me recently) it seems that some of us have lost our identity and sense of self. The good news is that we can take back control of our life and still be that kind, generous and thoughtful person – who also happens to be strong, confident, assertive, productive, successful and powerful. And no, we don’t need to compromise our beliefs, goals, character or core values to do so. In fact, taking back our power can be the most important step towards living a life of true purpose, alignment (with our core values), integrity and joy.

While the following strategies are very effective, they are not always comfortable or easy to implement, so it’s a good thing that you and I are all about doing what works – not what’s easy! Not every point will be relevant for every person, so see what resonates for you. Also be warned that I may be a little… er… blunt in places (surprising, I know), so if you’re feeling a bit presh you may wanna read from behind a cushion (like in a scary movie). Enjoy.

1. Stop looking for easy and start “doing” effective. Today.

All too often our desire to live a comfortable, painless, easy and safe existence (all things driven by fear) is the very thing that kills our potential, our productivity, our ability to develop and ultimately, our spirit. It is no coincidence that we (the society) have both (1) a widespread aversion to anything that makes us uncomfortable and (2) a high percentage of people who regularly feel frustrated, unfulfilled, lost and miserable.

Ironically, it is our aversion to working against resistance that stops us from growing, learning, evolving and adapting. Sometimes (in the moment) we believe it’s simply easier to just “fit in”, to compromise and to bite our tongue. While this is understandable on occasion, over the long term this kind of behaviour and thinking will set us up for unhealthy relationships, stagnation, disconnection, frustration, desperation and misery. In order to take back your power you will need to be courageous (that’s a choice by the way), you will need to be prepared to get uncomfortable (that’s where you learn, grow and adapt) and you will need to do things that may piss other people off – perhaps the ones who previously pulled your strings for their own gain.

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2. Face your fears.

You can never take back your power until you confront the things that scare you. By the way, being fearful does not represent weakness but rather humanity.

“Show me the person who fears nothing and I’ll show you an idiot.”

*There’s also an argument that the person who fears nothing might also be the person who has reached enlightenment… but that’s a discussion for another day.

If things only have the power and influence that we assign them (and they do), then fear is something we can control and use for our own personal development. For the most part fear is a completely personal thing. It’s not about the situation, circumstance or environment but rather US in it; how we react to, process, cope with and interpret the events in our world. That’s why we can see two people doing the exact same thing at the same time (a bungee jump for example); one is excited and having a great time, while the other is terrified and having the worst time ever. That’s because it ain’t about the jump; it’s about the jumper. Keeping in mind that each jumper creates his or her own reality. Of course there are healthy fears – not wanting to swim with a shark for example – but what we’re talking about here are those destructive and unhealthy fears that have been known to make people prisoners of their own mind. For a lifetime.

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3. When nice isn’t. (Nice)

Seek to be strong not nice. Too many nice people get chewed up and spat out because all they have is a bunch of “nice-ness” and zero personal power. Sometimes nice-ness is actually a euphemism for weakness and far too often our need to be seen as the “nice person” (oh, please) is what brings us undone. Endeavouring to keep everyone in your world happy is an exercise in futility, frustration and exhaustion. And stupidity. In short, it can’t be done. It’s not your job to “make” people happy; it’s your job to be you. And not the “you” that people want you to be, but rather, your authentic self. The one who has clarity, certainty, contentment and calm about who and what they are. And no, being you does not mean being selfish.

4. Stop being a victim.

The world isn’t fair. The majority don’t care about you or your issues. S**t happens. Bad things happen to good people. And lots of people are selfish and nasty. There — we’ve cleared that up. Now, stop seeking pity, attention and sympathy and get on with it. Stop having the same pointless discussions about the same issues, stop waiting to be “saved” and stop giving away your power. You don’t need universal approval, acceptance or endorsement, you need a different attitude.

5. Win respect through your actions.

Talk less, do more. What you do will tell the rest of us far more about who you are than any words that might come out of your mouth. Words are cheap and often meaningless. Most big talkers are just that. And nothing more.

6. Keep re-inventing yourself.

Being stagnant and inflexible in a dynamic world is a sure-fire way to become redundant, unnecessary and powerless. While your core values, beliefs and standards might remain constant, it is important that you continue to adapt, learn, grow and develop with your ever-changing world.

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7. Value yourself.

Stop treating others as though they are of greater worth than you. Nobody is more important than anyone else. And nobody is more important than you. Nobody. This is not about having a massive ego or being self-righteous; it’s about stopping all the self-sabotage. You know what I mean. It’s about not rationalising mediocrity and failure any more. It’s about changing your standards and your thinking. It’s about not letting your poor self-esteem get in the way of your potential and your possibilities. It’s about not letting your past become your future. In case you don’t know or you haven’t been told, I will tell you now; you are worthy, you are talented, you are good enough and you are powerful. More than you know. If you don’t believe those words then you don’t value yourself as you should.

*By the way, power and humility can go comfortably hand in hand.

8. Fiercely protect your brand.

Don’t associate with people, organisations, situations or products that will damage your reputation. In the professional world (where many of us spend a great deal of our lives) your brand is your power. The stronger your brand, the more power you have (in that world). Prospective employers, potential business associates and customers will all “buy what you’re selling” based largely (if not solely) on their perception of you; your product, your service, your ability, your skill, your integrity and your value to them.

Featured photo credit: Jackson David via unsplash.com

More by this author

Craig Harper

Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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Last Updated on January 24, 2021

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

    Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

    6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

    Final Thoughts

    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

    Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

    More Tips on How to Say No

    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
    [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
    [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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