How many times have you wasted energy ruminating about someone? You’re upset and feel resentful because someone else is getting the promotion you wanted; you harbor ill will toward someone who is violating your personal values. You find yourself thinking non-stop about that person and how in some secret way, you could just “one-up” him or her? Don’t feel bad, we’ve all been there! In fact, this is part of human nature! However, just because many people tend to react this way when they’re upset at someone else, doesn’t mean it’s the best way to act! To this effect, Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, explains that when people allow their ill will toward others to fester, they are actually unconsciously choosing to hand over their power to these people.
The Negative Effects of Giving Away Your Power
Researchers have discovered that holding grudges and harboring negative feelings weakens your immune system by increasing stress levels, increasing the pain in your body, and reducing your life expectancy. Morin also adds several other negative side-effects of handing over your power to others:
1. You are at the mercy of others to regulate your feelings; like an emotional roller-coaster, you have no control of how you will feel from one moment to the next.
2. You let others decide your self-worth and therefore what is important in the moment.
3. You steer clear of the real problem and avoid addressing the issue at hand.
4. You become a victim of the situation and start feeling helpless.
5. You become overly sensitive and emotional when critiqued.
6. You lose sight of your passion, ambitions, and purpose.
7. You risk losing relationships due to a lack of honest communication.
Stopping the Cycle and Regaining Your POWER!
Rather than keeping negative feelings bottled up and ruminating, Morin suggests taking a step back to objectively analyze the situation that has unfolded. Here are the key questions to ask yourself to regain your power:
1. What evidence is there that there is truth to what is being said?
2. Do I have any proof that this is not true?
3. Why is this person giving me this feedback? Would he or she have anything to gain? Is there some self-interest involved?
4. Do I want to change my behavior to conform to the feedback given to me?
It’s important to go over these questions regularly and keep them close by when conflict presents itself. As we practice reflecting and pausing in the heat of criticism, we develop the habit of taking back our power and, as a result, actively choosing how we will react and act!
Along with the practice of stepping away from the situation to objectively reflect on it, Morin also presents several other practical exercises to help you regain your power when you are tempted to take the downward spiral of negativity.
1. Breathe! Take 10 deep breaths and pause. Is the situation really that bad? Evaluate the situation step by step.
2. Leave the situation and take a moment to pause and regain composure. This keeps you from flying off the handle and making the situation worse.
3. Distract yourself by “changing the channel” and doing another activity. Allow yourself to sit with the situation for a while before acting on it.
4. Avoid power-surrendering expressions such as “she made me do this, I’m not good enough, I have to go there, etc.”
To this end, Morin explains that there are many benefits related to widening our perspective and adopting proactive strategies during conflict, the most important being a sense of personal empowerment. But, that is not all! When you take back your power through pausing, questioning and then acting, you develop a better sense of yourself by honing in on your core values, by becoming accountable for your actions and your reactions, by no longer feeling pressured into doing something that does not align with your values, and by having more time to focus on what matters to you most.
Are you guilty of sometimes giving away your power to others? If so, do you think you will now be more aware of the signs and act accordingly to regain your power? Let’s not forget that this is a process you must work through every day. I would love to read your thoughts on the subject. Please feel free to leave a comment in the reply box below!
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