Take Back Your Power

We see the back of a woman looking out to the sea.
Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Nobody can take away your power without your permission.

They can demote you, judge you, shame you, shun you, fire you, or call you names, but you always, ALWAYS have a choice as to how you react and feel.

When you feel disempowered it’s because someone has done something to put you down. You feel ashamed, embarrassed, or demeaned. While you are entitled to feel the pain of the person’s aggressive move towards you, and you are justified in your reaction, you can only be diminished in your power if you allow it.

How do you overcome a huge dose of negative energy that has been dumped on you?  How do you retain your dignity, your self worth and your composure in the face of bullying intentional or not, family, friends or work?

Viktor Frankl says, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

There is always a choice to use that space Frankl mentions to access your power within instead of reacting to the energy coming from outside sources. You can believe and know that you are worthy, that you are valuable even when someone does whatever she can to make you feel otherwise.

I found my way of handling this when in the midst of crisis a mentor said to me, “You can only influence what is inside your circle of control.”  Instead of behaving defensively to what felt like an unjust betrayal and attack, instead of arguing and fighting to change the circumstances, I took responsibility for how I showed up, how I spoke to people and how I made them feel.

Despite the feeling of being kicked in the stomach, I cultivated a sense of love and forgiveness in my heart so that everything I said could come from within my values. The anxiety still lived in me for months, but slowly things started to change, and as I relaxed in the way that I presented myself and responded to things, the people around me relaxed also.

Instead of their anxiety-driven behavior resonating and generating the same behavior from me, I led them towards a more relaxed, positive and open energy.

That is when I learned that no one can really take away your power if you do not give it to them. You ALWAYS have the power to receive their negativity and repurpose their energy into what you want to send into the world.

If you are struggling to take back your power and live in the area, PLEASE reach out and have a conversation with me. I so much want you to see what you truly have within you and what you can do. If you are in Southern California, PLEASE consider coming to one of my workshops where we focus on this directly.

Why Mindfulness?

Why Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a big buzzword right now and can mean a lot of different things. I realize that I have been thinking of it in a few different ways and want to clarify why I share it as an important tool.

Mindfulness is a tool that can help develop self-awareness. To the extent that I share it with you here and with clients, it is a way of getting out of the conversation in the head and connecting with your whole self to be more aware of your full experience of a given moment.

When you have a space between the experience of self and the thoughts in your mind, you discover that you have choices, that the way you talk to yourself is not Truth and is not set in stone. You can hear what you think and make a choice about how you want to respond to it.

When we get lost in our thoughts, we forget that we are not only the thinker and the talker, but also the listener. When we connect with ourselves as the listener, we connect to a deeper inner wisdom.

Try this:

Feel the palms of your feet against the floor and shift your awareness to the space where the surface of the foot meets the surface of your shoe or floor.

Feel your weight on your legs and feet or on your chair. Feel and notice how solid you are.

Notice the vertical energy that flows from your feet to your head and the horizontal expansive energy that crosses your chest and around your back from shoulder to shoulder.

Imagine that you are a mountain with the top of you head drifting into the clouds and the shoulders to feet being solidly grounded in the earth.

Your thoughts are the clouds.

Imagine the clouds floating in front of your eyes.

When a thought appears as a word, an image or anything else project it on to a cloud and let it float away.

Create that space between yourself the viewer and listener of the thought and the thought itself.

Ask yourself the following question and listen for the answer that comes: “What will I think of next?”

Did you feel the space between asking yourself the question and listening for the answer?

Watch the thoughts float by- they will move on in their own timing.

It can take time to find the experience of listening and becoming aware of yourself as the thinker. I will do this exercise again.

In the meantime, see if once in a while, you can ask yourself that question, “What will I think next?” and wait for the answer to appear.

Notice the gap.

Creating that space and that gap in your mind can be the difference between reacting without thinking and consciously choosing how you want to show up. This is a crucial skill for a leader whether it is leading in your own life or leading at work.

Achieve or regret? Which do you choose.

What’s your big goal, the big thing that you’d really like to do?

That goal that while you read this knocks at the door and say “Remember me? Remember me?”

Yeah, that one.

Are you on your way to it?

Will it be your greatest achievement or your biggest regret?
People don’t regret the things they did in life, they regret the things that they didn’t do.
Which will this be for you?

So what’s in your way?
“I don’t have time.”
“I can’t afford it.”
“My family would kill me.”
“I’d suck at it anyway.”
“I’d look foolish.”
“I’m not like So and So.”
You might even have some bigger and more creative excuses!

Listen, your dream is your human spirit reaching for it’s potential.

Will you go for it?

Maybe you won’t reach the specific outcome that you imagine, but there may be other possible outcomes you won’t ever discover if you don’t go for it.

All the excuses are usually manifestations of some kind of fear. Which is yours?

Fear of failure?
Fear of success?
Fear of imperfection?
Fear of exposure?
Fear of embarrassment?
Fear of change?

When I was 16 the sentence, “I want to be a dancer, but I can’t” was one breath, one single thought that it was something I wasn’t allowed to do it. How would I make a living?

It turned out that I could find venues for training and growing and also work part-time.

It turned out that we moved to Southern California where there are theaters everywhere, a lot of talent, and opportunities to explore, express and grow.
It turned out when I did follow my intuition and spirit, that I loved acting. I could bring the same expression of body and mind through a character’s language as well as I could through the character’s movements.

When I knocked down one wall of belief after another, I emerged as myself.

I would never have earned that support if I hadn’t taken some steps of faith on my own if I hadn’t just kept on going with determination. I had to face the fears myself. Once I did, I found there was more support for me than I had imagined among my family and friends.

So you have a choice.

1) You can not do anything and give your power over to the fear. You can build regrets. Have the question of “what if” or the “I could have, but I didn’t.”

2) You can conquer the fear. Face the demons and bash one at a time. Stare fear down and move forward despite it. Leave it behind in your wake.

3) Or, you can learn to live with the fear. Make the fear your friend and your partner. Travel together as you explore your possibilities.

Which choice are you going to make?

Contact me for an Exploratory Conversation (free) if you’d like to think this through out loud.

A certified Positive Psychology coach, Leah works with people who want to upgrade their communication, presence and leadership in order to show up authentic and empowered to maximize their influence and impact.You can get in touch with her at this link or at steppingstoolcoaching@gmail.com

Finding a Voice

I had had some voice lesson that hadn’t really helped me achieve my singing goals and was looking for a new voice teacher. I asked my acting teacher at the time for a reference.

My acting teacher was based in Manhattan but recommended someone she knew in New Jersey. I schlepped downtown and across the river on the bus, not caring about the inconvenience and excited about what could happen.

I remember little else about the lesson except for the teacher at the piano asking me to make the biggest noise that I could.

I squeaked.

She asked me again.

She tried saying it a few different times in a few different ways. I still squeaked.

I left distraught and disheartened.

Why couldn’t I do what the teacher asked?

I wanted to sing, yet every muscle in my singing apparatus said no.

A lot of my life since then has been about finding my voice. Literally and figuratively.

Now I am passionate about working with other people whose voices are still stuck inside.

“A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used, to utter fully human speech as possible. Powerlessness and silence go together.” Margaret Atwood

Get in Touch to explore how you can find your voice and step into your power.

Build Influence With This Simple Tool

When someone makes you feel seen, heard and understood, you trust them and you invest in them. So how do you use this knowledge as a leader?

I learned the power of the phrase, “I see” from a book on developing classroom community by Ruth Charney just in time for my fifth year as a full time elementary school teacher. At this point, I had some decent classroom management skills and had become reasonably skilled at facilitating a classroom learning environment. Yet, I still struggled with frustration and fatigue from working too hard throughout the day to keep the learning on track.

From Charney’s book, I learned that just describing what you see holds people accountable for what they are doing without the weight of interpretation or judgment. As a teacher, I could just say out loud what I was seeing. “I see Jason facing forward and ready to learn. I see five children ready to learn. I see Ashley looking behind her.” This worked with other areas as well. “I see that you are working hard on your writing. I see how you are thinking about how to solve the problem.”

It changed everything!

For the first time I had a concrete nonjudgmental way of noticing and reacting to behaviors in the classroom. When my students knew I noticed what they were doing, they behaved as if I was watching them.

Just recently I was in a yoga class and the teacher called my name and cued me to shift my body slightly so that I was doing the position correctly. Not only did I appreciate the assistance learning the pose and doing it correctly, but I perked up knowing that the teacher saw me. In a room full of others doing the same thing, it is easy to feel invisible. By calling me by name and noticing my work, she made me feel that my presence in the room mattered. Though I wasn’t looking at her or in direct relationship with her, I felt her presence and in relationship to her.

Students don’t always feel the teacher’s presence if they are working individually, in small groups or in a workshop format. As part of a group, they can individually feel invisible to the teacher and that the little thing they do is unseen, unnoticed. This is true in other situations as well. When is the time that you thought you were unseen and unnoticed and someone acknowledging you would have made a big difference?

As I grew my leadership skills directing education programs, I developed a practice of writing to each person that I supervised on a regular basis. One sentence in one email of what I noticed happening for that staff member drew them closer into relationship with me. They knew I was seeing them and their work. In return, they valued what I had to say when I made suggestions or helped them think through a problem. It was a small thing that made a huge difference!

Who can you be acknowledging more in your life? It doesn’t have to be praise (that will be another post sometime), just acknowledgment. Just let them know that you see them, you notice them.

Here are some simple phrases you can adapt for your situation and try:

I see you.

I see what you are doing.

I see the effort you give.

I see that you try.

I see that you care.

I see that you really incorporated that feedback I gave you.

I notice you.

I notice the things you are doing.

I notice the qualities that show up in you.

I notice the contributions that you are making.

When you care enough to share what you see and notice about who someone is and what they are doing, you build trust and relationship. When people trust you, what you say carries more weight and your influence grows.

Try some of these phrases, or other ones that come to you and see what happens.

Contact me for a complimentary session to explore how you can grow your impact and influence in your settings.

A certified Positive Psychology coach, Leah works with people who want to upgrade their level of influence and impact to lead others towards a vision and a common goal. You can get in touch with her at steppingstoolcoaching.com