The playground can be a frightening and inhospitable place. But it can also be warm, friendly and welcoming. It all depends on how powerful I feel on any given day.
There are times when everybody wants to talk to me; I’m the centre of attention and people laugh at my jokes. But other times I am a social leper, navigating a shark pool of dirty looks and sideways glances. Perhaps I’m a bit paranoid, but I do feel as though I must have sprouted tentacles or made some drunken admission that is now making the rounds on the gossip train.
Yes, mood has a lot to do with it. Like when your kids scream at you from the moment you wake and it sets your mood for the day. But I believe it is personal power that determines whether we feel like garbage or gold on any given day. And in my experience this feeling of power can wax and wane constantly depending on the situation we’re in, the people we speak to, and whether our power ‘tank’ is full or running on empty.
It is personal power that determines whether you feel so completely super-charged that your husband/partner hangs on your every word, the kids do as they’re told, first time, and everyone else is listening intently to what you are saying. Or lack thereof, where your conversations are interrupted mid flow, or your kids ignore you even after you’ve shrieked at them for the 23rd time to put their FLIPPIN’ SHOES ON!
Thankfully we can manipulate power to our advantage. Sports personalities do it all the time (read Bounce by Matthew Syed for more information) They have mantras, and affirmations to try to influence how they play. We too can do the same when we enter the school gates, when we walk into our dreaded office of employment when we feel nervous at networking events or meet up with domineering friends.
So how do we fill up our power tank?
Start by listing everything you’ve ever achieved that you’re proud of – include jobs you’ve had, qualifications you’ve worked hard for, a difficult situation you’ve recovered from, your children, or your home. Then, list all the people who love you for who you are. People for whom you don’t need to pretend to be someone else. This list will form the basis for your power tank and as long as you remember the items on this list, your tank will never be empty. Do as the top sports performers do and give yourself affirmations to repeat to yourself each day. I often do this when I’m on my way to meetings or network events when I’m nervous.
Then add to the list by doing things that pushes you out of your comfort zone. Actions that you might consider brave such as talking to people you don’t know, or offering your help to some cause or person who is in need. These things have a huge effect on our personal power. Ween yourself off Facebook – this is a sink hole into which all your personal power will disappear, leaving you feeling worthless and powerless.
It is hard work, obtaining and holding on to power but once we have it, we can use it in any situation. When we fill up our tank of internal personal power, then we have the qualities to respond with power in every other area of our lives, including disallowing others to have a negative influence on us.
One study on personal power shows that most of us wish to have power only so that we can control our own circumstances. The study authors write, “Power as autonomy is a form of power that allows one person to ignore and resist the influence of others and thus to shape one’s own destiny”.
So from now on, I want you to enter those uncomfortable situations with your power tank set to full. Remember that no one can take your power, not even those two-faced mummies/colleagues/aquaintances who look you up and down, then turn around and giggle to another, in an attempt to feel powerful themselves. They are simply trying to take your power because they don’t have much of their own. Fill up your power tank and you can bat them away like an annoying fly.