As the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do (link is external), I often hear from people about which of the 13 things they struggle with the most. The second thing on my list—mentally strong people don’t give away their power—is one of the hardest.
For example, a business executive confided that an associate always brings out the worst in him. A stay-at-home parent said her day hinges almost entirely on what type of mood her spouse is in. At some point, almost everyone has given someone else power over the way they think, feel, or behave.
Giving away your personal power robs you of mental strength. But maintaining control in your life requires that you make a conscious choice to take back your power. Before you can create positive change, you need to recognize the ways in which you give your power away.
Here are 9 ways to keep your personal power:
1. Don’t waste energy complaining.
There’s a big difference between complaining and problem-solving. Venting to your friends, family, and co-workers keeps you focused on the problem and prevents you from creating a solution. Grumbling implies that you have no power over your situation, and also shows that you lack power over your attitude.
2. Accept responsibility for how you feel.
Don’t let other people’s behavior dictate your emotions. Saying your mother-in-law makes you feel bad about yourself, or claiming that your boss makes you mad, suggests that they have power over how you feel. Instead, accept that it is up to you to manage your emotions, regardless of how others behave.
3. Establish healthy boundaries.
Giving in to guilt trips, or refusing to speak up for yourself, gives power to other people. Rather than blame them for wasting your time or “forcing” you to do something, recognize that you’re in charge of yourself. Establish healthy physical and emotional boundaries that give you control over how you spend your time and with whom you spend it.
4. Practice forgiveness.
Holding a grudge against someone who has hurt you doesn’t punish the other person—it only punishes you. When you waste valuable time thinking about a person you feel wronged you, it takes away your ability to enjoy the moment.
Forgiving someone is the best way to take back your power. But to be clear, forgiveness isn’t about saying what the person did was OK. It’s about choosing to let go of the hurt and anger that interferes with your ability to enjoy life.
5. Know your values.
When you’re not clear what your values are, you’re at risk of becoming a helpless passenger rather than a confident driver of own life. You’ll be at risk of jumping on board with other people’s ideas and may be easily led astray. Take back your power by acknowledging your values and living true to what’s important to you.
6. Don’t waste time on unproductive thoughts.
Have you ever come home from work and spent the entire evening wishing you didn’t have to go back again tomorrow? Suddenly, you’re giving your eight-hour workday 12 hours of your time. Take control over the thoughts that occupy your mind so you don’t give more brainpower to areas of your life that don’t deserve it.
7. Avoid language that implies you’re a victim.
Saying things like, “I have to work 60 hours a week,” or, “I had no choice but to say yes,” infers that you’re a victim of unfortunate circumstances. While there will certainly be consequences for the decisions you make, acknowledge that you always have choices.
8. Make your self-worth independent of other people’s opinions.
If your self-worth depends on others holding you in high regard, you’ll likely become a people-pleaser. Not everyone needs to like you, nor do they have to agree with your lifestyle. Evaluate the merit of criticism you receive, but never allow any one person’s opinion determine your self-worth.
9. Be willing to stand out from the crowd.
Self-doubt and fear can lead you to want to blend in with those around you. But trying to fit in with the crowd will cause you to disguise who you really are. Trust that you’re mentally strong enough to stand out and dare to be different.