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Recently, my boyfriend and I saw The Favorite (which I highly recommend). The movie is ironic in that the queen, supposedly the most powerful woman in England, is weak and spineless. She’s entirely dependent on her companion, Lady Sarah, to run her kingdom. In one scene, it’s almost painful watching her fumble through a speech without Sarah by her side. The movie offers some valuable lessons about giving away your personal power.
Clinging to others even when they degrade you
Even though Sarah is rude and insulting toward Queen Anne, the queen still keeps her around. She does this for two reasons:
- She doesn’t think she can effectively govern her kingdom without Sarah’s input.
- She is emotionally attached to Sarah, craving her love and approval.
This is how you stay trapped in relationships. It doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship — it can be a friendship or a professional relationship. You feel like you need that relationship. Whether it’s acceptance, fulfillment, or financial gain, there’s some way you feel like you can’t go on without it.
In the queen’s case, she had a low opinion of herself and so winning Sarah’s favor became almost like a game.
I certainly had friends like that as a teen. I gravitated toward girls who would treat me like crap one day and their best friend the next day. The nice things they said to me, when following the mean things, made me feel like I’d “redeemed” myself and earned a reward (as if friendship is something to be earned). Some days they’d be particularly nasty, causing me to reconsider our friendship. But then I was afraid I’d be a complete social outcast.
Maybe you have a job you hate, but you cling onto it because you feel like you need that job. That you cannot take care of yourself and your family without it.
Do you see how you’re giving away your power?
Altering your beliefs to meet others’ expectations
Our dependence on others doesn’t just influence our actions. It can alter our beliefs.
At one point in the movie, Queen Anne admits to her servant, Abigail, that she cannot lead her kingdom without Sarah’s help. Abigail tells her that’s nonsense: that’s just what Sarah wants her to believe. But the queen had internalized these statements to the point that she thought they were true.
Most of our limiting beliefs about ourselves are based on things we’ve been told either directly or indirectly by others.
All through high school, I thought I was a terrible athlete because my coaches wouldn’t give me the time of day. They devoted all their attention to the “star athletes.” It wasn’t until I had a tennis coach who believed in me that I really reached my full potential as a player.
Similarly, I was in a writing program where some of my teachers expressed defeatist views about publishing. They led me think it was next to impossible to make a living as a writer.
It wasn’t until years later that I began to reexamine these views.
Perhaps they were speaking from their own experience rather than expressing some ultimate truth. Since then, I have taken back my power by diving into all the various ways to make money through my writing: blogging, copywriting, and self-publishing my fiction. Really, when it comes to generating income through writing, the possibilities are infinite!
Falling prey to manipulation
As The Favorite progresses, we see the queen finally standing up for herself. However, she immediately hands her power over again, this time to Abigail. On the surface, Abigail seems like a pleasant alternative to Sarah. But she’s equally ruthless.
Like Queen Anne, when we give away our personal power, we become vulnerable to flattery and manipulation. Even if the praise is genuine, it’s not a renewable resource. Often you set aside your own needs to keep receiving that praise.
How to stop giving away your personal power and regain control
Some people might say to surround yourself with different people. But that’s not getting to the core of the issue. If you have these internal issues, you’ll likely continue attracting these people and situations into your life.
Change must come from within. Then those who have been degrading you will either treat you with more respect or lose interest and move on.
So how do you take back your power?
1. Take responsibility
The instant you start blaming others for how you feel, you are digging yourself into a hole. The only way out is to take responsibility for your behavior and emotions. Nobody can force you to feel or act a certain way.
For instance, sometimes I’ll be in a bad mood after I teach. I’ll think, “Why can’t those little brats just behave!” But in fact, they did nothing to me. I was letting them control my emotions instead of deciding that I was going to have a good day no matter what.
If you’re in a cycle where you continue catering to others’ needs in order to win their approval, it will lead to anger, bitterness, and resentment. But harboring these emotions is only hurting yourself.
2. Release any need for approval from others
All of the situations above can be traced to a need for approval or security, which really go hand-in-hand. Because when everyone approves of you, it leads to feelings of safety and security.
Even in the case of my students, I wanted their approval. I wanted them to be so mesmerized by my teaching that they would never dream of misbehaving. But this is a losing battle because it’s impossible to please everyone.
So letting go of this need for approval will allow you to take back your power because you’re no longer dependent on how others perceive you. Simply ask yourself, “Can I let go of the need for approval?”
If the answer if no, ask yourself why. What good is it doing you? Then list all the benefits of letting it go.
I like to imagine this feeling as a cloud passing through a door. Keep releasing until you feel completely free.
3. Give yourself love and approval
The final step is to give yourself love and approval. At first it was difficult for me to generate these feelings — not because I was filled with self-loathing, but because it was conceptually difficult. So what I do is conjure up the emotions from a time when I felt really loved.
Also, this video Learning to Love Yourself from the Power of Quiet has been particularly effective for me. If you’re looking for practical tips, 3 Powerful Ways to Love Yourself Instantly is a good one.
Once you learn how to give yourself approval, you won’t need to seek it from anyone else. Honestly, this was kind of a scary feeling for me at first. But eventually I realized that it frees me up to give more love! I’m no longer so caught up in worrying what others think of me. This is a very empowering feeling.
All of the techniques I’ve described — taking responsibility, releasing the need for outside approval, and giving yourself love, are all part of the Release Technique. This is just scratching the surface. These simple techniques will help you to feel more calm and in control, gaining mastery over your life. Discover how below.
Tell me: In what ways have you given away your power? How will you reclaim it?