Powerless

February 26, 2020 practicalcoach_y7p8ax 0 Comments

Many Millennials are reaching their 30s and 40s; an age range often spent reflecting over our journeys thus far. One of the most common things I hear from clients and Millennials alike is a feeling of absolute powerlessness in their lives. They feel at the mercy of their surroundings. The current has become too strong and it takes constant effort not to get swept away. Some of us are gradually losing ground as the water rises, watching our dreams drift away.

Let’s be honest. If we feel like nothing we do matters, most of us will stop trying to do anything, and find a way to cope with how things are. I mean… what’s the point? That sounds like a great experience. Sign me up! 

 

 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I realized my life was not anything like I had expected. It was a gradual thing that pressed harder on my shoulders each year. I was always going to lose weight, but I hadn’t. I was always going to pick a career, but I hadn’t. I was always going to have a great boyfriend, but I didn’t. I was going to see the world, but I hadn’t even left the USA.

You know those movies where the adult magically comes face-to-face with their 8 year-old self, and the 8 year-old is like…WTF man? What happened to you?

Yeah.

As Millennnials we were given a “book of acceptance” at birth. This book is written by our societies, cultures, and families. This book tells us what we must do to achieve approval in society. According to this book, by the time we reach this age we should already have certain things that define us as successful: a great job, lots of money, a nice house, a perfect body, tons of friends, a huge wedding ring, a perfect marriage… whatever your brain produces. We should have these things and they should make us happy. If we don’t have these things then something is wrong and we shouldn’t be happy.

So we reflect on our lives and compare them to “the book.”

Most of us, when comparing what we think we’re supposed to have against what we actually have, feel like we come up short. Somewhere along the way we fell behind. Maybe we’ve spent the last 30-40 years chasing goals that hold no personal value for us. Take me for example; I am 36 and I don’t want children. I spent at least a decade trying to convince myself otherwise, because, I’m a woman and we’re supposed to want children. That’s what we do. I blamed it on my job, my finances, my weight that kept me from finding a partner. I watched other women get married and go through pregnancy. I work in a clinic dedicated to Women’s Health, so I saw a lot of married women with the same goals. I should want children. Something is wrong with not having them. It was awful to feel like I was on a ticking clock to have them, when I didn’t really want to have them, but society says… it made me feel like garbage. So I beat myself up and felt even worse about my weight, which made me feel even more powerless in my life. 

Technically I have failed the game of life. Back in the day this made me question everything. I’m not following “the book.” Insert mid-life existential crisis. Well, it’s a little too late now, right? Clearly, I’m terrible and should be stamped with “rejected” on my bum just before I am sent back to the manufacturer. No refunds. I’m broken.

Seriously, it sometimes really feels like we are broken or missing parts. We think in circles and become exhausted. There is no way we can possibly succeed. We can’t go back in time, and we aren’t motivated to go forward knowing things aren’t going to change. We wait for something to happen; remaining stuck, suspended in life, and paralyzed. 

No Control = No Power

If we can’t change anything what IS the point?

There are three common ways people typically deal with feeling powerless:

1We ignore it by distracting ourselves with brief/false pleasures like food, alcohol, work, shopping, Netflix, social media… and life continues to pass us by. We get a few minutes of  temporary pleasure, but the problem doesn’t change, so as soon as we stop eating it comes back. To keep it away we have to continue to distract ourselves, over and over, until we’re numb. We check out. Nothing changes.

2. We spend all of our energy blaming things outside of us, and then expect those things to change for us. If my mother would stop judging me I would feel better. If my spouse would remember to clean the yard my marriage would be better. If I had more time I would do the things I want to do. My boss is horrible. If I wasn’t so stressed out about my life I wouldn’t eat so much. If I was rich I wouldn’t have to stay in this dead-end job. We put the power in the hands of things outside of us. We can change jobs or spouses, but we take the drama with us wherever we go. Nothing changes.

3. We generate our own power and then use it to create whatever we want. Things change.

OK, great Michelle. How the heck do we generate power?

What is power, really? Most of us think power comes from a source outside of ourselves, and we only get more by taking it away from someone else. We think power is the ability to force what we want. This is wrong, and perpetuated by things like capitalism and our western culture. Our culture was molded by the belief that having power over others makes us better. True power doesn’t need to control others- it doesn’t require it. If you need to push or force, it is because you actually lack power and are trying to take it from elsewhere. We don’t actually possess it or create it, and when we take it away from others we isolate ourselves from the world. We become very lonely and paranoid.

Our inability to control the world does not make us powerless. Our inability to control ourselves does.

“Our society is founded on a very limited definition of power, namely wealth, professional success, fame, physical strength, military might and political control.  My dear friends, I suggest that there is another kind of power, a greater power: the power to be happy right in the present moment, free from addiction, fear, despair, discrimination, anger, and ignorance.  This power is the birthright of every human being whether celebrated or unknown, rich or poor, strong or weak.  Let’s explore this exact kind of power…” –Thich Nhat Hanh (The Art of Power)

 

So we’re back to the original question: what is power? If true power is the ability to have control over ourselves, then what gives us ultimate control? 

The answer is so simple. 

Are you ready?

Decisions. 

The most powerful thing we can do in our lives is make decisions. 

This is how we generate power.

 

 

Here’s the truth, my fellow Millennials; when my clients tell me they feel powerless in their lives it’s not because they lack power, it’s because they have given it away. We give power away when we allow others to make decisions for us.

Uh, Michelle, I make decisions all the time?! 

Of course you do. We all do. Everything we do in life is the result of a decision. That’s not the issue. The issue is why you are making decisions. It matters SO much because not all of our decisions are deliberate. In fact, most of us don’t make any decisions deliberately. We usually make our decisions as a reaction, not as an intention. Deliberate decisions are full of purpose, intent, and produce something we know we want. If we don’t clearly decide what we want, we avoid making decisions until, eventually, life makes the choice for us. The world keeps going even if we hesitate. Sooner or later, if we wait long enough, something else will pull us along. This is how we hand over our power.

So the real question becomes; are we living our life deliberately, or is our life at the mercy of wherever we are randomly pulled?

I’m telling you right now, if you’re trying to live according to the “book of acceptance” instead of deciding what’s acceptable for you… then ending SUCKS. It did not get good reviews. 

Some of you have a vague idea of what you want. A partner, to travel, to own a business…

That’s not what I’m asking.

Have you made a decision? Have you made a choice?

I finally made a decision. I didn’t want children. I stopped wavering between thinking I shouldn’t and wondering if I should, and simply decided. I chose what I really wanted and I am very happy about it. I generated this power in my life. I could have just as easily decided to have children IF that’s what I really wanted. No wrong answer here. It took exploring myself with curiosity to understand why I felt conflicted. I realized I only felt confused because our culture has created an ideal that causes women to feel “lesser” if they don’t have babies. If the only reason I want to procreate is because I feel guilty if I don’t, is that a good reason to have children? NO! It had nothing to do with me actually wanting them. I answered my question. It felt AMAZING to realize this. I went from powerless to powerful.

You have a unique life that is all your own. Do you know what you’re doing with it? If you feel powerless right now, then I’m here to tell you the answer is 100% NO and it has nothing to do with your circumstances. It has everything to do with your choices. 

Now, I don’t mean making the right choices or the wrong choices, I mean making choices that belong TO YOU. I am not here to tell you what you should choose. I am here to tell you, you need to choose SOMETHING, and the reason behind that choice should be because you want it, not because the “book” wants it.

Millennials, it’s time to put down “the book” you were given. It’s a work of fiction. Who even wrote this thing? Maybe someone’s great-great-great-great-great uncle? I bet he also thought women who were good at math were witches.

I digress.

For now, I’ll leave you with this tidbit.

Don’t let “I don’t know how” intimidate you. You don’t have to know how to paint to decide to start painting. You don’t have to know how to ride a bicycle to decide to learn. You just need to decide. The how comes later. 

Be curious with yourself. Explore your thoughts and you will start to reveal your truth. Think about your desired outcome. What is the end result you want in your life? Who are you going to be? What do you want to produce in the world? We are a product of our own actions and choices. What does your end product look like?

Did this blog post resonate with you? If so, and you’d like to do more work, check out this worksheet and get your brain sauces flowing.

 

Powerless was last modified: March 1st, 2020 by practicalcoach_y7p8ax

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