We’ve all given our power away before, and we’ve all had it taken from us at some point. There’s no sugar-coating the fact that life is unfair; some pain and suffering are hard to recover from. As a result, we often choose not to recover at all. Instead, we numb our emotions with substances or place blame on other people for the way we feel. We fall into a victim mentality that keeps us small.
I am a prime example of this. As a child, I turned to other people for validation and reassurance, because getting it from myself didn’t feel like enough. I didn’t trust myself; in fact, from a very young age, I hated myself. I felt I was vile and disgusting and shameful because of something that was done to me, because of someone else who’d taken my power away from me.
So, I chose to continue this pattern — to give my power away to others, to let them tell me what was right and what was wrong. I lacked an identity, became only a reflection of those around me, changing my personality, sacrificing my own values and morals depending on who I was with. I felt my spirit die each passing day, had zero boundaries, and gave all of myself to simply be accepted.
I am only now breaking this habit, which has become so ingrained in me. Giving my power away is the only way I feel safe and worthy of love, but I’ve been focusing on changing that.
If you can relate to any of this, you’re not alone. Here’s how to take your power back.
Tell your stories
I’m starting to think I’m a writer because I lacked a voice growing up. I had so many stories to tell, but I felt no one would listen — no one could ever really hear or understand me. I wasn’t good at speaking up, but I was great at painting a picture and eliciting emotion through writing. It was when I felt most empowered and most myself.
Your stories deserve to be told. Sharing your experiences can be a great way to connect with others and heal. Giving your perspective on the hardships you’ve endured, explaining how it felt to crawl through your darkest moments, will give you a sense of pride that’s unmatched.
Look at what you’ve been through and where you are today. You got yourself here. Even if you’re not where you want to be, you are still here. You’ve survived. You did that.
So share your stories — with your journal, with your closest people, with the entire world. Just let it out. Speak it. Give yourself a voice.
It can be hard to trust yourself, especially if you’ve been through emotional or mental turmoil. Often, we point fingers at ourselves as a form of control in traumatic situations. For instance, it’s easier to blame yourself than to admit you were violated by someone else. It’s easier to think it’s a “you” problem than to hold others accountable for how they’re treating you.
However, once you start to trust yourself is when the real healing begins. If you can feel safe with and confident in yourself and your choices, you won’t seek external validation or reassurance. Therefore, you’ll become less attached to other people and their opinions of you. You won’t care how you’re perceived, won’t waste time trying to impress people who don’t even see you in the first place.
Work through your emotions without shame
Emotions can be heavy, but they are not a reflection of who you are — they’re simply a side effect of living. Fighting or denying them won’t make them go away.
For example, while anger might feel unproductive, it serves its purpose. There’s a reason why it comes before bargaining and depression in the stages of grief: because it protects us from the desperation and agony we aren’t yet ready to face.
However, staying in that anger for too long can prevent you from truly healing. That’s why it’s important to let yourself feel it. Let yourself feel everything without shaming yourself.
When I was going through a difficult breakup, I told my cousin I felt so sick I could throw up. That’s how distraught I was at the time. He told me it was okay to throw up. He gave me permission to feel panicked and lost and physically ill.
It wasn’t until I allowed myself to experience the depth of those emotions, and the physical symptoms that accompanied them, that I was able to actually move through and release them. I healed a thousand times quicker once I let my body work through these emotions without telling myself I was wrong for having them in the first place.
As we release emotions like anger and resentment, we can finally forgive — other people who have hurt us, ourselves, our situations, etc. Keep in mind, however, that forgiving is not synonymous with excusing someone’s behavior.
Forgiving someone involves letting go of the pain they caused you — not letting them off the hook for what they’ve done. Make the forgiveness about yourself, not about them, and you’ll find your power.
It also helps to recognize that nothing is ever really personal. When someone hurts you, it’s because of their own issues they’ve yet to work through. We have all hurt others, and we’ve all been hurt by others. We’re all trying out best.
Disclaimer: This does not pertain to instances of abuse.
Be where you are
An old coping mechanism I picked up as a child was escaping into fantasies. It sounds embarrassing, but to this day, I’ll pretend I’m in a situation that comforts me, where I’m either getting the validation and support I need from others or simply playing out scenarios I wish would happen. I’ve come to realize this is a common side effect of trauma because it feels too painful to be present. Excessive daydreaming helps me reside in a safer environment.
Last night, as I sank below the scorching water in my bathtub, I felt fully present and grounded, allowing myself to simply be in that moment. Immediately, I started sobbing.
Sometimes, it hurts to exist in a body that has been places you don’t want to revisit, a body that carries stories and pain we’ve yet to work through. But until you let yourself be present, you’ll continue repressing the traumas that are begging to be healed.
You’ll also miss out on a lot of beautiful moments. Sometimes, to feel anything, we have to feel everything. Remember: honor every emotion.
Set boundaries that feel good to you
Yikes. Just the word “boundaries” makes me cringe. Why? Because I feel if I enforce them, I’ll lose a lot of people. In fact, I know I will. But that’s the point.
Setting boundaries is the ultimate way to take back your power. If you’re constantly allowing people to act in ways that hurt you, you’re essentially hurting yourself. You’re giving your energy to others while draining yourself of it.
If someone can’t respect the boundaries you set, it’s because they once benefited from your lack of it. That’s not someone you want in your life — no matter how much it might hurt.
Stop feeding the narrative that you’re a victim
We are all “victims” of something. My brother could say he’s a victim of a chronic disease. My dad could say he’s a victim of losing his sister to cancer. My friend could say she’s a victim of emotionally abusive parents. I could say I’m a victim of childhood sexual assault. But we can all change that narrative without invalidating our experiences. Instead, we can use what we’ve been through to empower ourselves.
All those people I listed do not carry on a victim mentality. They don’t say “why me?” or dwell on what they’ve lost because of it. Instead, they rise to their challenges and develop more empathy for others as a result. They’ve taken their power back from those situations and channeled it toward healing — both physically and emotionally.
This isn’t to say you aren’t allowed to feel bad for yourself or that your suffering isn’t rational. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; it’s acknowledging your situation and empowering yourself to heal from it.
Whatever you’ve been through, whatever you are facing now, you can go from being a victim to being your own hero.