Have you ever lost a night's sleep over your housemate's neglect to wash their dishes in the sink? I have. Years ago I remember flipping and flopping in my bed while my mind paced furiously because I felt so belittled by my housemate's blatant carelessness. For hours I lay there mulling over how I could communicate to her the next day so that she would change and I would feel better.
Many years and personal growth experiences later it seems silly to think about how mad I got about a few dishes left in the sink. I realize now that I was seeking something I could control outside of me that would allow me to feel ok inside of me.
Isn't that how life works? I mean if a wheel is broken you fix it. Then you have a working wheel, right? The only problem with this thinking in the realm of human relationships is that the only person that you can make real and lasting change with is that lovely creature you see in the mirror each day. Our true power to change our mental well being lies in the control of our own choices.
During that time when I got upset with my old housemate, I was feeling pretty powerless in my life in general. I was letting life circumstances choose work for me, giving clients needs priority over my own, and spending time in relationships where I gave more than I received. This stirring sense of powerlessness compelled me to seek a scapegoat on which to pin all of my anger. While the real anger I felt was directed towards myself for giving up my power of choice. Only when I recognized the true root of the anger could I forgive myself and take the power back to make healthy choices.
Have you ever hung your well being on someone else's potential to change? Your boss, your lover, your child? I have. Yet, I'm learning that one of the greatest gifts we human were born with is our ability to choose. Even in the midst of sometimes very distasteful circumstances beyond our control, we can make many choices in the way we respond in our thinking or behavior. While in our finite human bodies we have a limited amount of energy and resources to use--wouldn't it make sense to harness that power towards making an impact where it is most effective--in our own lives!!
These days I'm learning how to use my power in many different ways: to chose the work I do, to chose to speak up when something feels wrong, to choose to stop investing time in a relationship that isn't mutually beneficial. I'm learning how to use my power to control my spending, to feel and express my feelings, to say no when I want to, and to seek reasons to be thankful in the midst of difficult things. I use my power to picks outfits I want to wear and feel good in them (no matter what people think!), to choose to open up my heart to those who've demonstrated trustworthiness and to create my boundaries around behaviors I will and won't accept.
How about you? How do you want to take up your power this week?