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  • Writer's pictureRyan Wilson

Permission to be Powerful

One of the consistent things I find in my practice is that almost everyone comes to me knowing what is wrong in their lives. They know that the problem is that they are in an unhealthy relationship, lack meaningful work, work in a toxic environment, don’t eat well, have poor sleeping habits, don’t exercise, that they are not living their values, are always making their choices to please others etc.

What I have discovered is that people know what is wrong, they are looking for permission and validation to trust themselves and do something about it. They are looking for someone to reflect back to them that it is appropriate to be upset in their situation, they are not crazy and that they deserve to take action. In short, I have the privilege of helping people “know what they know”. We are actually far more powerful than we give ourselves credit for.

Simply put, for any behaviour to change, we have to follow these steps:

1. The first step is that we have to be AWARE of what we are currently doing.

2. Then we have develop a DISLIKE for what we are doing, because if we don’t see it as a problem, we won’t do anything about it. This is because changing behaviour takes effort, it is like Newton’s first law law of motion, whatever is set in motion will stay in motion unless an equal or greater force pushes it in a different direction. 

3. When we dislike it so much that it becomes clear that continuing to engage in that behaviour will cost us more than we are willing to accept, we REHEARSE alternative options.

This means that we start to imagine and brainstorm what we could do differently, maybe even seeing ourselves role play it in our minds. As our desire to change increases, we start to see opportunities where we could have done things differently after the fact. This stage is pretty frustrating, so make sure you just notice those times and not beat yourself up for them.

4. We USE IT at the right time.

The tricky part of this stage is that when we first choose to hold onto our power (aka to giving ourselves permission to do what is healthy for us in the moment), that is often followed by us then dropping our power if the other person even looks at us the wrong way.

It is almost like we say “I am going to hold onto my power/ sense of worth and do what is healthiest for me- is that ok?” and if the people around us give us any indication it isn’t, even a slight change in their tone of voice, we stop doing what is healthiest for us and fall back to trying to keep the peace or keeping other people happy.

We feel strong when we are holding onto our power/ sense of worth, even in the face of difficult situations (ie. conflict) or emotions (i.e. anger, sadness etc) and weak and scared and small when we are not.

As we continue to rehearse actually following through and holding onto our power in the situation, the next step for most of us is standing our ground. We sometimes start off doing this a bit too aggressively, because we are afraid we might get bulldozed again, so we figure “the best defense is a good offense”. The other unfortunate part of this stage  is that we punish ourselves for standing our ground after the interaction. We ruminate about it, analyze it, criticize and second guess ourselves. Some of us even engage in other self-punishing behaviours like smoking, drinking, over-eating, lying in bed, feeling guilty because the other person was upset and worrying about other things that are neither our responsibility or in our control etc.

The good news is that after we notice that we are doing this, we eventually give ourselves permission to stand up for ourselves AND feel ok with the consequences, even if it may have been upsetting to someone else.

This is made easier when we consciously choose to focus on the fact that we are allowed to make the healthiest choices for us, no matter what the situation, and this is a reflection of treating ourselves and our needs as EQUAL to those of other people’s, as opposed to being below or above them. (Reviewing “Our Expectations Shape Our Behaviour” may be helpful).

So how does all of this connect to the Amy Cuddy talk posted earlier in the week?

Power posing is a way we can consciously help give ourselves permission to stay connected to the belief that we deserve to make the healthiest choice for us in every situation.

I can testify to this being a fact both personally and professionally. When I stand taller, I feel stronger, and when a patient is struggling to connect to their strong and healthy self, I often invite them to adopt a stronger posture that reflects them giving themselves permission, and it works pretty much every time!

So here is the Value challenge of the week, try any one of the Power Poses  for 2 min this week, whenever you notice you are starting to feel small, scared and weak and notice what happens.

As always, we want to hear about your experiences, comments and questions. You can email us, tweet @Dr.AdrianaWilson or post a comment.

Have a great week everyone!

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