Welcome back to the Heal The Hurt Podcast! Are you sick and tired of feeling sad, frozen, stuck, and powerless all the time? I’m going to help you put an end to that today. I’ll give you 10 empowering questions to ask yourself to turn to when you’re feeling sad or powerless – it can help turn the feelings around.
Before I get into the 10 questions, I want to share why we sometimes feel disempowered: where does it come from? When we’re in that place where we can’t find an answer for anything, we are stuck focusing on what we can’t control rather than what we can control. Maybe it’s your relationship, job, or kids. But we can’t control what other people think, feel, and do. There’s so much to life we don’t have a solution to because it’s out of our control. When we switch out of thinking about people, places, and things we have no control over and flip our thinking to focus on ourselves and what we can control: we shift out of disempowerment. That’s what these 10 questions will accomplish: focusing on what you can control.
What causes this habit? Partially how our brains developed: our environment millions of years ago was full of scarcity and fear, so we were trained to be afraid constantly. As a result, our brain was always conditioned to see the negative first. The good news: we’ve shown with neuroplasticity that we can remove this from a species. We don’t have to stay stuck in negative bias: it’s the basis of my book Your Journey to Success. Can this be done overnight? Of course not. But we can work, and there is hope.
What keeps the disempowerment going is our childhood. How often were you disempowered as a child? Think of all the times you were asked and forced to do things that went against your own inclinations and desires. Many of those things our parents did were good for us, but many times our parents, because of their own disempowerment, pass on the habits to us. If your mother or father grew up with an addiction in their household, and thus a precondition to be afraid, it may have been projected onto you with helicopter parenting. That takes our inherent power away to explore the world and make perfectly imperfect decisions. This is why you see kids go off to college and start making poor decisions: they were never allowed to make and recover from basic mistakes. So again, protection is good, but there’s a way to protect with boundaries.
I use the metaphor of a backcountry two-lane rain for this protection dilemma. The centerline is double yellow; you aren’t supposed to cross it. As an infant, the mom and dad are the two yellow lines, and the child is allowed to explore in the small space between. It’s appropriate to be highly involved at that point. As the child grows, our role is to move those lines to the white lines on the side of the road by the shoulder. We allow them to explore, cross that double line and make a mistake. We want them to bruise a knee or suffer the consequences of a poor grade: they’re minor mistakes, and they can learn and navigate getting back on their side of the road. Parents who disempower their child stay as the yellow lines, constantly hypervigilant. When we over-protect and strip our children of power, they end up suffering more than if you had let them make mistakes. Into early adulthood, the soft shoulder should open, and the parents are the fence farther away. The children are making bigger decisions and mistakes. In general, the consequences are things they can recover from, so they learn and don’t make more serious mistakes in adulthood. We remain the fence to protect them from life or death situations. At this point, we don’t tell them how to get out of a situation – we are advisors and ask them how they will.
Let’s get into the 10 questions to turn things around. The goal of these is to create a massive emotional shift: we become what we feel, not what we think.
- What can I control? Make two lists: one of what you can completely control and one of what you can’t. This is a living document – you will discover more things in the future. For example, when you’re in a depressed state, you’ll have this list to go to.
- I’m excited for me to find a way to _____. Fill in the blank. When we’re powerless, we see all the problems and how things won’t work. You may not have the answer with this method, but you’re excited about something to cross your path. A bit ago, I was stressed about work and the “I can’t control” phase. One morning I remembered this question and told myself I was excited. Excited about the project and about solving the problem. That day I almost immediately found the answer I needed – when we are disempowered, the solution comes right by us, and we don’t see it. When we’re empowered, we see it.
- What can I start saying no to? When we are powerless, we allow behavior and things that don’t work for us. We may be trying to be nice and help others, but we often don’t have the reserves. We get stuck in people-pleasing and guilt, but it robs us of our inherent power. If you feel guilty, resentful, and inclination to keep score, or want to throw it in the other’s face: you’ve been saying yes to things you need to say no to.
- What brings me joy? This popped up the other day for me. I felt disempowered and went shopping at Bed Bath and Beyond to stroll and get myself moving. I saw an innovative pant hanger and got so excited. I can’t stand the dry cleaner hangers! I know it sounds silly, but I like my pants to hang on good hangers. I got so excited. It’s the little things in life that bring us joy. For me, it’s lying in the sun, going on walks, and buying hangers. There’s always something in life that brings us joy. What is it for you? Make a list! This is an empowering perspective: nurturing ourselves and meeting our needs and wants.
- What do I love the most about myself? This can be tough for some people but really think about it. Aren’t you a great friend? Maybe it’s your spirituality, your career, your eyes, your nose, your smile. There’s always something about us that we really love. This creates an emotional shift, moving us out of the disempowered position and into truth. We are all lovable and perfectly imperfect. We all have many wonderful things about us that we often don’t give ourselves credit for. So start looking in your life and making a list.
- What is my best skill? What do I do really, really well? There’s something each of us is really good at, whether that’s an activity, career, parenting, willingness to learn, communication, pursuits of growth, etc.
- What is something I’ve always dreamed of doing? When we are disempowered, all we see is destruction. We see all the things we can’t do. But we all have dreams. Many times we lose sight of them - but think of how good it feels to dream. You’ll start looking for solutions in the empowered position. What have you always wanted to pursue? Start focusing on that. Sit and dream. Change the way you feel.
- What skill do I need to learn to achieve that dream? Maybe you want a dream marriage or a great friendship or to play the piano. What skills do you need to learn these things? The best way to achieve what we can control is to develop new skills. This first requires knowledge, and then we turn that knowledge into a skill, then our skill becomes a tool. Then your tool can help you achieve your dream.
- What’s the smallest step I can take today? When we are disempowered, the problems seem so overwhelming. Even the dream may feel overwhelming! So stop focusing on what you can control: maybe the smallest step you do today is Googling. Read one article. You’ve already started the journey and living in what you can control. The greatest chemically-producing way to shift the way we feel is to learn. It’s the single greatest way we feel self-esteem: learning and education. It will really shift you out of the disempowered position into a sense of achievement.
- From Byron Katie, a brilliant woman: What if I never had this disempowered feeling ever again? Think about when you felt disempowered: what would be leftover if you could never feel that again? You’d feel light, strong, safe, joy, happy. Byron reevaluates bad experiences and how most people say they never want to experience something bad that happened to them ever again. Many successful people say they never want their kids to experience the suffering they did, yet the suffering created the success! The more kids suffer, the more successful they become. This question gets rid of the residue of disempowerment. Our authentic soul is behind this question. Those feelings and moments are always temporary – they lead us to solutions and aren’t bad. When we choose no longer to see them as a disempowering problem, that’s when we see our authentic self and greatness to achieve anything and everything we want.
There are your 10 commandments. I hope this helped you - please share if you feel it would help others. As always,
If you would like to break the chains of fear and achieve your dreams, I created this masterclass just for you. CHECK IT OUT!
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