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Personal Perspectives

I Was a Repeat Offender at Giving Up My Power

A Personal Perspective: Personal empowerment can be a bumpy ride.

Key points

  • Personal empowerment is about taking control of your life.
  • Personal empowerment is a key component of self-esteem.
  • Giving up your power can put you in situations that make you unhappy.
Source: Daniel Torobekov / Pexels
Self-empowerment is taking charge of your life.
Source: Daniel Torobekov / Pexels

I have written about the many methods I've learned for achieving personal empowerment, but I've never written directly about it. And I suspect many people like me have ignorantly given up their power and wish they knew how to get it back.

Personal or self-empowerment is all about taking charge of your life and taking control. It means making conscious decisions and positive choices about your future, such as having goals and a purpose. It's about setting intentions and following through on them.

It's also about creating boundaries and knowing when to say "No." Owning your power is a crucial factor in building your self-esteem.

If you don't have a plan for your life—you aren't making conscious choices for what you want—someone else or perhaps simply circumstances will choose it in your stead. And it probably won't be the best one for you.

You might find yourself in an unfortunate situation where you are forced to do something you don't like. I've allowed my life plan to be sidelined more than once, and it was never opportune.

My Hunger for Connection Turned Me Into a People-Pleaser

I've been a repeat offender when it comes to giving up my power; I've been a people pleaser so hungry for connection with others that I failed to be true to myself. I've had to learn how to regain my power repeatedly, and each time, I got a little stronger and better at it.

When I married in 1982, I wrote fiction sporadically on inspiration, apprenticed as a business broker, and worked two part-time jobs to pay the bills. Then, I got an idea for a mail-order book business and started it on a shoestring.

I was having my Jeff Bezos moment and getting my second catalog out at the beginning of 1984 when my wife got a job offer from an apparel company in Manhattan. She wanted to move there. Reluctantly, I shelved my plans, gave up my power, and followed her.

A year later, she got an opportunity to own her own apparel business, and we moved back to Atlanta. As I've written, the adversity I experienced in New York motivated me to focus on my most important goal: becoming a successful writer. I empowered myself by investing in a personal computer and writing every day as a full-time job.

I Gave Up My Power Yet Again

By 1988, I had worked on my plan for nearly four years when my wife asked me to become a partner in her company so she could expand her business. Wanting to please her, I dropped everything I was doing—giving up my power again—and went to work full-time for the next four years in a job I hated. When the recession of 1991 destroyed our business, I went back to writing and opened my small advertising agency.

As I gradually grew that business, I also took freelance writing jobs from larger ad agencies. Three years later, the president of one company offered me a full-time job as a senior copywriter. I initially turned him down, but he made the proverbial offer I couldn't refuse.

I was lured away from my personal goals by the large salary and perks package while justifying the move by telling myself I'd learn aspects of the industry I couldn't learn otherwise. In hindsight, I see that I wasn't committed enough to my own goals, nor did I have the self-esteem necessary to hold onto my own power.

Taking My Power Back

Accepting that job required me to shut down my own company, which turned out to be a bad decision because, less than two years later, the agency lost a major client, and I was laid off. The timing was horrible because one week later, my wife gave birth to our first child. I was so angry with myself for putting myself in such a vulnerable position that I vowed to never again lose sight of my goals and dreams.

That was the last time I ever worked for someone else's company. I finally took ownership of my power and started the process of rebuilding my own business. I was finally committed to taking my power back.

Here's How to Start Taking Back Your Power

  • Take time to get to know yourself: Your values and beliefs, strengths and weaknesses, and what you enjoy doing the most. This will help you set intentions.
  • Set goals and make plans for achieving them. Find an accountability partner to help you stay on track.
  • Stop criticizing yourself, and switch those negative thoughts to positive affirmations.
  • Take assertiveness training and learn how to clearly communicate your thoughts and needs, politely disagree with someone, and decline requests for your time that don't fit your aspirations.
  • Expand your community or social circle. Get involved with groups of like-minded, positive people working toward similar goals.

Take Responsibility for Every Aspect of Your Life: Body, Mind, and Spirit

Here are some questions that may help you take responsibility for owning your power.

  • Are you taking the initiative to live as healthy as possible by consuming healthy food and staying fit with physical activity?
  • When you get upset or triggered, are you getting in touch with your emotions to learn their origin and how your childhood fears might still be dictating your actions from a subconscious level?
  • Are you controlling limiting beliefs that may be holding you back from living the life you want?
  • Are you thinking critically when you watch the news or listen to politicians?

I, too, have been unduly accommodating of other people's needs over my own, which saps my personal power. I believe there are people like me who need to know they have the power to change their situation, take charge of their lives, and start thriving.


Empowerment through self-improvement skills: The role of learning goals and personal growth initiative, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Volume 115, December 2019, 103311,

Empowerment theory, research, and application, November 1995, American Journal of Community Psychology 23(5):569-79,…

Psychological empowerment as moderator of the relationship between core self-evaluation and proactive work behaviour,

Influence of self-esteem, psychological empowerment, and empowering leader behaviors on assertive behaviors of staff nurses,……

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