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Sometimes when we begin to refine our understanding of power and consciously work to bring more of our own power to the fore in our lives, it creates discomfort with – or for – those close to us, including colleagues, employees, friends and even spouses and children. If others have become used to you giving your power away, when you take it back this can surprise them, and sometimes even threaten them. This can be true when you are granted external power as well, and those around you are not used to the new level of responsibility you now shoulder. As I launch into the Take Back Your Power series of blog posts, I think it’s important to acknowledge this dynamic and prepare for how to handle these situations.

First, it’s important to get comfortable with the idea that you deserve to be powerful, and you especially deserve to own your own personal power. A key characteristic of internal power is that it is an unlimited supply. When you take your own power back, you are not taking it away from others, however you may be demanding that others rely more on their own internal power than they did before.

Power and sacrifice

Many of us – especially men and women who want to change the world – struggle with high expectations that make us starve ourselves in order to feed others. We become habitual “second-seaters” and feel guilty spending resources of any kind – money, time, attention, love, energy, thought – on ourselves. But when we deny ourselves our own internal power, we are not helping those around us to find theirs.

“Put your own oxygen mask on before you help others.”

Despite the tinny airline voice you hear in your head when you read those words, let them resonate deeply in you for a moment. Breath is the very substance of life. In an airline emergency, the experts who’ve studied survival patterns in life and death situations have realized that more people die if the most capable people in an emergency try to save everyone else before they protect themselves. They know that in crisis, the person who has the presence of mind to care for themselves can help save many more people if they ensure their own ability to breathe first. Such leaders may choose to sacrifice themselves, but if their first instinct is sacrifice, they die too early to help the most people. The lesson to me in this phrase is that if you’re in the habit of making sure you can breathe – deeply, fully and powerfully – then you help many more people and at such time you sacrifice something you care about, you do it  – not out of habit – but with the intention of a good outcome.

InPower is an unlimited supply

Although some people around you may not want you to believe it, you’re not hurting anyone by understanding and taking back your own power. If – in the past – you’ve given them permission to think that by giving up your power they can be more powerful, then realize it’s time to renegotiate your emotional agreement with them. Looking at your unconscious emotional agreements with them and consciously renegotiating them is a definite InPower skill. Use these uncomfortable relationship situations to develop even more of your personal power.

When you claim your power in ways that help others around you, many people may be surprised at first, but when they realize it’s not a competition or a tug-of-war, most of them will relax and many will look for ways to help you more in the future. By modelling personal power for them, you provide them the opportunity to step into more of it themselves.

The most powerful people surround themselves with others InPower. And together they can accomplish anything.

Note: Wonder why Speaking Your Truth to Power is so hard? Take the Survey and find out!

This post originally appeared on the Reclaiming Leadership blog. Check out my new self-service women’s leadership coaching website: InPowerCoaching.com.

Dana Theus