I get it. You’ve got a lot going on and are powering through a project, the week, even your life. I have two questions for you:
Does ‘powering through’ feel powerful? Or does it feel more like running on empty?
What happens when you finish powering through something? You get to the end and then what? Do you finally give yourself permission take a break? Or do you just power through the next thing?
I’ve been there. Powering through, running on fumes - whatever you want to call it, we do it for a number of reasons. We don't want to let people down, we feel responsible for someone else’s feelings, or we don't feel that anyone else can do it.
I was inspired to write this after talking with a friend of mine whose mother sadly just passed away. I asked her if she had taken any time off work and she said no, she was just powering through. I gently suggested that she consider taking at least a week off to work on processing the grief and difficult feelings that loss inevitably brings.
It may surprise you to discover that powering through is not powerful. As a human potential advocate, I am in favour of facing challenges and not letting external circumstances stop you from achieving your dreams.
However, you can’t achieve authentic success by denying your own humanity and ignoring your own vulnerability. When we power through without acknowledging the very real challenges we’re facing, we are ignoring our own needs and triggering a fear or survival pattern in our brain.
Take the current COVID-19 situation. Isn’t it shocking that we need daily reminders to stay home if we’re not feeling well? This stems from the deep-rooted messaging of powering through circumstances no matter what.
Pre-COVID, we were inundated with ads for cold and flu medication encouraging us to pop a pill, mask the symptoms, and power through. Illness isn’t an inconvenience that needs to be ignored, it’s a sign that we need to slow down, rest, and take care of ourselves.
When we're not feeling well or when we are experiencing an emotional upset, we can't function at 100%. It's just not humanly possible. That’s the key word – humanly. This pandemic has highlighted our humanity and our collective vulnerability, and I hope that that's a lesson that we will take from this humanitarian crisis.
When you decide to power through something rather than acknowledging, processing and releasing what's troubling you, it’s just like taking cold medication. You’re not curing the illness; you're simply masking the symptom. Powering through means masking your feelings and ignoring physical symptoms relating to stress such as sleeplessness or headache.
If you're powering through something simply to avoid disappointing others, then you are putting the needs of others before your own.
If you believe that you must do something because no one else can do it then you are creating an environment for yourself that leaves you feeling unsupported and alone.
The next time that you catch yourself trying to power through something, ask yourself these three questions:
1. What is my predominant thought around this situation? For example, if I don’t do X, people will be disappointed.
2. is this a feeling or a fact? Chances are, it’s a feeling. You don’t know if people will be disappointed or not. It’s reasonable to reschedule things and people are often understanding.
3. What is the worst thing that would happen if I decided to reschedule this obligation, rather than powering through? What is the best thing that could happen if I decided to reschedule? What is the likeliest outcome? You'll probably find that the likely outcome is in-between the best possible outcome and the worst possible outcome. You can build your resiliency muscle by learning to tolerate feelings of disappointment in others.
True power comes from acknowledging our needs and making sure that our needs are met. True power does not come from denying our humanity, denying our needs, and always putting the needs of others first.
Accessing and acknowledging your true power can feel frightening. Being responsible for acknowledging your needs and articulating that your needs deserve to be met is a whole new level of responsibility for many people.
It may also be surprising to others around you when you begin articulating your needs, stating what you need from others and putting additional expectations on them.
Until you take the step of recognizing the need for empowerment that comes from an authentic place it will be hard to move forward on your path of transformation.