We have no integrity when we attribute…our feelings and emotions to someone else, [and] deny our own ability to choose alternate behaviors.

–Julia Penelope

I actually came across this quote in a document written by master coach Margie Heiler, in which she discusses the power of language and how the way we speak demonstrates our sense of our own power.  One of the most effective tools I have learned in my coach training was taking that “you” that we all use so casually in our speech and turning it into “I.” 

For example:  When you study, you get better grades on tests.

becomes When I study, I get better grades on tests.

When you feel sad, you need someone to comfort you.

becomes When I feel sad, I need someone to comfort me.

When you feel like you can’t do anything about it, you just want to give up.

becomes When I feel like I can’t do anything about it, I just want to give up.

When I ask a client to change a “you” statement to an “I” statement, there is a shift in awareness of how much power they have…and, sometimes, how much vulnerability.  There’s distance and safety in a “you” statement because as long as it’s
“you,” the person speaking doesn’t have to own it.  They can back away easily by saying, “Well, you know what I mean.  In general—I don’t mean me personally….” 

Once a statement is owned with I, the power—or vulnerability—is right there to be stared at, managed, acted on.  If one chooses.

That’s where the power comes from:  the increased awareness of owning our own feelings and behaviors, and the ensuing awareness of the choices that are available when we accept ownership.  The choice to study…or not.  The choice to open oneself up to be comforted…or not.  The choice to give up…or to keep persisting.  Choice is always available to us, even if it’s just the attitude with which we face an unpleasant circumstance over which we have little control. 

Recognizing our power gives us access to that creativity and resourcefulness that we need in order to solve problems, to connect more with ourselves or others, and to live our lives on a firm foundation of self-trust.  A client once described accessing her personal power as going from flailing about in a churning sea, barely keeping her nose above water…to reaching down and finding the ocean floor with her toes, and then putting both feet down and walking toward the beach.  What an image that brings to mind! 

Where in your life are you feeling like you’re struggling to tread water in an ocean of expectations and responsibilities? 

When you catch yourself describing a frustration in terms of “you,” try saying that again with “I” instead.  Then ask yourself: What can I do, right now, to take a step toward resolving the problem?  When in the past have I been able to use my creativity and resourcefulness and how can I use them to help myself, right now?

Recognizing your personal power does not mean you have to go it alone.  One choice that’s available to you is reaching out for support and encouragement–maybe even for a life raft to hang onto while you find your footing.

That first step toward the beach is the most difficult for me.  It means choosing alternate behaviors and changing my self-talk.  These new behaviors and conversations with myself create gentle waves that feed my forward momentum.  I welcome the waves…the pressure…the gentle push, which I recognize is followed by the pull toward old habits of thinking and being.  When I am patient, persistent, and really cognizant that the push forward is more powerful than the pull backward, I am more confident of my self-empowerment–which starts with turning my you into I.