One of the most important aspects of individual independence is personal power. When I say personal power, I am not referring to power that one may have over others, but power of the individual in and of himself. In dealing with the many conflicts we encounter throughout our lives, one of the greatest tools we have as individuals is our personal power. This is embodied in many different forms, be they intelligence, knowledge, physical strength, skills, talents, or otherwise. Yet, as much as we are unique in the qualities we each possess, there are universal characteristics in each of us that make up this sense of personal power.
Identity is the Cornerstone
At a fundamental level, we support the qualities that empower us by our sense of individual identity, that is, an awareness of whom I am and what I have to offer. A developed understanding of identity allows us to express ourselves with confidence. From this confidence we may act, based on these perceptions, and demonstrate self-worth through righteous actions, attitudes, and outlooks about life and the many challenges we face day in and day out. When we assign a certain frame of mind to our experiences, whether positive or negative, we are in large part manifesting our own destinies toward achieving or losing happiness.
“She calls me ugly names in class, but I know I am a talented dancer and I make better grades than she does.”
“I may have lost the race, but I am proud because I know I pushed myself to do the absolute best that I was capable of, and not every person was willing to try as hard as I did. I am a true competitor.”
“That was another unsuccessful date—what a waste of time. I’m never going to find the person of my dreams because I’m fat. Men only ever go for hot chicks, it doesn’t even matter that I’m smart.”
Whether we are mastering or sulking over challenges with our self-perception, health, loved ones, rivals, work, or otherwise, a developed understanding of identity can reinforce our confidences and supply our mind with valuable sources of inspiration, determination, and a positive sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, we can use this same mental capacity to reinforce insecurities, acceptance, laziness, hopelessness, and other destructive mindsets.
“I’m not where I want to be with my exercise and diet routines, but I know that I have a strong will and can accomplish the goals I have set for myself in a healthy manner. It may take a while, and it may be difficult, but I will make progress in small steps.”
“I am nervous about giving the speech tonight in front of everyone, but I know I have prepared the materials and that I am a capable and professional speaker. I will do fine.”
“This pain is terrible, but if I can hold out a little longer it will subside. I am strong. This pain will not last forever. I will make it through this.”
The same mental-coaching that is required to establish a healthy and constructive sense of identity can also work against us. When we choose to look at our experiences through a non-constructive lens, we are predisposing our self to a cycle of negativity that is ultimately destructive and difficult to escape.
“I don’t want to go to the function tonight. I’m already uncomfortable meeting new people and I know we aren’t going to have anything in common, so why should I waste my time? I’m just not a sociable person.”
“There’s no point in going to the gym today. I haven’t gone in weeks, and I can’t get in shape anyway. I am too far-gone, and there’s no point in trying at this point.”
Whether we are preparing for an event, job interview, social gathering, or are comparing our lives to the small glimpses we see of others around us, the opinions and attitudes we choose to practice on a daily basis have a significant impact on our overall quality of life.
“I hate this speaker, and the topic is ridiculous. The next hour and half of my life are going to be a complete waste of time.”
“I know that my clothes are nice, but they aren’t the brand name. Those girls don’t even work for their things and they still have all the best. They come from rich families. I just look cheap. It’s not fair. They don’t deserve it, I do.”
“I know this addiction/habit is bad for me, but I just can’t shake it. There is no way I can live without it. As much as I hate to admit it, I need it. I’m not strong enough to put it behind me.”
The thoughts that we allow to occupy our mind largely determine how we perceive success or failure, and can help us to accomplish things we never thought were possible or can ruin us before we have even begun to try. In essence, individual identity supplies us with the capability to support our confidences, which allow us to build our sense of power. However, first we must make the choice to practice a positive frame of mind. In order to create a positive identity, we each must work to manifest it.
Self-Worth: A Fundamental Practice of the Mind
Each person is driven by different primary identities. A person may focus on himself or herself in accordance to the roles he or she plays as a nurse, humanitarian, mother, father, student, middle-class person, and so on. Whether or not a person’s identity is oriented primarily by career choice, social status, education, or otherwise, each person’s identity has a foundational basis in self-worth. The values we assign to our perception of self (our identity) are foundational to our quality of life.
Self-worth is an essential part of human psychology that impacts the perspectives from which we see our self, and affects the behaviors we supply as a direct result from those perspectives—whether they are positive or negative.
Consider the responses I might choose when experiencing a loss, such as a break-up.
Michelle and I are having some problems in our relationship. Being an honorable man, I have always remained faithful to Michelle and attempted to give her the respect and independence she deserves. Although I am genuinely doing the best I can to be a good partner for Michelle, there is still some distance between us. One day, without warning, Michelle leaves me. This sudden interruption in my life is a heavy burden to bear during the following weeks.
I might respond to this experience in one of two different ways, each expressing different perceptions of self-worth.
I continue to dwell on the situation, constantly asking myself why I was not good enough for Michelle. “Did I not show her enough attention? Was I not attractive enough for her?” These thoughts persist through my mind day and night for weeks, even distracting me at work and when spending time with friends. I believe that I must be an inadequate man, partner, provider, or am just simply too boring, and this is what must have drove Michelle away from me.
I am disappointed that things turned out the way they did, but I am eventually glad that I am no longer with Michelle. It hurts, but I know that she did not value me for whom I am and what I had to offer to her. I know that I did my best to treat her well and to be a good man and partner, and Michelle simply did not appreciate the fact that I am an honorable man and was committed to her. I understand that the right woman for me will appreciate the positive qualities I have worked hard to embody, and that I deserve better.
In the first scenario, I demonstrate a negative sense of self-worth. The low perception I hold of myself leads me to believe that I am responsible for Michelle’s actions. This perception of negative self-worth is damaging for many reasons. It reinforces ideas that discourage me from moving on, weaken my confidence, and negatively frame my understanding of my identity, which will undoubtedly spill into future relationships and other important aspects of my life such as work, family, and friendships.
However, in the second scenario I demonstrate a positive sense of self-worth. I look at the situation for what it is and choose to analyze, from a practical perspective, the constructive elements of my experience and see the broader picture. This perspective helps me to come to terms with what has happened, and to remind myself of the positive characteristics I possess. This positive self-worth reinforces my confidence in my character and sense of self, and gives me a stable platform from which to move forward and begin a new path in my life without feeling responsible for Michelle’s actions.
Are you beginning to see a pattern here? The mental practices we apply toward our sense of self-worth are paralleled to those of identity. As a human being, we cannot remove either our sense of identity or our self-worth, but we can control how we understand these aspects of ourselves and choose how to utilize them to enable us to live happier and healthier lives.
The internal dialogues we construct throughout our experiences shape our perceptions of identity and self-worth, for better or worse. It is a choice whether we choose to see the good or the bad in our experiences and of ourselves.
Along our life path and its many challenges, each choice we make in our response to conflicts lays the foundations for what perceptions of our identity we retain and accept. Who we are as a person, and how we see our self, determines the happiness of our future and the quality of our self-worth. Everything we do begins with the sense of I am, and the positive or negative worth we assign to this I am influences everything we do, think, and understand. Not only do our perceptions of self-worth fundamentally affect our experiences, they also reinforce those perceptions themselves, which may become habitual over time. It is up to each of us to determine how we positively or negatively judge our own self-worth, which consequentially is reflected in our identity. Similarly, self-worth is a fundamental practice of the mind and is inherently foundational to one’s identity.
In choosing to establish, through repetition and persistence, a positive framework from which to build these foundational aspects of our selves, we are also creating personal power. No matter what outside forces impose on our physical or mental well beings, with a positive identity and self-worth nothing can strip us of our value. This is a conditioning of will and the building of spirit. Personal power comes in many forms, but without a purposeful mentality, this power is only an untapped potential. Even worse, if put to use in a negative cycle of perception, this power can work against us and become self-destructive. We control the ways in which we respond to the uncontrollable world around us. This is power of the individual in and of himself. This is personal power.