You have probably heard the quote “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” It is one of the most loved and most common quotes that you will hear in society today. In fact, whenever a person is doing something like limiting themselves or is succumbing to the fear of doing something they want to do or is de-prioritizing their own success or is not exercising their talents or is evading the responsibilities that come with their purpose etc. it is common to hear them say “I think I just fear my own power”. Unfortunately, you will also hear “experts” back this up and tell people that the reason they are sabotaging their potential is because they are afraid of their own power. The consequence of all of this is that society is now sick with the illusion that it is possible for a person to fear their own power. It isn’t. The reality is that people don’t fear their own power. People need to break free from the illusion that it is possible to “fear your own power” and understand what is really happening when it seems like people are afraid of their own power. Because as a result, they will be headed in the direction of actual empowerment.
What is power? Power is the inherent capacity to create, direct, influence or do something so as to bring about what you want. No one is afraid of creating, directing, influencing and bringing about what they want. People are afraid of the exact opposite. They are afraid of being unable to do so, and thus, experiencing what they don’t want to experience.
There are many reasons that a person could think that creating, directing, influencing or doing something to bring about what they want might lead to an unwanted experience. To give you just a few examples, a person might have been taught that actually going for what they want, causes them to be rejected by others and end up alone. Or that demonstrating their abilities and talents might invite jealousy and therefore conflict. Or that influence is bad and wrong and so, if they exert their capacity to influence others, they are bad and wrong and have to face the many consequences that come to those who are bad and wrong.
When a person does this, it means that they don’t actually believe they have power. They believe that something else with more power can come in at any moment and respond to their attempt to create, direct, influence or do something to bring about what they want by creating an unwanted experience for them. In other words, a consequence for doing so.
Conversely, a person might be attached to the benefits and perks that they get by not directly creating, directing, influencing or doing something to bring about what they want. This could be called shadow power because a person is in fact bringing about what they want by demonstrating behaviors that seem to suggest that they are not going for what they want. For example, a person might want to feel a sense of belonging and they might find a way to get that by letting someone else get their way all the time. Or a person might want safety and so they might find a way to get that sense of safety by refusing to display abilities that would threaten the people around them. Or a person might want people to support them and do things for them, and so they deliberately behave as if they are incompetent and incapable, so people will underestimate them and will do that for them.
When a person does this, they let go of power to gain power. This is a covert power move. And it is done as a method of manipulating the people who they believe have more power than they do, so they can still get what they want despite that other person. A person is not afraid of their capacity to bring about what they want. They are not afraid of their power. A person is afraid of experiencing something that they don’t want as a result of their capacity to bring about what they want being seen.
So that you can understand this better, I’ll give you an example. Maggie is thinking about selling her breads at a local farmers market because she is sick of earning minimum wage at a job she doesn’t like. To do this, Maggie has to step into her power. She has to step into her power by acknowledging that her bread is not only good, it is good enough to charge people for. And by believing in herself enough to commit to taking a financial risk. And by going directly for the life she really wants, which is to be able to bake full time. And she has to demonstrate her excellence to others. Maggie has been putting off taking action forever. She has been acting incredibly insecure and has been seeing a therapist regarding how much confidence she lacks to make the move. Her well-meaning therapist says “You know what, I don’t think you’re afraid that you will fail. I think you’re afraid you might succeed. I think what you’re really afraid of, is your power!”
Maggie resonates with that idea. It makes her feel immediate relief. Why? Because it allows her to avoid looking at her actual issue. Also, because no one is actually afraid of their power, the minute she hears that her power is what she is afraid of, she connects to how not afraid of that she actually is. She sees that as irrational and almost silly. So, she believes her problem is really more of a non-issue. It actually makes her feel good about herself because it is an affirmation that she is powerful, rather than a true recognition of the real problem.
The real problem is that Maggie gets a lot out of playing herself down. And Maggie is terrified that if she stops playing herself down, which she will have to do in order to go for what she wants, she will immediately find herself disliked and being treated as a threat and even being ostracized by the other people in her social group. Maggie grew up learning about the virtues of humility. And she grew up seeing that the clear way to have closeness with others, was to make them feel good about themselves, by minimizing herself. This has been her social strategy for as long as she can remember. Demonstrating her lack of confidence helps her to both avoid the thing she fears and gain the thing she wants. Maggie is not afraid of her power. Maggie is afraid of being treated as a threat and of being disliked or being ostracized from her community. And this is something she feels she has no power to prevent, if she aligns with her own capacity to create what she wants regarding her new bread selling aspiration. So, deep down, she feels powerless. If her therapist thinks that Maggie is afraid of her own power, he will do drastically different things with her, completely ineffective things, than he will do if he understands that what she is afraid of, is being treated as a threat and of being disliked and of being ostracized from her community. And if he will especially do different things if he understands that she feels powerless to prevent this or to bring about a different social experience.
To drill this in further, I want you to imagine that flowers are a good thing. All people in fact want flowers. But a certain person experienced a bee sting when they went to smell a flower on several occasions. They may form an association between flowers and bee stings. But they are not afraid of the flower. They avoid the flower because what they are afraid of, is a bee sting. Using our example, saying that people are afraid of power is like saying that people are afraid of flowers. And keeping up this illusion, makes it so that people will never look directly at the thing they are actually afraid of and will never work through that actual fear. And will thus, never be empowered.
The reality is that when people say that what they are afraid of, is power, power is being scapegoated and is serving as a smokescreen for what a person is really afraid of and is really trying to avoid. And the actual way to step into your power, is to directly face and resolve your fear of that thing.