How to be Powerful.

Every week, I write down a quote on my huge whiteboard in my living room. It serves as a daily reminder about what my priorities are in my life and what I need to be doing to "succeed".

At the moment, the quote up there is: "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." - Alice Walker

As I wander into the world of freelancing, I've realized that holding on to this idea is pretty much integral to my success or failure as a freelancer. If I want to succeed at this, I need to stay true to my morals, my time, and my skills. I can only bend so far to my client's requests before I no longer have any power.

Feeling powerless and weak is a sign that something is wrong.

This goes for work relationships, family relationships, and love relationships. The moment you feel as though you are powerless is the moment you need to change something. Why? Because your power is your agency. It's your independence. It's your ethics, beliefs, and ideals. It's your personality, the things you enjoy doing, and your happiness. That's why it's important that you hold onto your power as tightly as you can. The moment you let go of your power is the moment you let go of yourself.

But before I tell you how to be powerful, I want you to realize something. Power does not have to be overt. Power can be graceful, kind, gentle, and quiet. You do not need to be rude, angry, forward, snarky, sarcastic, or aggressive to be powerful. In fact I would argue that people who act that way are trying to project power because they feel they don't have any.

So, how do you become powerful? Here's how.

1. Self-Respect. Get some.

If you believe in yourself, other people will believe in you too. It shows in the way you talk to people, in the way you walk, in the way you interact with the world around you. 

An example of this from the freelancing world, is in how you price your product. It seems counter-intuitive, but the worst thing you can do is drop your prices to match a client's request. I made this mistake recently. I contacted someone looking for a freelancer and he haggled me down to 50% of what I would normally charge.

Surprise, surprise, he was a nightmare to work with.

Why? Because he didn't respect me. He didn't think my work would be worth paying the full price for. When I dropped my prices to satisfy him, I basically told him, "Yeah, you're right! My work isn't worth it. I'm not that good of writer." Not only did it start our work relationship off on a bad foot, but in his mind, it also gave him license to waste my time with unnecessary projects, change deadlines, and micromanage my writing. If I had just stuck to my original price, he would have respected me more (and believed the quality was better) or he would have found another client. In both situations, I would have had a much more positive outcome and I would have felt better about myself.

This goes for everything in life. If you let people bend you or define you or tell you what you're worth, you show them that you don't believe in yourself. You show them that they can treat you how they want to and you'll just roll over and take it. 

2. Know your damn Boundaries and Dealbreakers

So, how do you show people you have self-respect?

It's simple in theory but excruciatingly hard in practice.

Basically, it comes down to:

Know your boundaries and if something doesn't feel right to you, say something or remove yourself from the situation. 

There you go. That's it.

For example, I once broke up with an ex because he spat on a taxi while we were crossing the street. Showing that amount of contempt and disrespect for someone doing their job was a dealbreaker for me. It immediately gave me a bad feeling and a few days later, I broke things off with him. I didn't want to compromise my values by being with someone like that. I also wondered that if he could do that to a stranger, how would he eventually treat me after the honeymoon period wore off?

Powerful people decide what they'll put up with. They demand respect because they have solid boundaries and dealbreakers and if people don't like them, then there's the door. 

The key is to be upfront about what your expectations are and how you expect to be treated.

A great work example of this are "late night emails." As a freelancer, it's smart to tell your client, "I'm available between 9am-5pm to answer emails. After that, I'll respond to your email the next working day." This is not a crazy request to ask of your client and it's a fairly straight-forward rule to follow. If your client replies, "No, I need to email you at all hours of the day!" then you know that your working relationship probably won't work out. You'll be resentful that they're contacting you at 12am or they'll be resentful that you're not answering their emails after 5pm. The amount of stress and aggravation this will cause you in the future probably won't be worth the paycheck, so in this situation it's probably best to walk.

Another example is talking about what you'll deal with in relationships. If you tell your SO right off the bat, "I won't stay with anyone who cheats on me," then that's your boundary. You've made it clear what you'll put up with. If they cheat and get caught, then walk. There's no, "Well maybe I'll stay....because they said they love me....let's try couple's counseling.....that will fix this...." No, sorry. You said what your dealbreaker was. They knew what it was. They disrespected you and the relationship. They don't get any second chances after that. Respect yourself enough to know that you deserve better. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

That's how you become powerful. Know your boundaries and don't compromise them.

3. Be direct

I didn't say, "Be really rude and obnoxious and don't care about people's feelings!"

No, don't do that.

Just don't half-say what you half-mean. Don't fluff up requests or passive-aggressively put down people. Simply put - just say what you need to say. When you're sending emails, be direct. You don't need 5 paragraphs explaining why you want something done or why you need this or that. Instead, ask for what you need in a sentence or two. In person, the same thing. You don't need to tell people all about the reasons behind why you want something. If you need that paper on your desk by 3pm, don't go, "Well, yeah, you know Bob down the hall? Yeah, he's been doing blahblahblah and so now I'm scrambling and Lisa broke the Xerox machine and so now I can't do my job as well annnnddd..." 

The more you explain yourself to people, the more you come off as insecure and unsure about yourself. Direct requests show that you know what the hell you're talking about and make you look more self-assured. Just ask for the damn paper. A friendly tone, a smile, and a direct request will take you far. 

The same thing goes for when you feel like someone has overstepped their boundaries. Try not be angry, but make sure you're direct. "I didn't like it when you did that. Please don't do that again." If they do it again, "Sorry, but this won't work out," and then take yourself out of that situation. If you absolutely can't, then try to interact with them as minimally as possible. And yes, every time they overstep your boundaries, point it out to them. Either eventually they'll learn or you'll have the opportunity to GTFO of there.

4. Use your body language!

Stand up straight. Look people in the eye. Shake with a firm handshake. Walk with intention.

People who don't believe in themselves have a certain look to them. They talk quietly, keep their head down, and walk hunched over. They try to take up as little space as possible, as if they don't deserve it.

Don't be that person.

You don't need to be unnecessarily loud or boisterous to get people's respect. You -do- need to look like you care about yourself. If this doesn't come naturally to you, practice. Think about your body language with intention. Sit upright at your desk - don't curl into yourself. Make sure you're walking with your head up. Make an effort to look people in the eyes. After you practice this for awhile, it will become natural. Voila! You've just improved your chances of getting a job, getting a date, and nailing that project in one easy step.

5. Own who you are

"We R Who We R." - Ke$ha

Yes, it looks like Ke$ha had a point. As much as we can improve or change who we are, in the end....yeah, we're still us. We'll never be perfect. At a certain point, you just have to accept it. And let me tell you....someone will always be better than you at something. Even if you're the best at something RIGHT NOW, you won't be the best forever. Someone will come along and be better than you eventually. It's inevitable.

Does that mean you should just roll over and give up?


Accept it. Accept your flaws as a part of you...and accept yourself for who you are.

For example: I'm an impulsive person. I've always been impulsive. 

It's definitely caused some problems in my life. It's also created some really cool experiences. I've cliff dived. I learned to scuba-dive (yes, impulsively). I've gone hiking alone and gotten lost on a mountain in Korea. I've kissed some pretty amazing people in some pretty amazing places. I've run through the sprinklers on the lawn of the BC Parliament buildings in the middle of the night. I started this blog...and started freelancing impulsively.

I've also ended up spending over $100 at the bar and woken up so hungover I couldn't see straight. I've said things I've regretted. I've almost gotten into 3 fights on the Skytrain. I've bought things I didn't need, I've recklessly sped, and I've put myself in dangerous situations more times than I can count. (Scene: Female, Downtown Bangkok at 3am, alone with a big suitcase. Yup. Been there, done that.)

That's just who I am. I won't excuse it. I can't change it (Lord knows I've tried!) So, what's a girl to do? Accept it as a part of myself and try to mitigate the damage it does to my life. And that's powerful. Powerful isn't pretending you're perfect - it's knowing you're human and flawed and bound to screw up. It's having the self-awareness to work with your flaws....not against them. And it's admitting that you make mistakes! It's asking for other people's advice and opinions when you don't know the answer! It's being you, even when you hate you and wish you were Jennifer Lawrence instead.


So there you go! That's how you become powerful. Follow my 5 easy steps, and expect to be the POTUS within about 6 months or so.

....okay, so not really. But I hope you took something away from this - namely that you -can- be powerful. It's not just for CEOs and politicians and celebrities. It's for us normal people. Normal -powerful- people.

Yeah, you got this. So go get it.