The remarkable challenge of owning your power

owning your power

This Instagram post — There’s a story here.  But first … Laura.

I’ve known Laura McKowen for nearly 10 years. She has been very open about her struggles through life. She is an alcoholic who has been sober since 2014. She has talked about her life in explicit detail and now helps support others through their addictions.

Laura is a wonderful writer and the author of We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life. She is a podcaster, speaker, mother.

She’s also a role model for me in that she really pushes the boundaries or self-disclosure. It’s not easy for me to share stuff about my life. And yet I know that telling my stories helps connect me to others in a special way, as Laura shows every day.

Which brings us to the Instagram post at the top of this article.

If you’re viewing this on a mobile device, it’s probably hard for you to read the words, so here they are:

This girl. Her. I am so fucking proud of her. You know?

On many levels, this is awesome. Laura has lived through a lot of pain, even humiliation. And here she is, standing before us telling us that she has transcended her darkness. She is standing in the light of her new life, forgiving herself and owning her power.

Some people fuss over selfies. But this photo looks sort of random. The day is gray, the background is concrete, the weather is probably chilly based on her coat. Laura is not posing or showing off at an Instagram-worthy destination. She is just smiling and telling us that she rocks. Which, she does.

And the whole thing made me feel unsettled.

Owning your power

There is another comment on this Instagram post, and it is from me. For my mobile viewers, it says this:

Very touched by this. Would be hard for me to say this and I don’t know why.

I would never compare my life to Laura’s (or anybody’s) but I’ve also been through a lot, transcended a lot. About 13 years ago, on a scale of 1 to 10, my life was a negative 5.

But I survived and re-invented myself. The re-invention is ongoing — before your eyes on this blog. I have a long way to go but I have accomplished a lot, too.

  • I’ve become a successful keynote speaker and am normally the highest-rated speaker at any event.
  • People love my books.
  • The Marketing Companion podcast is at the top of the charts.
  • Financially I’m strong, my family relationships are solid, I live in a beautiful place, I’m healthy.

Best of all, almost every week, somebody tells me that I’ve changed their life. What a wonderful place to be in my career!

But I just could never tell the world that I am proud of myself. Why not? If Laura can do it, why can’t I? What’s wrong with me?

The benefits of humility

One piece of feedback I constantly hear about myself is that I’m humble.

I’ve never thought about humility as an all-star strength like singing an opera or being a star athlete, but new research shows that there are definitely benefits to being humble.

Apparently “humility” is a hot topic these days among psychologists and new research tells us that the trait is strongly linked to curiosity, reflection, and open-mindedness. A humble disposition can be critical to sustaining a committed relationship, nourishing mental health, and enabling patience and forgiveness.

So maybe being humble is better than I thought. The irony is, even saying “I’m humble” makes me feel … less humble!

The over-done strength

I once had a mentor tell me, “There is no such thing as a weakness. Just an over-done strength.”

There’s a lot of wisdom in that.

Being humble is certainly a natural state for me because I am keenly aware that the universe is big and I am small.

However, I am learning that my humility is over-done.

I cannot easily accept attention, I shun the idea of owning my power. I certainly cannot stand up in front of you and say, “hey everybody, I’m proud of myself.”

So once again, Laura is teaching me and inspiring me. Why can’t I say that? Shouldn’t I be able to say that?

This may seem like a strange blog post but I wrote it for one reason: It seemed scary to write it. I have an internal rule. If something seems scary, then DEFINITELY write about it!

There is no profound lesson here. I am simply stating that I am not fully-formed, I am still becoming, and that’s OK. I am self-aware of my over-done strengths and I am on a trajectory of self-improvement.

Own your strengths, own your power, but be aware when any part of your personality is “over-done.”

So, let’s keep pushing forward.

owning your power

Took this photo as I was writing the post. Stuck in an airport after seven hours of delays. Still smiling!

Your turn?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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