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To Advocate for Yourself: Step into Your Power Again and Again

Ana Polanco

yoga matHave you ever thought about your voice and all the different tones that come from your voice? Depending on how you feel and what you are thinking, you may say many things. While the vocal cords get all the credit for the sound we make, they are actually powerless without the mental and emotional will to make a sound. That comes from you. You have the power to manage the sounds that come from your vocal cords just like you have the capacity to step into your personal power.

Personal power is something more profound than always being in control or controlling other people or situations. Personal power is about tapping into all the cumulative knowledge and experiences you have acquired over the course of your life. For me, the manifestation of my power is most obvious when I have been consistently practicing yoga or kickboxing for months.

Whatever you are into, when you practice something over and over again, eventually you enter – the zone. The zone is a special place where you can feel like you are powerful. It’s a natural high that occurs from self-mastery. The more you practice, the better you get at it. Yoga is where I find my zone.

In 2008, I dove head first into yoga. The first couple of months were hard and frustrating. I had a hard time getting out of my head about how each pose worked which really limited my ability to master a move. I found myself judging every mistake I made and constantly looking up at the teacher or a fellow yogi to make sure I was “doing it right.” I tortured myself this way three times a week, for about three months. Some days felt success was proper hand placement and other days I had to force myself to get to class. Then one day, I finally let go…

I started trusting my ability to listen. I stopped worrying about making a mistake – trusting that the teacher would come and correct me as needed. I started looking at my own form and positioning and focusing on my breathing. I asked myself over and over again, was I breathing? The more I let myself make mistakes and take risks, the more flow I had and the more I was able to master each pose. The more I found and focused on my breadth, the less I focused on my judging thoughts. Eventually I stopped placing meaning on my mistakes.

And then one day, I was just flowing. I would get on my mat, and totally zone out – freestyle my yoga. Listen for instructions, let go of my day and find my personal power – that inner strength that was the truest reflection of me. I found my power in the silence of it all and that silence was so powerful.

You should know I didn’t feel it every day after I found my zone the first time. Some days were hard and I would feel lost and other days presented new challenges as I experimented with new poses. The harder the poses got, the more I found myself lapsing to old behaviors. But the difference was I could recognize those patterns and bring my attention back to the breadth and my body more quickly.

Advocating for yourself can be the same way. Every time you find your personal power, you get clear about what you want and can ask for it. At first it may be uncomfortable to ask for what you want. All sorts of feelings come up about your “enoughness.” Am I enough? Are they enough? The more you get in your head about these feelings the more difficult it becomes overcome them.

Here are three ways you can advocate for yourself:

Don’t Negotiate Your Self-Worth. Instead of negotiating with yourself about your self-worth, recognize you are already enough. Understanding you are valuable is the first step to advocating for yourself in any situation. The more value you give yourself, the more personal power you can find. Without your personal power in tact, you’ll struggle to ask for what you really want and actually get it. Remember cultivating your personal power is a practice. The more you work on it, the stronger it becomes and the quicker you can recover from those negative thoughts on self-worth.

Know Your Bottom Line and Theirs. Do you know what you want and the implications of getting it? Say you want a raise. Do you know what the tax implications are when you move from one tax bracket to another? Understanding what you are asking for is so critical to getting it. Sometimes we think we want a raise but what we really need is more vacation days, a new title or to be sent to training. But remember knowing what you want is actually not enough. You also need to know what the company can give you. All businesses, for profit and non-profit, have a bottom line, income brackets, and plans to meet their business goals. Is what you are asking for realistic? When you go in to negotiate for yourself, if they tell you know, find out whether what you are asking for is possible. Good managers will tell you if you’ve hit a ceiling. This will help you make timely decisions about when to move on to your next career move. Do your research. Get clear about what you want and what they can give.

Listen Deeply. Often times when we are negotiating for what we want and we hear the word “NO or Not Now,” we get frustrated and can shut down, letting our emotions get the better of us. When we don’t get the response we want, we can start to feel hot, clench our jaw and even create a story of what’s happening and why the other person doesn’t want to give us what we want. It’s easy to make up the story. It’s harder to listen to what’s actually being said. During these triggering moments, it’s important to find a way to center and bring yourself back from the brink of saying something you might regret. Instead center yourself and have questions ready to help you focus on getting the information you need and to understand what is possible now or in the future. If there are no possibilities for growth on your timeline, then remember you always have a choice. You can stay in your circumstances or change direction.

No one can take away your personal power. Keep practicing finding your zone, getting clear about what you want and listening deeply so you can live in choice.

Your turn: How do you find tap into your personal power?

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