“I watched a video this morning that highlighted how 61 percent of adults have reported changes in weight since the start of the pandemic. And 42 percent gained more weight than intended—an average of 29 pounds,” I said while hiking with a health coach friend. “One in four adults,” I continued, “report drinking more alcohol to deal with stress. Is this what you’ve been seeing too?” She said, “That sounds about right.” “What do you think has been driving this?” I asked. She explained how most people have this nagging sense of unease and anxiety. We feel insecure and uncertain about the future. And this was the moment I knew that the phrase I’d been playing with—take your power back—would be my focus for the upcoming new year.
As I reflected on our conversation later that day I realized that was exactly how I’d been feeling. The last two years have been hard, but if we’re being honest, all of the division, anger, and anxiety we’re experiencing is nothing new. I’ve been rereading Brené Brown’s, Braving the Wilderness, which was published in 2017 and I can clearly see how this was brewing long before the start of this new decade.
As I watch our deep-seated collective pain continue to unfold, I wonder how we’ll move forward. I imagine the answer is different for all of us. While we’ve all experienced the same global health crisis, the ways it’s affected our lives has varied vastly. That said, I believe that there are certain things we can all do to jumpstart the healing process and create a more cohesive and hopeful future.
Since 2017, I’ve been choosing a word of the year to guide me through each new year. I started with courage, which led to confidence, then wholehearted, abundance, and in 2021 I chose the word surrender.
Long before I embarked on that fall hike with my friend, I had been thinking about my word for the coming year. During my most recent year of surrender, I had a different focus each month. This revealed many things I need to do more work on. As each area for improvement came up, I added it to my list of ideas for my one word for the coming year. As I look back at that list, I can see how each of those words fits perfectly into my new phrase—take your power back.
If I’m being honest though, this is bigger than my own self-improvement. As I look out at the world around me, I see some things that are quite troubling. It feels like humanity has been at war with one another for the past two years. First, it was public health policies, then came issues of race and civil unrest, followed by a heated presidential campaign, and now we’re at war over how to move forward with this virus.
So while this manifesto is tailored to me and the most pressing things I need to do to take my power back, it’s also something others could find things to work on too. So while you read my story and ideas, I invite you to think about where you fall in each of these areas.
Finally, I invite you to read this with an open mind and an open heart. I likely have some different ideas and opinions than you. In fact, I hope I do. Bringing different ideas and perspectives together is how we solve problems. Although we’re all biased to some extent, I try to be objective and look at things from multiple points of view. I also embrace nuance and that multiple things can be true at once. If you read something here that triggers you, I encourage you to keep reading from a place of curiosity and objectivity. While you might not agree with everything in this article, I know there are useful tips to help you take your power back.
TAKE YOUR POWER BACK MANIFESTO
1: I will surrender fear, scarcity, worry, and regret by staying present and developing trusting faith.
2: I will harness my anger and let go of resentment by connecting to my place of inner peace.
3: I will accept personal accountability by not comparing, making excuses, or placing blame.
4: I will foster curiosity, compassion, and empathy through self-acceptance and forgiveness; and by believing everyone is doing the best they can.
5: I will trust my inner knowing, stand firm in my truth, and stand up for what’s right—even when that means standing alone.
6: I will honor my mind, body, and spirit by guarding what I allow in and making space for movement, nourishment, and rest.
7: I will step out of the matrix and into real life by connecting to myself, others, nature, and spirituality.
8: I will let go of the belief that I must be strong and go it alone by learning to trust and by being open to asking for and receiving help.
9: I will light the way to empower others to do the same by sharing stories, starting conversations, and creating community.
Looking at this list as a whole, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. I often feel the same when I take on a new word at the start of each year. Recognizing that my one word, or in this case, my phrase, is simply the beginning of a long journey to wholeness has helped soften the heavy burden of expectations I heap upon myself.
In addition, I break my word of the year into baby steps. Sometimes it’s a monthly focus, other times it’s quarterly. With take your power back, the first eight points will change every 6 weeks, and number nine will be a part of the whole journey. Now let’s look at each area of focus one by one and why it’s an important step to take your power back.
During January and the first half of February, I will focus on surrendering fear, scarcity, worry, and regret by staying present and developing trusting faith. Fear and scarcity have been pushing us all over the place for the past two years. Just look back to the beginning of the pandemic to when the shelves were cleared of medications, nonperishable food items, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. And all these months later, the fear doesn’t end. Be it a new variant or mandates, there’s always something to agitate our inner worry monster.
I’ve realized that I can’t do this anymore. I can’t live like this. I’m not saying that there aren’t valid concerns for the current climate we live in. It’s just that I can’t let these emotions rule my life any longer.
After a fair amount of reflection, I realized that fear, scarcity, worry, and regret are all results of not being present. If I pull myself back into the present moment, I am reminded that I am safe. I hope the same is true for you too.
I recently recalled a mantra I had before the pandemic—everything always works out. I wrote an Instagram post about it in February of 2020. But somewhere along this recent journey, I lost that belief. As I was reflecting on this in my journal, I remembered a poem from the book of Matthew.
Do Not Worry
“‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”— Matthew 6:25-34
This will be my focus for the first month and half of the year—to stay present and build back my trusting faith. By the end of the year, I hope to return to my mantra that everything always works out.
CONNECT TO YOUR INNER PEACE
For the second half of February and all of March, I will harness my anger and let go of resentment by connecting to my place of inner peace. When I first started working on this back in October, I wrote, “Let go of my anger”. But then I remembered how anger can be a good thing—a warning signal that alerts us to things that need to change. So I changed it to the word “harness.”
In Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown wrote:
“Anger is a catalyst. Holding on to it will make us exhausted and sick. Internalizing anger will take away our joy and spirit; externalizing anger will make us less effective in our attempts to create change and forge connection. It’s an emotion that we need to transform into something life-giving: courage, love, change, compassion, justice. Or sometimes anger can mask a far more difficult emotion like grief, regret, or shame, and we need to use it to dig into what we’re really feeling. Either way, anger is a powerful catalyst but a life-sucking companion.”— Brené Brown
What is your anger telling you? What are the things that get you most fired up right now? And how could you harness that anger to create positive change?
There are plenty of things that have enraged me over the last couple of years. I realized early on that carrying around resentment was only hurting me. But as an Enneagram One, letting go of that resentment isn’t easy. That’s why the last half of the first quarter I’ll be focused on living from a place of inner peace.
HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE
If you pay any attention to mainstream media, it’s clear that blame, excuses, and lack of accountability are all too common in our culture today. Just look to politics. When something goes wrong, one side blames the other. And when new information comes to the surface, it’s very rare for people to admit that they were wrong. Instead, they double down on their position.
When I’m being really honest with myself, I can admit that I do this too sometimes. My worst offense is in my marriage. It’s really easy when I screw up to deflect my mistakes by saying I only did this because you did that first. But where does this get us?
Blaming and making excuses make us the victims and takes away our power. And the goal for this year is to take your power back. So April and the first half of May will be all about accepting personal accountability by paying attention to and changing my language.
BE CURIOUS AND COMPASSIONATE
“Do you believe everyone is doing the best they can?” I asked Jer one Saturday evening as we were driving to visit some friends. Without thinking it through, he responded “no.” I asked him why he said that. He paused and thought about it for a while and then told me, “Because I know I’m not doing the best I can.”
After arriving at our friends’ house and saying our hellos, I asked them the same series of questions. Their responses mirrored Jer’s and it’s the same thing I’d thought about myself.
In the weeks leading up to this conversation, I was reading Rising Strong by Brené Brown. In it, she shares the idea that believing that everyone is doing the best they can make our own lives easier. But I struggled to embrace this.
We’re living in a time when we need more curiosity, compassion, and empathy than ever before. But looking back on my own journey, I believe that it’s hard to give this to others if we haven’t first given it to ourselves. I believe that compassion and empathy begin with self-acceptance and forgiveness.
I’ll be the first to admit this is more challenging than it sounds. As I mentioned, my one word for 2019 was wholehearted. As with most of my words, I didn’t achieve wholehearted bliss that year. These words of the year are the beginning of what ends up being a much longer journey.
Looking back, I can see how far I’ve come on my journey to self-acceptance. But like I said, it’s just the beginning. And that’s why for the last half of May and all of June I will practice being more curious, compassionate, and empathetic through self-acceptance and forgiveness.
The next step to take your power back is to trust your inner knowing, stand firm in your truth, and stand up for what’s right—even when that means standing alone. And that’s scary!
I’ve always had strong instincts. But for some reason, I spent most of my life choosing to be “rational” instead. I believe the reason I struggled to stand firm in my truth is because standing alone is hard. There’s a chance that people will gang up on you, call you names, or hate you—especially if your truth is threatening to their comfortable status quo.
Going along to get along is fine … until it isn’t. And that’s exactly where I found myself in the fall of 2020. I’d always believed that those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still. So when I disagreed with someone and knew they were wrong, I didn’t push too hard. As a result, many people believed that I was someone I was not. I wasn’t being fake, playing a role, or being someone else. I just didn’t let every part that was authentically me be seen. I stayed quiet.
Eventually, I came to a place where these tactics no longer worked. I realized that being a tiny bit inauthentic was much more painful than standing alone.
Just one warning from one of my favorite thought leaders Adam Grant.
“It’s common to think of authenticity as something that’s all about me — “How do I express myself in the world?” But other people have to be part of that equation. Authenticity can’t exist in a vacuum. I found in my research that concern for others is a critical ingredient for effective authenticity.”— Adam Grant
So while you work to take your power back, don’t forget to be curious, compassionate, and empathetic.
After spending most of my life afraid to stand firm in my truth, July and the first half of August will be a challenge. But I’ll never forget that day when I realized that just being 10 percent inauthentic was more painful than standing alone.
HONOR YOUR MIND, BODY, AND SPIRIT
This could very well have been the first step to take your power back. Perhaps you might choose to make it first on your own journey.
At the beginning of this article, I shared a story about a conversation I had with a friend who is a health coach. And I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t struggled with some of those things too. There have been periods over the past two years when I’ve eaten too much, drank too much, and wasted hours upon hours staring at my screen.
If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s how important good health is. And good health isn’t simply a healthy weight and vitals. Living our healthiest lives includes consideration of our bodies, minds, and spirits—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
As much as good health is determined by what you do, it’s also essential to pay attention to what you allow in. Unhealthy food, negative news, and toxic relationships can quickly undo all the good you’ve worked so hard for.
So for the last half of August and the month of September. I will honor my mind, body, and spirit by guarding what I allow in and making space for movement, nourishment, and rest.
Red pill or blue pill?
That’s all I remember about the movie The Matrix. And only because people have used it as a comparison for how things have shaken out with the current health crisis.
Every time I mention the matrix, someone inevitably connects my words to The Matrix movies. But what I mean when I say the matrix is the system in which something develops. And by that, I mean most of what our lives are built upon—the systems, beliefs, culture, media, governance, technology, etcetera.
If you’ve read my story on my about page, you might recall that I didn’t discover the great outdoors until later in life. Since then I’ve been making up for lost time. And the more time I spend in the great outdoors, the more I see what’s wrong with our modern way of life.
In the article I wrote before this one, I wrote, “Even before the 2020 health crisis and ensuing lockdowns, we were in the midst of an epidemic of loneliness.” There are many reasons for this, but probably the biggest reason is our modern culture’s lack of connection. And like everything I’ve shared in this take your power back manifesto, it’s more than just not spending enough time with our friends. We’re disconnected from ourselves, others, nature, and spirituality.
Throughout human history, we’ve lived more connected lives. We lived in smaller communities where we relied on one another. We were more connected to the earth as a source of nourishment and sustenance. And most of our ancestors were connected to some sort of religion or spirituality.
As we become more advanced and enjoy more prosperity, our connections seem to be eroding. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Rather than spending hours a day on social media, we could get together with friends and actually be social. We can make space to go outside and grow our own food. And we can start exploring what it means to be spiritual. You can step out of the matrix and into real life and take your power back along with me in October and the first part of November.
TRUST AND ALLOW
My final month and a half focus will be to let go of the belief that I must be strong and go it alone by learning to trust and by being open to asking for and receiving help.
I can remember the day that I realized I was on my own and it was up to me to figure out how to survive in this world. I was five years old and it’s been a struggle to let people in ever since.
You see, up until recently, I believed that needing and asking for help was a sign of weakness. But then I realized that the most successful people have tons of help.
As a part of my year of surrender, I focused on surrendering my desire to go it alone during the month of August. During that month I realized just how hard it is for me to ask for and receive help.
So for the last part of November and all of December I’m going to allow myself to be open to trusting and asking for and receiving help. At this point, the goal is to simply be open to the idea. But hopefully, the other parts of the take your power back manifesto will help me embrace this more fully.
In everything I do, my goal is to inspire and empower others to do the same. None of us lives in a bubble and every choice we make creates ripples that affect countless lives.
The divisiveness we’ve experienced over the last two years has revealed a lot, especially the importance of learning to have conversations with people we disagree with. So throughout the next year, I’ll be sharing my journey with you by sharing stories and starting conversations.
But I can’t stop there. As I said earlier, “Even before the 2020 health crisis and ensuing lockdowns, we were in the midst of an epidemic of loneliness.” Since 2018, I’ve been on a mission to build community through my guided hikes. And as I journey through the year of take your power back, I will look for new ways to create community. I invite you to do the same.
The last two years were something I never could have dreamed I’d go through. There were times when it felt like a nightmare. But looking back I can see how more than anything, it’s been a time of growth. And as we turn the page, I hope you’ll join me on your own journey to take your power back. Your journey might not look exactly like mine. I share this as a guide to help you create your own manifesto to live with more hope and joy in the coming year. Because now is the time to take your power back.