Embracing a powerful presence, professionally, personally and in parenthood

Photo by  Sai Mokhtari

Photo by Sai Mokhtari

Understanding what makes you feel powerful is your strength. So… what makes you feel powerful?

When I coach people on their communication and presentation skills, I have only one barometer: What makes you feel powerful? That's it. I don't care what kind of feedback your boss has given you, or how your partner wants you to be perceived. If you're soft-spoken, feeling powerful might mean taking time to think through what you want to say before saying it—cultivating silence. For others, it may mean taking up more space—leaning back instead of leaning in. The only thing that matters to me as a Communication Coach is what makes you feel powerful, because from a place of power you can intentionally choose how to present yourself. It is all that matters. End of story.

And yet, I spent much of 2018 not feeling very powerful at all. This wasn’t the case at work—I'm fortunate to spend my days helping people feel more powerful by making small, actionable adjustments to their interactions. These daily conversations help me feel powerful at work, even amidst Impostor Syndrome and social anxiety (which, I've learned, most of us experience in some way or another). 

But new parenthood? Trying to access some kind of balance as a working mom? I was struggling. I felt powerful during pregnancy and after giving birth to Billie. But once life got back to “normal” and new parenthood collided with my identity as an entrepreneur growing a business, I had no time to feel powerful. I stopped nursing the same month I started my own company and work and travel got so busy that Billie was thrust into full-time childcare last minute. I lost touch with my own power. I was desperate for a re-birth of my own, a discovery of who I could be as a working mother. 

This New Year's Eve, I was fortunate to be with good friends in a beautiful place. I felt comfortable enough to reflect on a year of significant change: I became a mom, fed my baby with my body and started my own company, one that better reflects the personal power I see everyday in this work. It felt like everything was going “right”, so how could I feel so ungrounded?

I feel powerful when I feel prepared; when I take up more real estate than my 5-foot-nothing frame assumes naturally; when I refuse to feel small and silenced; when I acknowledge that vulnerability is strength and communication is self-care. These are things I do professionally because the work demands it—I can’t be an effective communication coach if I’m not owning my own power—but I hadn’t figured out how to bring this process home. I hadn’t given myself permission to step into my power as a new mom.

At 4 AM, long after the ball dropped and our evening came to a close, Billie woke up. She’d been sleeping through the night after a rough nine months of us learning how to live on no sleep, but this time I was grateful for the quiet moment to be with her. I felt myself cower out of habit, worried that I wouldn’t be able to soothe her or get her back to sleep after a bottle. The impulse to shrink was so obvious to me, and I immediately knew what to do. I made sure that Billie knew I was in control. I took up more space and confidently stepped into the tremendous power of parenthood—the ultimate self-love.

What it means to be powerful shifted for me. I connected to a higher purpose— I’d been so focused on “entertaining” Billie and making her fit into my life, but in that moment my purpose was to show her this world and help her feel secure and supported the whole time. It wasn’t about me anymore. What a relief! The same tactics I use to help people take the pressure off of themselves in interactions was true here as well.

The same switch that had turned off when I stopped nursing (which made me feel distant and ungrounded) turned back on like a light and I knew how to feel powerful amidst growth and change. It began with awareness and radical self-trust and grew from there.

This year, I hope you step into your power. I hope what makes you feel powerful is your ability to connect with yourself and those around you.

What makes you feel powerful? Please share in the comments. I’m all ears.