Do you have authority issues?

I know that I do. I have a rebellious spirit, but I’m also a habitual people-pleaser. I find myself swinging between not wanting to participate in systems as they exist and trying earnestly to fit in and find a place of belonging and safety.

The combination is deadly.

When I was in graduate school, I asked a professor (nicely, I thought) to allow me to finish my question before beginning to talk over me. I may as well have challenged him to a duel. I asked to be treated with basic human dignity and respect, and the price I paid for that request gave me a valuable opportunity to grapple with my “authority issues.”

My initial reaction was of course to attack, judge, and diagnose him: narcissistic asshole. That must be somewhere in theThe Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. My second reaction was indignant avoidance and people-pleasing.

I’ve learned over the years to catch myself rebelling and submitting, because it tells me that I am out of touch with my own power. I’m either behaving like a victim or bulldozing over other people in order to attack or self-justify.

When I’m either rebelling or submitting, I’m giving away my own authority to someone else rather than claiming it for myself, and this sets off all my usual advocate-accommodate-avoid responses. I just repeat the past.

Although my default may be to activate habitual roles (am I up or down?), my intentional and deliberate practice, on the other hand, is to step out of the game entirely and just reclaim my innate power.

How do I reclaim my power?

  • I stay connected to my own feelings, needs, experiences, perceptions and requests.
  • I honor and get curious about the same in others.
  • I neither abandon myself, nor exert force over others.
  • I show up in a radically different way.

Now of course I don’t do this perfectly, nor do I expect myself to do it perfectly. I live by the mantra progress not perfection.

As I work on extending honor and respect to all beings, working gently and compassionately with my limits, aligning my words with my actions and choosing courage and bravery over fear and habit, I leave behind old authority issues, and stand increasingly in my own leadership and inner authority.

Here are some questions you can consider for further reflection:

  1. Where do you lose your power by exerting force over others?
  2. Where do you lose your power by withdrawing from and avoiding others?
  3. When do you…
  • Stand up for yourself?
  • Stand on your own two feet?
  • Take a stand?
  • Know what you can’t stand?

Want to go deeper in this work?

Here are a few of my programs that might be of interest to you: