What to Do if You Feel Powerless After Leaving a Relationship?

“Power makes us approach. Powerlessness makes us avoid.” 

-Amy Cuddy (p112 in her book Presence)

Do you feel powerless as you leave your relationship with your spouse?

Did they systematically undermine your confidence?

Do you want to regain your confidence? Is it worth the work to do that?

I think it is! First of all, it definitely FEELS better to move with confidence; but, it’s more than that. Research shows that how powerful you feel impacts almost all areas of your life:

  1. Your thoughts
  2. Your feelings
  3. Your behaviors
  4. Your physiology

In turn, these things impact:

  1. Your presence
  2. Your performance
  3. The decisions that create your life.

As you can imagine, feeling powerful leads to positive experiences in these areas, and feeling powerless leads to a lot less fun (such as impaired thinking, self-absorption/anxiety, fear-base decision-making, and post-event processing/rumination).

According to Amy Cuddy, “Personal power is characterized by freedom from the dominance of others. It is infinite, as opposed to zero-sum – it’s about access to and control of limitless inner resources, such as our skills and abilities, our deeply held values, our true personalities, our boldest selves…[It] makes us more open, optimistic, and risk tolerant and therefore more likely to notice and take advantage of opportunities.”

Do you want to move more fully into your personal power and feel more empowered about your own life? Do you want to build your confidence to act based on your own beliefs, values, and attitudes? What if you can leave every interaction “feeling that [you] fully and accurately represented who [you] are and what [you] want?” (Cuddy)

But how can you feel powerful when it seems like situations have spiraled beyond your control?

How do you feel confident when you’ve been told you’re wrong so many times by someone who should have supported and loved you?

Here’s one way to start shifting your brain and body toward more personal power:

Use positive curiosity to help your brain start seeing things differently. For example, read the following questions out loud and see what images immediately pop up and see how both the question and the images make you feel:

  • What would my life look like if I felt more empowered?
  • What if it’s safe to feel empowered in my divorce experience and in creating the life I want for myself and my family?
  • Who would I be if I felt safe and confident to create that life?

Now consider these questions: What do you feel in your body when you ask each question? Where in your body do you feel it?

If you take a few minutes to write down any thoughts/feelings you get when you read the questions out loud, you can use your notes later as a guide to celebrate where you already feel empowered and to begin to address where you have resistance to feeling safe and strong. Try not to audit your response: just write whatever comes up…it doesn’t have to make sense.

What if you still don’t feel empowered? How can you shift that? Thankfully, there are many ways to rebuild your confidence and your sense of personal power. Amy Cuddy offers a nice range of exercises in her book, Presence; a few of them are shared below.

“We don’t even have to urge ourselves to be resilient,

remind ourselves of our strengths, or expect the best.

All we have to do is remember.”

– Denise Winn

Exercises to Strengthen Your Confidence

One exercise Amy Cuddy describes to strengthen your confidence and help you feel your personal power works like this: “Recall a moment when you felt personally powerful. A time when you felt fully in control of our own psychological state – when you had the confidence to act based on your boldest, most sincere self, with the sense that your actions would be effective. Take a few moments now to remember and reflect on that experience of your personal power, on how it felt.” As you repeat this practice, you can use the same memory repeatedly or find multiple memories that support you in your current situation! You can do this when you need to feel more empowered before you make decisions or perhaps when you are going to a court hearing.

“Your core values are the deeply held beliefs that

authentically describe your soul.”

– John C. Maxwell

A second exercise recommended by Amy Cuddy is to consider one of your core values (such as honesty, service, responsibility, etc.). If you need help identifying a core value, you can see a list of core values offered by James Clear. You can also learn more about the importance of core values from Harmonious Way.

Once you have identified a core value, think about and/or write a short paragraph about that core value and how you live into it. Just this simple action will shift your brain (and body chemistry) into a feeling of confidence. Again, do this process/exercise when you are feeling out of control/overwhelmed/powerless in your divorce process…or any area of your life!

Feeling empowered opens your brain up to see solutions you might not have seen if your brain was shut down in anxiety, fear, or overwhelm. Take these simple powerful steps and see how your thinking shifts and new options become apparent to you.

It’s worth it.

You’re worth it.

Author: Jennifer Sutton

Located in the Finger Lakes Region of Central New York, Jennifer Sutton facilitates the transformation of individuals and groups using art, tapping, curiosity, brain training, and laughter to help release limiting negative self-talk patterns as well as physical/emotional pain and create more personal peace, safety, and self-confidence. Jennifer offers individual and group coaching as well as training opportunities in person and/or virtually. Sought out for her deep expertise in the well-being space, Jennifer is known for her warm, empathic, and fun facilitation and presence. Connect with Jennifer at www.whatifwellness.org.