Giving Away Power
December 2, 2017 4:04 PM   Subscribe

This week, I've been asked by my therapist to list ways that I give (or gave) power to people or institutions. Can you tell me how you gave power away?

I received such great responses from my last assignment, I thought I'd try it again.
posted by falsedmitri to Human Relations (27 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Doing their work, making apologies for them, taking less pay, being agreeable to your detriment, giving up on getting good mirroring, giving away your ideas inside an organization that does not pay you for them, thinking it is polite to keep quiet.
posted by Oyéah at 4:09 PM on December 2, 2017 [15 favorites]

Compromising your values to avoid conflict.
posted by nathaole at 4:11 PM on December 2, 2017 [13 favorites]

Judging yourself according to other people’s expectations of you.
posted by GrammarMoses at 4:30 PM on December 2, 2017 [10 favorites]

Letting them make you wait for them.
posted by praemunire at 4:48 PM on December 2, 2017 [8 favorites]

Keeping silent about things you need rather than risking conflict by speaking up about them.
posted by GrammarMoses at 4:55 PM on December 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

Have you ever said "Hey, something is wrong here and you need to fix it" and gotten back the response "No it's not it's fine" and then gave up? That's giving away power.
posted by bleep at 5:03 PM on December 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

Staying quiet
Keeping others secrets
Saving face
Accepting blame for others problems
Giving away credit for my success
Doing things against my wishes
Accepting hurtful treatment
Saying yes when I wanted no
Entering legal contracts or constructs that I did not fully understand
Staying for the money
Staying because I was scared I wouldn’t make it on my own
Staying for the children or the animals
Being someone that other people expected me to be
Doing the work of others
Deprioritizing myself because I perceived myself as flawed or undeserving
Subjected myself to scrutiny, fingerprints, medical exam, travel bans, lack of job portability for the purpose of immigration
Gave away my privacy so I could use the internet and mobile devices
posted by crazycanuck at 5:07 PM on December 2, 2017 [15 favorites]

Saying yes to requests or favors that you really want to say no to.
posted by wryly at 5:14 PM on December 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

Holy moly this thread is eye opening.

How about: Allowing myself to be told that I am physically weak and incapable of completing athletic tasks.
posted by DSime at 5:38 PM on December 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Asking. Ha.... In that the person receiving the request gets the power to say yes, or no. This is why "do x and beg forgiveness when x is a done deed," when a request is likely to be denied, occurs.
posted by Crystal Fox at 5:41 PM on December 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Following rules/laws for the sake of following them.
posted by teremala at 5:47 PM on December 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Depending on someone else to do certain things for me because I don't know how or can't do it as well as they can.
Caring about other people's happiness. (Sometimes being willing to give up some power is a good thing.)
posted by Redstart at 5:48 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

The protest song I Can't Keep Quiet might give you some ways to think about giving away (and reclaiming) power. Particularly the opening lines.
(Thanks to this post for reminding me of the song.)
posted by mcduff at 6:02 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Forgot one:
Gave away my dignity in exchange for medical care
posted by crazycanuck at 6:04 PM on December 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Self-deprecating comments/ humor
posted by theora55 at 6:30 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Waiting to be told what I needed to do to move toward my goals. Letting the institutional expectations shape my aspirations and expectations for myself without realizing it.

Not doing the introspective contemplation necessary to set my own goals, and only doing so when forced to by school or work requirements. Perceiving this as an imposition and sliding back into "only as much effort as is necessary" as soon as possible. (I sometimes look back at this Life In Hell cartoon and mentally shake my fist at Matt Groening.)

Assuming that because there's an existing process for how things get done, it's pointless to ask if something different is possible.

Assuming that the people around me actually know what they're doing and have reasons for why they're doing it they way they are.
posted by Lexica at 6:37 PM on December 2, 2017 [18 favorites]

Don't yield on a sidewalk or in a hallway. Especially if you're female (or perceived as such.) This one blew my mind when I finally noticed it.
posted by workerant at 9:56 PM on December 2, 2017 [9 favorites]

Automatically ssuming that if someone else (especially someone somehow higher than me in some hierarchy or other, or someone I consider intelligent) says the answer is X and I say it's Y, that they're right and I'm wrong.
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:05 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Waiting for permission.
posted by rpfields at 11:09 PM on December 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

Giving up power isn't always a bad thing, either - might help you brainstorm if you remember that, e.g. we give the police power by calling them instead of being vigilantes. Any time you follow a rule, you're giving power. Sometimes this is because it's better than the alternative - the IRS *has* the power to garnish your wages through the courts, so it's usually a good idea to *give* them the power of collecting your taxes every April by submitting a return. Often it's because that's just "how society works" and part of being a good citizen, like avoiding vigilantism or not driving without a license.

But it's good to be aware of those rules you're following and why you want to follow them, so that you can be the one making choices and not just habitually doing whatever a doctor says, whatever a person in uniform says, etc.
posted by Lady Li at 11:16 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

To add to what Lady Li says - sticking to your principles is a form of power, sometimes.

Recently I made a promise to someone, realized they were screwing me over, and then when they called me on the promise I did what I said I’d do.

The whole world will tell you how despicable that’s supposed to be, and how I’m letting myself be bullied. But, a big core value of mine is that I keep my promises. In this case, I thought that the fact they weren’t keeping their promises to me was neither here nor there (in other cases it might be the most important thing).

I didn’t enjoy following through but I felt that it was right even though average morality would say otherwise. To me, that felt like hanging onto my power even though it looked like the opposite.
posted by tel3path at 1:15 AM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's funny, the first cases that came to my mind were positive!

Cases where I started out thinking I needed to take complete responsibility for something but instead ended up leaving it to someone else, they did better than I would have, and it was a burden off my shoulders.....
posted by floppyroofing at 7:44 AM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

taking on obligations ("volunteer" work) without weighing what was in it for me and mine.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:35 PM on December 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Everything is my fault.
When you're about to run into someone on the street, you're always the one that moves.
Apologizing for anything and everything regardless of whether or not you had anything to do with it or whether or not you are actually sorry or guilty.
Basing everything you do on "what would (name) say?"
Feeling like you have to do anything and everything someone else asks.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:20 PM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Giving an institution the power to judge me - and therefore control my actions/goals - based on my vague guess of what the institution's values are.
In grad school: "They (academics) think that since becoming a university professor is a great success anybody who doesn't become a professor is a failure" --> "if I don't do X they'll think I'm stupid" --> judging myself for not wanting the same things the institution wants --> institution has the power to tell me what I should want.
posted by aimedwander at 7:41 AM on December 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

taking a job that didn't play to my strengths, so that no amount of effort was ever really going to make me excellent at it and I was always apologizing and playing catch-up.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:53 AM on December 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

the years and years and years of feeling bad about my body because it wasn't thin.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:54 AM on December 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

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