The Power Deferential

I am a thirty something woman.

My whole life, I have struggled to please others–especially the bosses or influential people around me.

I crave their approval. I want their validation. I want to know I am good enough.The power deferential has always been scary, and something that can easily trigger me and escalate feelings of fear and panic.


There has always been a hidden, underlying belief inside of me that I am not good enough. Pleasing the people in power has always been some way for me to get that validation I have always wanted. Always needed.

It is not enough to think I am good. It is not enough to try hard.

Nope…they have always needed to tell me so. (And really, that didn’t make me BELIEVE it. It made me just believe that they BELIEVED it.)

There is a problem (or, several, really) with this way of thinking, however; and that is that, by needing this validation from others–from those in power–I have always GIVEN my OWN power away.

I’ve given it to them.

I’ve smiled and said yes to things I never wanted to do. I’ve been too polite. I’ve been trapped in uncomfortable and unwanted situations.

Hell, I’ve even been forced to have sex with someone–so frozen in fear, so terrified that my timid “no” wasn’t listened to, so afraid that I would come off as a bitch if I stormed out, that I was used in a way I never asked for.

I hate confrontation, and, as a result, I’ve always played the role of the peacemaker. As a child, I placated my mom and did things for her that scared me, made me feel ashamed, and made me feel sick to my stomach. But, I did them, because I did not know how to say no.

Saying no meant the love would go away.

I still find myself getting swept up in the tide of what others want me to do. Agreeing to opinions I don’t really have, or gossiping in ways that I later feel ashamed of.

And, put a boss or an older male in front of me?

I struggle.

I struggle not to be the perfect little girl. The little girl who can impress anyone–except for herself.

The little girl who, despite glowing achievements, feels like a fake. Each and everyday. An impostor. She is just waiting, in fear, for those people to see who she really is and expose her for all she isn’t.

I’ve been working to re-claim my power for a few years. It isn’t easy.

I still struggle.

All. The. Time.

But, I also have small victories. Moments where I find myself really giving zero fucks what the person in power thinks of me. And that–well, it is REALLY huge.

I take a lot. I put up with a lot…probably too much. But, I’ve started to reach a point where the bullshit meter gets full and I don’t want to put up with it anymore. I throw out those boundaries and I leave little doubt about where the line lies.

I won’t lie. Sometimes, it feels pretty reckless. The anxious, panicky part of me often wakes me up at night, asking, “What the hell are you doing? How could you have said that? How could you have been so honest??!!”

But, at other times, I feel like I am holding my head higher and walking taller. I feel, if possible, a little more powerful than I did before.

Not caring SO MUCH can actually feel amazingly freeing.

2 thoughts on “The Power Deferential

  1. lavenderandlevity December 6, 2018 / 9:48 pm

    I get this. Being hyperaware of power dynamics and terrified to the point of losing yourself is the horribleness of PTSD encapsulated.

    Liked by 1 person

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