Almost every one of us gives away our power, unthinkingly.
Someone does something inconsiderate or infuriating that frustrates or angers you. You fume about it for hours. You’ve given this person the power to make you frustrated and angry, to ruin your day, often without them even realizing it.
You are lonely because you are alone, no longer with the partner who broke up with you. You’ve given away your power to feel loved to someone else, who perhaps doesn’t want to give you that love.
You walk into a social gathering and hope to impress people, to gain their approval, to be liked. You’ve given away your power of being approved to others, who don’t even know they have a responsibility to validate you.
You are still angry at your parents (or one of your parents) for the way they raised you, or for certain things they did that still affect you. You’ve given away your power to shape your own life to people who haven’t been responsible for raising you since you became an adult.
In all of these cases, and in many more examples throughout our day, we’ve given away the power to be happy, content, and joyful, to people who haven’t asked for that power—or realized we’ve given it to them.
But in truth, the power over these states of mind—approval, love, anger, joy—resides completely inside of us. You have the power to make yourself feel angry or at peace, to feel hurt or joyful, to feel connected or disconnected, to feel accepted or rejected. This is the hidden source of power that we don’t tap into.
That’s not to say that other people don’t do crappy things. But those things don’t have to make us feel horrible—we can let them slide, and decide how we want to feel. Sure, that’s easier said than done, but it’s still a power that resides within us.
That’s also not to say we don’t need anyone else, or that we’re an island, standing completely on our own. In my view, we are more interconnected than we realize. Choosing to see ourselves as already interconnected, always connected to the hearts of others, is actually a way to tap into our inner power. Turning towards others and seeing their pain and love, not just our own, is a fantastic way to tap into the power to make ourselves feel purposeful and loved.
But make no mistake: the power is inside of us, nowhere else. We can make ourselves feel loved by loving ourselves and others. We can make ourselves feel liked and approved of, by seeing ourselves and finding the miracle in what we see, finding contentment in who we are, just as we are. We can make ourselves feel peace, by letting go of slights and judgments of others and finding contentment in how things are.
We can give ourselves joy by realizing our interconnectedness with others, by caring about others and appreciating the beauty of this moment, just as it is.
Leo Babauta is the author of six books, the writer of “Zen Habits,” a blog with more than 2 million subscribers, and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit ZenHabits.net