Why Standing up for Yourself Often Fails & What Actually Works.

Via Sara Avery
on May 9, 2012
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The feeling that “I don’t matter” is what troubles my clients more than anything else.

“I matter” is at the core of being human.We inherently want to be seen and heard, and engage in the activities that matter to us.

We all absorb the feeling that “I don’t matter” early in life, in one way or another, and it becomes stored as part of our sense of self—the part of us that generates each moment of our lives. So, since we have to keep moving through life, we need a way to survive with this awful feeling. We find some way to cope with it or keep it under control.

When it comes to the feeling of “I don’t matter,” we take one of two roads in dealing with it. We either find ourselves being powerless or overpowering others in some way.

You probably feel much more comfortable with one of these than the other. Here are some ways you may experience your default survival mechanism:

What Being Powerless Looks Like

You feel that you are unable to speak up for yourself, like there is some invisible wall that keeps you from expressing yourself. It might feel unsafe in some way to speak up for yourself. Or, even when you do express your opinions or desires, you are ignored. You may feel that it’s best to not want anything, because what matters to you isn’t going to happen, anyway. You may even find yourself pretending that it’s okay that you don’t matter or rationalizing when someone slights you:

”Oh, she’s going through a hard time, so I’m not surprised that she forgot about our lunch date. It’s completely fine!” (All the while, hearing that awful voice inside say, “See? You really don’t matter.”)

What Overpowering Looks Like

You may make sure to hold the power in any situation, to be the strongest voice in the room. You might ignore others’ opinions or requests, consciously or not. Maybe your knee-jerk reaction in any situation is that you have to get your way or that you have to automatically oppose what someone else has said. Other people always tell you that “it’s all about you” and “you have all the power,” even if that’s not something you’re consciously trying to accomplish.

So, what’s the solution to dealing with “I don’t matter”? To go in the opposite direction from what your default is?

If you’re in the powerless category, become “empowered” or “learn to stand up for yourself”? If you’re in the overpowering category, just try to stay quiet or become a people-pleaser? Neither of these tends to be very successful.

Here’s why it doesn’t work:

While we think that we’re interacting with others on a conscious level—just reacting in a rational way to what they say or do—what’s really going on is that we’re always interacting on a level that we’re mostly unconscious of. You may be aware of this sensing system in certain situations like:

  • You walk into a room where people have just been arguing. There’s nothing physical you can point to as evidence, but you can just feel it.
  • A certain person always bugs you. You can’t figure out why they irritate you, but you can’t stand being around them.
  • Someone walks into a room, and you know instantly that this is the person who will lead in this situation.

When someone consciously tries to act in the way that is opposite of their default survival mechanism, we usually feel it and reject it (often without realizing it or understanding our reaction).

For example, take the powerless person who “finds her power and stands up for herself.” Often, the response is either that she is rebuked for being so presumptuous or ignored altogether. That’s because the energy underlying her message is not only “I don’t matter,” but also, “It’s not safe for me to matter,” so she gets exactly that feedback.

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The Alternative to Powerlessness or Overpowering

So, there has to be another option to just acting the opposite way. I call that option “allowing power to come through.” And specifically, that power comes from your soul. Or, you might think of it as your higher self, or the part of you connected to God or Source.

It’s the part of you that is connected to everyone and everything else. So, in contrast to powerlessness (being “under” everyone else) or overpowering (being “over” everyone else), this power is something that works with and for everyone, including you.

What does allowing power to come through look like?

For the formerly powerless, they feel seen and heard more, without making any special effort. They may be asked for their opinion more, asked for what they want to do, or invited to lead something. This is usually a bit shocking to them! For the formerly overpowering, they feel more able to work with others easily, to listen to other points of view, and they are honored for their uniqueness, instead of being considered overbearing or intimidating.

What is your default? Have you tried going the opposite direction, and if so, what was the reaction to it? I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experience in the comments.

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Editor: Kate Bartolotta


About Sara Avery

Sara Avery’s passion is helping people uncover the energy that creates their story and the uniqueness of who they really are. In 2001, she transitioned from her first career as an orchestral violinist to guiding people through the deep transformation of Quanta Change. Quanta Change identifies Learned Distress (the feeling that “there is something wrong with me” absorbed in the womb and early in life) as the source of non-well-being. This unique process works with your brain during sleep to permanently remove layers of Learned Distress, allowing your natural well-being to become the source from which your life is generated. Sara’s clients discover a new ease and joy in life that they’ve never experienced—in emotional, spiritual, and physical realms. One client said, “I’ve been seeking for 40 years, and this is by far the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.” Learn more on her website or read more from Sara on her blog. Or, connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.


9 Responses to “Why Standing up for Yourself Often Fails & What Actually Works.”

  1. Sara_Avery says:

    Thanks so much, Bob!

  2. fabiofina says:

    Feeling very curious about this, this article inspired to look around your website.
    Along with the curiosity, my inner skeptic puts the brake on.
    I get scared when I can't find solid references (such as who is the P.hD neurophysiologist Mimi worked with) and when testimonials seem to suggest great success rates.
    Can you share some more regarding your clients' results? Has this process worked with all of your clients?
    Enjoyed your post and resonate with the overpowered/overpowering feelings.

  3. Sara_Avery says:

    Hi, and thanks for your comments and good questions. The PhD neurophysiologist's name is Patrick McGraw, and Mimi worked with him while he was at the University of Louisville (KY) School of Medicine. Her formal research started under the Humana Heart Foundation as part of a study on recidivism in heart disease.

    I'm happy to share more about my clients' results. As with any process or method, 100% of the people who have tried it don't resonate with it. An acupuncturist once told me that wasn't a good modality for me, and likewise, I sometimes find people for whom Quanta Change doesn't feel like the right fit. The majority of people who come to me do find it to be the right fit, and those people have all seen change happen. Generally, I would say that this process is not for people who just want a few things to be better, or to achieve more. This is for people who are at the end of their rope in some way – which, of course, looks different for everyone. This "end of your rope" point is where the brain is open to this kind of big change.

    Please let me know if I can answer further.
    Thanks, again!

  4. fabiofina says:

    Hi Sara,
    Thank you for these clarifications. I notice I trust you and Quanta Change more having those additional details, I feel safer knowing there is some scientific backing.
    And thank you for sharing about the "success rate". I resonate with being at "the end of the rope", I found I need to reach a certain amount of suffering for me to create drastic changes.

    The other thing I am curious regards the burning of so-called negative feeling.
    I wonder if in this process there is a repression or distance from "bad" feelings in search of good ones.
    I have heard Tony Robbins speak of human behavior saying that we move towards pleasure and away from pain.
    However in my buddhist practice experience I am encouraged to move towards and through "bad " feelings, to be with the pain, the anger, the grief.
    I like this approach as I believe every feeling and sensation is a sacred message the body is sending me and the way is through them.
    I am open to learn new methods, how does this system relate to what I just described? Can you expand on the notion of negative feelings being non-renewable energy?
    Thank you again,

  5. Sara_Avery says:

    Hi Fabio,
    Your question about repressing negative feelings is excellent. Quanta Change doesn't encourage that at all. In fact, in an organic way as one's brain is ready for it, this process actually brings negative feelings to the surface to be worked on and unlearned. The only way to unlearn a negative feeling is to first feel it, and that is an important part of the repeating change cycle that is the way this process unfolds, layer by layer.

    I think the difference in Quanta Change from your practice would be what you would notice over time, and perhaps in the intensity of the feelings as they're getting worked on. (You might actually notice more intensity, especially at the beginning of Quanta Change, than you notice in your current practice.) What I've noticed for myself with Quanta Change is that over time, layer by layer, the day-to-day experience of my negative feelings and patterns is less intense – sort of like turning down the volume on a radio. A typical pattern for me that 15 years ago was a 15 on a scale of 1-10 and lasted for weeks or even months now, when it even comes up at all, lasts for a few minutes and is maybe a 5 on that same scale. And it isn't controlled – it just isn't there, anymore. That is why I describe it as turning negative feeling into non-renewable energy. When you burn a log in a fireplace, you can't use the ashes from it to make heat, anymore. When Learned Distress is turned into non-renewable energy, your brain can't use it to generate negative situations for you, anymore.

    If you didn't find this page on my website, you might want to read through it for further description of how this works: http://quantachange.com/science. As for how people describe what this is like, they say that it's very different from other processes or practices they've tried, that the level of negative intensity they've been living with just feels so much less, that they feel an underlying sense of peace that they haven't felt before.

    Please let me know what further questions you have!
    Take care,

  6. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Time and a change of direction, heals all psychic wounds.
    I have found this to be so for me.
    … there is a point at which the worm stops turning (analogous to your example of the naturally overpowerable/more powerless finally asserting herself–maybe a little too much) and instead of the lashing-out, there is an evolution towards buffeting oneself and effecting change, through the back door–through influence … and then, of course, time works its own magic, guar-an-teed …

    Bad things sometimes happen to bad people, as they should … or, at least others do not suffer who come later, if nothing really happens … still, it's the Heisenberg Principle at work …

    Through influencing others or the outcome, just like the experimenter, the outcome is forever changed!

  7. Sara_Avery says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!