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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kate Webster

Quiet Power: The Key To Speaking Up For Yourself

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Twenty years ago I faced breaking my first wooden board. I was at a self-defense instructors retreat where board breaking would be the final celebratory event of the weekend. Upon finding this out, I was deluged by fears that flooded my mind with negative messages: “I’ll look ridiculous trying.” “I might hurt myself.” “What if I fail?” To confront these fears, I chose my strongest strike—a front snap kick—so that I could power through it and muscle my way to break the board. As I stood in front of the board, I tensed my muscles and snapped the ball of my foot out and back hard—THUNK!—the board didn’t break. I tensed harder, got a more aggressive face on, and struck again—THUNK!—it didn’t break again. My aggressive power wasn’t working.

By this time, tears were welling up as I saw all my fears becoming manifest. I felt I looked ridiculous thunking on the board, the ball of my foot was beginning to sting, and I was failing miserably. Just as I was about to give up, I looked out beyond the board and saw my mentor smiling at me. She showed me the knife edge of her hand and nodded her head. She believed I could do it—believed I could break this board with what seemed like a less powerful technique. I took a deep breath and let her faith in me quiet the negative tapes in my head. I focused beyond the board rather than on the board itself, connected mind and body and struck with the knife edge of my hand—THWACK!—the board broke effortlessly, with ease, and no pain. It felt like butter, as they say in board breaking circles—like a hot knife through butter.

While the aggressive power didn’t work, my quiet power did—a profound realization for me about how to let go of fears that hold me back. By believing in myself, focusing beyond the board on the solution and not on the board or the problem itself, and connecting mind and body, I found the inner confidence and my quiet power to break through that board.

Since that time, I’ve taught self-defense to 1,000s of individuals throughout the Chicagoland area and nationwide. Over and over I witnessed individuals coming into the workshops and trainings expecting to learn the toughest, coolest, most aggressive physical techniques to take out an attacker and feel safe. However, while they easily learned some of these techniques, they found that this aggressive power wasn’t necessary to resolve day-to-day difficult situations and interactions. They realized, for example, that at a holiday table with family, they didn’t really want to palm heel strike a loved one to resolve an argument or settle a long held family dispute. What they found instead, was how important it was to first simply to assert themselves, set a boundary, and speak up for themselves. It was these skills that were more relevant on a day-to-day basis, yet were more elusive. A key element they learned, was believing in themselves, being authentic and sticking to it. This is quiet power.

Believing in yourself is the place to start to break free of symbolic ‘boards’ in your life—boards that hold you back from speaking up for yourself in ways that feel authentic and true to your temperament and personality.

What ‘boards’ or fears do you have that you’d like to break free from and authentically speak up for yourself? Once place to start is to flip the script on negative messages in your mind that hold you back. When a negative message crops up, substitute a positive one. These can be self-affirmations or positive reminders to stay in the moment. Some examples are listed below.

Action Step 1: Flip the Script

  1. Use brightly colored post-it notes and write down three to five self-affirming messages

  2. These statements might include:

    1. I am enough

    2. I am resilient

    3. I don’t have to be perfect

    4. I can take baby steps when life feels hard

    5. I am good enough where I am at

  1. Post these around a mirror, computer, or any place you will see a few times a day.

    1. If you live with other people and don’t want these messages in their way, you can change your computer or smart phone screen to have an positive message or quote displayed.

While each person develops their own form of quiet power, the tools to be more aware of it are universal. Stay tuned for your next action steps!

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