How to Overcome Feeling Powerless

How do you overcome feeling powerless?  You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression that your thoughts create your reality but so, too, do your choices.

And today I want to share a confidence tip for all you women of a certain age, or any age, for that matter.  It has to do with the snowball effect.

Sometimes, depending on the weather, we waffle between winter and spring – keeping one foot in spring and the other still in the tail end of winter.  It’s kind of a magical push and pull.

As women we experience a different kind of push and pull.  On the one hand, we are valuable human beings. We feel confident, competent and our self-esteem is high.  We own our power.  And yet, over time, we can also feel powerless, lacking in confidence and full of self-doubt.  Far from a magical push and pull, it’s more like being on the high end of a seesaw one minute and clunking down and hitting bottom the next.

As women, we must overcome feeling powerless – by making better choices.  It’s springtime now.  And though we’re well out of winter, I do want to speak of snow…

The Snowball Effect

According to Wikipedia, the snowball effect is a common analogy of rolling a snowball down a snow-covered hillside. As it rolls, the ball will pick up more snow, gaining more mass and surface area.  And the ball continues picking up even more snow and momentum as it rolls along.

The analogy, Wikipedia explains, is used to describe a process that starts from an initial state of small significance and builds upon itself, becoming larger (graver, more serious), and perhaps potentially dangerous or disastrous (a vicious circle), though it might be beneficial instead (a virtuous circle).

When you discount your truth and repress your feelings or instincts, you can suffer from the snowballing effect of the choices you’ve made in the past.  Specifically, I’m talking about the little everyday ways we women give up our power.  (Read my previous blog post, Whose Side Are You On? – Feed Yourself Fully)

Choose to Support Yourself

For example, when my guy Ed gets a hold of the television control clicker, I cannot wrest it away from him.  He’s in total control.  Usually, I let him have it.  But by being so relaxed about it, I may not be doing myself any favors.

This is because when we give up power and/or authority in situations having to do with relationships, our environment, work, organizations and so on, we weaken our confidence and belief in our competency and self-worth.

It may not be readily apparent, but these “cracks” in our positive self-image add up creating a snowball effect, growing inside us and gaining momentum.

So when Ed takes control of the remote, maybe my inner voice says something like this: “Well, it’s not my fault he’s got control of the clicker.  It’s a guy thing.  He’s a remote hog.  That’s life.”  Sigh.

And maybe what I’m feeling is pushed around.  Why is life treating me like this?

Think for a moment of all the circumstances and experiences where you might be having similar feelings.  Feelings of being under the power of someone else or loss of control, for example.

Taking Responsibility for Our Needs to Overcome Feeling Powerless

An experience I had decades ago during one of my careers comes to mind.  My boss and I were working on a booklet that was going to be used as a sales incentive for various clients.  We each had to write up short descriptions of some programs.

After I turned in my work, my boss told me it was awful.  He read some of his descriptions to me and after marking all of mine up in red, he told me to redo my work and make my descriptions read more like his.

This rankled because, in my opinion, my work did sound like his.  The work was supposed to be all very uniform so that frankly, you couldn’t tell which one of us had written which piece.

So, I copied each description exactly as it was to fresh sheets of paper thereby doing away with the marked-up copies.  But I did not rewrite anything – meaning I did not change any of my original wording.  I waited a fair amount of time and returned to my boss’s office.

He took the pile and read the first one.  Then the second one.  And the third.  He threw down his pen and turning to me said, “This is sh-t!”

(Was I ever gleeful!)

“Really?”  I remarked.  “These are the ones you wrote.”

The look on his face was priceless.  It took a moment as his expression turned from confusion, to surprise, to feeling trapped and then to grudging admiration and respect.

“I put yours on top; mine are on the bottom,” I explained.  “And you can’t tell the difference.”  And without another word, he said, “Well, get these ready for me to take on my trip.”

Empowerment Through Authenticity

The above is an example of someone usurping power.  I could have gone along meekly with his analysis of my work, thereby relinquishing my feelings of competency in the process.  Or in this case, by choosing not to be a victim and responding by taking charge, I found myself standing up for my authentic self.

No matter how small or insignificant a situation, experience or occurrence is, when we choose to give up our power or authority, there’s a feeling deep within us of having given up some piece of our confidence, competence, creativity and/or self-esteem.  These feelings of loss build and gain momentum with each passing experience.

How to Overcome Feeling Powerless

It’s vital to retain our own power over our lives.  So, I invite you to consider the ways you may be giving up taking responsibility for yourself.  For example, perhaps you are playing the blame game.  To what extent do you give up your power by blaming another person or a situation?  To what extent do you feel you have the freedom or independence to express your intrinsic nature?

Because it’s not only the thoughts you have or the words you choose to use.  It’s also your beliefs, the emotions you feel and the actions you take that are yours alone and that create your reality in life.  The degree to which each individual takes responsibility for her/his choices is the degree to which that person can feel freedom and independence and overcome feeling powerless.

Think how we analyze and examine the way our lives have turned out.  Wouldn’t we be better off giving more careful thought to the choices we desire to make before we follow through with them?  Do you think about what you hope to learn?  Do you think about what you hope to gain and so forth?

How do you overcome feeling powerless?  Are there seemingly inconsequential choices you’ve made that over time have snowballed creating “cracks” in your confidence and self-esteem?  Please comment below, we love to hear from you!

Categories: Blog, Confidence, Feeling Powerless, and Lifestyle.


  1. Thanks Barb for sharing your experiences.
    I agree powerlessness is a feeling but also an action. Sometimes we need to take responsibility and act despite our feelings.
    Many Blessings,

    • Barb Wickland

      You’re absolutely right, Lisa. Taking responsibility and acting despite our feelings is key to a woman feeling empowered.

  2. Thanks for sharing this Barb, while I was reading it I was thinking that I have felt powerless in lots of situations. Sometimes I have just let it go and don’t show my disagreement and the few times I haven’t given my power away has not been beneficial for me, but I’m learning now that I can’t let others to steal my power because if I let them, I’m not giving myself the value I deserve.

    • Barb Wickland

      Hi Natalia, That’s interesting that you feel when you haven’t given your power away that you’ve felt it’s not been beneficial for you. Though over the long term, you may find that it is. Because, all the times we give up our power, we’re undermining ourselves and that may hold us back in the long run. You’re right about the importance of valuing yourself. Feeling powerless can, unfortunately, diminish your life and let someone else define it for you. Thanks for commenting!

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