Overwhelmed woman
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What's on your plate? Do you feel like the things in your life—your job, your friends or your activities—define who you are? Are you constantly comparing what you have to what other people have? Get six ways to feel powerful and proud, no matter what you're juggling.
As you go through life, you may tend to want to "fill up your plate" with jobs, family, health, money, some passions and hobbies, religion, friends, relationships, dreams and so on.

You compare your plate to others'.
You strive to increase various portions of your plate by setting goals, like making New Year's resolutions. You try to get healthier, make more money, become more spiritual and get more organized. It seems life is about adding to the all-important "plate." For most people, what's on your plate determines who you are, how you see yourself, if you allow yourself to be happy. You judge yourself based on what's on your plate. It's what you think other people see and judge you on. It's what you present to the world.

When your life changes, something on your plate has also changed.
You may lose the "relationship" component of the plate. Maybe you've been dumped, so there's no more intimate relationship on the plate. You may not have children yet, so you feel you're missing the all-so-important "family" portion that the world tells you must be on your plate. Or maybe you've been downsized or suffered an illness. You may imagine that what's on your plate protects you, makes you feel big and special, loved and accepted. In reality, it is what makes you even more vulnerable.

Many parts of the plate may change at once.
You may get divorced, lose a parent and then have a health issue. Or you may get married, move and start a new job.

The question you really need to ask yourself

Focused woman
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So here's the real question you need to ask: If the plate is what is holding everything you hold dear and important, what is the actual plate? What is the place where all of this lands? How do you take better care of that?

Instead of fixing, improving, holding on, clinging to and wanting everything that's on your plate to be and look a certain way, how about focusing on what holds all of that together? Your plate is your glue. It's a symbol for what and who you are, regardless of anything external. Your plate is your essence, what remains, your faith, your spirituality, the part of you that can simply say, "I exist, I am," with nothing more needed after those words. No need for permission or external approval from others to feel worthy. The plate is the part of you that can have everything taken away from you, and you will still not be defeated—what was with you at the start and will be with you at the end. It's your eternal side, the side that is detached from the drama of anything that's happening. It's the part of you that can distinguish the small stuff from what truly matters.

So strengthen your plate and support it! If you do, you'll come to see you are still whole and complete, even when nothing is on your plate. You will then place meaning in something that isn't temporary. Your plate is your essence. We, you, I, exist. Something is untouchable. You are still here, no matter what, you always have been, even when you went through some really tough times.

6 ways to feel powerful no matter what

Strong woman
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So how do you strengthen your plate so you feel powerful no matter what, even if your world feels out of control now? So your power comes from something other than the elusive goal or thing to go get?

  • Remember that sometimes you need to take things off your plate, not add to it.
    Life may be doing this already for you and therefore already has your best interests at heart, even though it may not look this way at this moment. What do you need to let go of? What is taking up your time? What is your biggest distraction? It often takes courage to start something—a relationship, a business; it can take even more courage to let it go.

  • Don't get stuck between the extremes of what you fear may happen (you probably have that list) and all the desires of what you don't yet have: the soul-mate, the perfect body, the dream house and the kids in college.
    Until then, you have this underlying sense of emptiness and waiting. These poles are what most people yo-yo between day to day: what you have, what you don't. Think about it: How much time do you spend on trying to keep things the same—your job, your weight—and how much time do you spend on longing, hoping, wanting something you don't yet have? This is what creates instability on the plate. Fear/desire, fear/desire. Hold on. Get. More. More. More. Be present with what is currently in your life; bring your mind back to right here, right now.

  • Start asking these questions: What should I not do with my life? What am I not?
    Do this instead of expressing all the things you are or have, and clinging to what you are doing, what you have.

3 more ideas to help you be your most powerful self

Peaceful woman
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  • Have some silent time when you can simply witness whatever may be going on.
    It removes the shakiness. You then detach from the mind what it's feeding you as the worst-case scenario; you tune back into your breath. When the breath is easy, the mind is calm. If you can't find 20 minutes a day to be totally quiet, something is wrong with your day. Period. Schedule it in, like any other appointment.

  • Strengthen your relationship with your Higher Self, your Creator—whatever you may call that in your words and in whatever way suits you best.
    Prayer, meditation, simply focusing on being loving to everything and everyone no matter what (the real definition of living spiritually—in my humble opinion), going to church and places of worship, retreats, fasting, reading books of higher wisdom, giving back or simply being in nature.

  • Be gentle with yourself and others.
    Stop the inner dialog that's all about disapproval and telling you what's wrong with you. Catch it—it will speak up dozens of times a day. Bring it out of your blind spot. The disapproval program that's always running creates that incessant shakiness on the plate. Be gentle with others: the waiter, cab driver, person at the airport or operator. Be gentle in the way you email people, in how you leave voicemails. Any form of harshness makes you feel far away from your real essence—what is your glue, what holds all this life together. When you don't act with kindness and gentleness, you don't feel good about yourself and your life, and you may not even know why. Care. Care about something other than your plate, your goals or ambitions. Your essence is to stay in connection and harmony with others, to give back, to see how you can serve. That's when you always feel your best.

Remember that at the core, everyone is the same. Everyone gets a plate. That gift is your birthright. Somehow your programming and education may mislead you into thinking life is about putting things on it, having more on the plate than others have on theirs. It's a giant comparison game. It's a feeling of being separate from others. Instead, you should be happy simply to take care of your plate, who and what you really are. It will give you perspective on appreciating everything that eventually gets on there and anything that may be taken away during times of change and transition.

Ariane de Bonvoisin is the CEO and founder of First30Days, a New York City-based media company focused on guiding people through all types of changes, both personal and professional and social or global. She has a monthly column in Redbook magazine and AdAge, is MSN's life change expert, a contributing editor to BusinessWeek.com, and a life balance expert for Health magazine and has appeared on dozens of TV and radio shows, including NBC's Today, the CBS Early Show, CNN Radio and ABC News Now. She is a Huffington Post contributor and has written articles for media outlets including Yahoo!, Town & Country, Advertising Age, the New York Daily News, Reader's Digest, MSN and Mediabistro, among others. Her latest book is The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier (HarperCollins). For more information about de Bonvoisin, visit www.first30days.com.

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