Why should I care about feeling empowered? This is a question I ask myself time and again. Perhaps as a way to keep myself in check. It seems to be such a popular word nowadays. I remember when empowerment was just a word on an inspirational poster, and since then it’s become a creed to live by.
Why don’t we start by talking about what it means.
Empowerment isn’t just about self-esteem, or taking back our basic rights. Yes, those are part of it, but the concept itself involves much more.
However, you have to be willing to grab onto it and hold on tight.
Empowerment can be found in any moment, among any situation.
In fact, waiting around for the world to give you power is the opposite of empowerment. Thinking in terms of “if only this such and such thing were different” means you’re giving power to someone or something else. As a verb, empowerment literally means to “give someone the authority or power to do something”.
So, why not give it to yourself?
Sometimes, as human beings, we get frustrated and blame something, anything as a way to not feel like we have failed ourselves. When we do that, we’ve given away our power. Or sometimes we give in to someone else’s power out of fear. While these may be understandable situations, either way, we are still making a choice to give it away.
Let me tell you a story.
There’s a woman in my life who is very significant to me. She inspires me every day to be better, in spite of the constant fighting that she has to face in her life.
After a divorce that ended in significant financial debts incurred by her ex, she was forced to declare bankruptcy. Living on a teacher’s salary and still supporting her son in college, her hardships seemed endless. She went from a beautiful, nearly 5,000 sq. ft. home (with a pool!) to a tiny apartment in the city, where she could be close to work.
Let’s just say that this wasn’t the kind of downsizing that minimalists are always raving about. This was a downsizing that had to happen simply because she had to do it.
After years of enduring break ins to her car, debt collectors constantly calling and appearing on her doorstep (again, not even her debts), and feelings of hopelessness, she decided it was time to do something about it. She moved out and searched for a new place that she could really make her own.
She didn’t have to search long: what she found was a little white condo in a quiet, well maintained neighborhood. This condo was shabby, straight from the 1950’s, and unimaginative. Her neighbors were easily twenty years older than her, and sometimes terrible to her. But she decided to not give any of that her attention. She set to work on this house because all she had left was her imagination and determination to make it hers.
Over the course of months, this woman had turned this lifeless little cottage into a beautiful sanctuary. She did have to search far and wide to afford replacement flooring, and had to compromise with painting most surfaces that she would have preferred to replace. But all the same, it was something that she took into her hands and made it something she could love and feel proud of.
Let me tell you why I found this whole story so inspiring.
For me, some things are just so much easier to run away from. Run away from problems, from thoughts, feelings. Cover it up, forget about it. What this story inspires me to do is to face my problems and say, “I can make it better.” Therein, I am giving myself power. When I see something I don’t like and think of what I can do about it, then I am giving myself permission to make my own choices.
Do things get in our way? Yes. Do we sometimes need to walk away from a bad situation and just never look back? Absolutely. But then again, walking away can sometimes be can act of empowerment in itself. But it doesn’t have to stop there- we can choose to exercise our own power even after we’ve fallen over and over again.
There might be a lot of negative influencers in your life that want to strip it from you. Truthfully, they can only do that if you let them. If you believe the lie that you are nothing, then you will likely easily give it all away.
First, don’t believe the lie.
If anyone tells you that you’re nothing, look them in the eye and call out their bluff. The only reason that anyone would ever want you to think that you’re nothing is if they want your power for themselves. That brings me to my next point…
Second, don’t give your power away to anyone.
Just don’t. It’s not theirs. It’s yours. Keep it. To yourself. The next time someone tries to manipulate you to, kindly tell them no. You don’t even have to add a “thanks” at the end of it, so it doesn’t have to be that kind. If someone tells you that you can’t do something for yourself and tries to do it for you, easily say, “yes, I can, and I will.”
If you make excuses for yourself, you’re handing your power over to some other uncontrollable force. You don’t deserve to have someone else, or something take control of your life.
Your control over your reactions to your situations is truly the only thing that no other person can take away from you. So don’t give them the pleasure of getting it from you.
Third, allow others to maintain their power.
If you’re in the habit of doing something for someone that they can do for themselves, you are reaffirming the idea that they can’t do it. Yes, it’s good to serve others, particularly those who can’t help themselves.
But when we don’t respect the power boundaries of others, the lines of power get fuzzy. When the lines get fuzzy, we forget where our own power is as well. Let other people make their own choices and accept it as such: their choices.
Part of what makes social media so popular are the plethora of inspiring quotes! Can you do us a favor? Will you comment below with your favorite inspirational quote? If you want, go the extra mile and tell us why it’s your favorite and how it empowers you!