by Sofie Angevaare Content Marketing Specialist, Senior Copywriter, Communications Consultant
When did you last feel empowered? Meaning: "in your power?" And was this an experience given to you by someone else, or did you, perhaps, give it to yourself?
Whether the trigger for empowerment is found externally or internally, the result is ultimately the same: a stronger belief in your own capabilities or worth.
A belief that enables you to act in line with what you desire and deserve. One that helps you tap into, discover, and grow your own power.
Without people reaching this core belief of being capable and worthy, any acts to empower them will most likely be futile. Because if you really believe you are powerless, what is there to empower?
The meaning of empowerment
According to the dictionary, this is what empowerment means:
1. authority or power given to someone to do something. “individuals are given empowerment to create their own dwellings"
2. the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights. “political steps for the empowerment of women"
But I’d like to add this:
3. the authority or power one believes one has to be able to act in line with who they wish to be and what they wish to experience or accomplish.
Because without that core belief even the most ideal outer circumstances won’t enable you to be, do or have anything of your own choosing.
What do you belief to be true about you?
If you are convinced that you are powerless, anyone who is trying to “put you back into your power” will most likely even annoy you. Because what do they know about your situation? They haven’t lived a day in your shoes. Who are they to tell you that you can change your life, when you are experiencing the exact opposite every single day?
In order for empowerment to happen, we need to step out of that state of victimization first. However difficult, problematic or challenging our current realities may be.
There are many great examples of people who faced worst-case scenarios beyond most of our wildest nightmares but took their life into their own hands regardless. People who dared to say: "No more of this!" Or "I will not stop despite the odds!" And then stepped into their power. People like Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Byron Katie, Malala Youssef, and Lisa Nichols are icons for demonstrating the ability to rise up from some of the worst possible hardships.
Whether they faced oppression, discrimination, violence, molestation or bankruptcy, they did not let it break their spirits. Instead, they used it as fuel on their missions to change their own lives and help other people rise too.
What's keeping us from stepping into our own power?
Although it is true that we can greatly contribute to (and detract from) each other’s experience of power, I have become an even greater believer that we must deeply tap into who and what we are ourselves first.
If we don't feel that we are capable and we lack the willingness or courage to step into our power, other people can give us all the stages and opportunities they want - but we still won't own up to them.
Why victimization is one of our biggest obstacles
Many of us unfortunately still believe that the previously mentioned people who rose from the ashes against all odds are the odd ones out. That they were somehow more special, more gifted, more talented or more entitled than us. But if that's what you believe, you’re not hearing their messages very well.
The true cause for empowerment is not a special gift, extraordinary intellect or unique talent – but a change of mind.
Something inside needs to shift. Unless you change your mind and start believing you are just as capable and worthy as anyone else – it's hard to change anything else.
Are you truly ready to be empowered?
Try this one for size:
From here on out, I will take full responsibility for my life and everything that shows up in it.
Does it feel like a total yes? Or not quite yet?
I know it’s a bold statement and many would understandably rather not live by it. Simply because it’s a lot easier to keep pointing at others and blame them for whatever isn’t working in our lives right now. It may also challenge some of our culturally inherited convictions, resulting into responses like: “but I cannot help it that this or that person is such and such way.”
Or “I cannot help it that this and that is happening in the world.” And “I cannot help it that this and that is happening to me.”
But today, I'd like to challenge that last conviction:
Your life is happening for you
However difficult to accept for many of us who are in situations that are not of our conscious choosing, we are not entirely at the whims of our own life experience.
In fact, I believe it is exactly that last belief that firmly keeps us in our current situations – whether we like it or not. Yes, there are people in the world who treat you badly – and no, you do not deserve to be treated that way. It is also not your fault if you’ve had any troubling encounters or experiences in any way, shape or form.
But what is your responsibility, and yours alone, is the way you process and deal with it.
This does not mean you need to do that alone. But it does require an honest acknowledgement of your current situation.
You are the author of your own life
If you truly wish to empower yourself and others, you need to start from the belief that you are not at the effect but at the cause of your life experience. That you are infinitely capable of changing. That there are limitless opportunities out there for situations that are not of your liking to be resolved. But you have to be willing to honestly look at them and investigate what brought you there.
Because it is one thing to learn and grow from past experiences, it's another to keep them actively alive wherever you go.
Where do you live: in your past, present or future?
Very few people can honestly state: the past is gone and I don’t live there anymore without lying to themselves. I know I have been there. I have been carrying around old pains and hurts, like they were still happening to me every day. I judged my own feelings and convinced myself I had to “suck up” whatever it was that was keeping me from living joyfully. And by holding grudges and feeling powerless about these past situations, it felt like life was happening “to me” and not “for me” at all.
It took me some time to realize this – but the only real struggle in my life was the one happening inside myself. Everything else just arose from that. It was my own inner turmoil that I kept seeing mirrored in my external environment.
We are not victims
Letting go of the idea that we are victims in any sort of way may be tough at first but it is greatly empowering after a while.
Even the worst things that occur in our lives can bring us incredible lessons about who we are being, what we desire and what we clearly don’t.
Sometimes the gift of a negative experience is simply the realization that life is pretty great when things like that don’t happen. It can be a lesson in resilience. In bouncing back. Or in discovering your strength, your willpower or your determination. It can also be a lesson in humility, empathy, or compassion.
We can't always choose our circumstances – but we can always choose who we are being
There is so much to learn when you move away from the perspective of “the world is against me” or it is “me versus them.” To feel, understand, and know that regardless of your circumstances you can always choose who you are being, that, I believe, is true empowerment.
From that place of freedom, we can show up as who we want to be, rather than as reactive beings that are in a constant battle with life and what the world throws at them.
So by all means – if I may empower you in any way today – start focusing less on what is happening and more on who you are being – and watch as your life starts to change.
Ghandi said it best: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Be it, and it will be so.
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