Empowerment is a buzz word in our society today. Empower is a term frequently used in political circles to motivate certain people groups to act confidently toward a certain cause.
Merriam-Webster defines Empower as: “to give legal authority or power to”, “to promote the self-actualization or influence of”. The root word of this term is: Power. This is a very strong word that implies control, confidence, and authority. Those all sound like very positive attributes to have, especially when we struggle with fear, hopelessness, or feel paralyzed by dysfunction.
The question is, how do we become empowered when we are in the trenches? How do we become advocates for ourselves when no one else ever modeled that for us?
Here are 4 ways to get started:
1. Set Boundaries - Create limits in your life for what you will or will not do, what you will or will not tolerate from others. This can be limits to how others may communicate with you (ex: no yelling or name-calling), limits to the type of people you will spend time with, or whether you will accept guilt or obligation from others.
Boundaries can also be with ourselves: how we spend our time, the food we choose to eat, the thoughts we choose to engage with or ruminate in, the language we choose to use with others, the routines and behaviors we choose to act in. These aren’t easy to set, but they are all decisions that focus on protecting your own energy and safety. They are decisions where you get to tell yourself “we’re going to do this for our safety and because we need it”. That’s pretty empowering!
2. Choose your mindset - While you don’t have control over your circumstances in life, you do have control over how you choose to view hardship. You may automatically go to negative thoughts of hopelessness, powerlessness, and overwhelm when life becomes difficult. Or, you can decide to pursue growth, learning or development when hardship arrives. Mindset is something that you get to choose regardless of how you feel. (“I feel sad and heartbroken but I will learn from this experience”).
Taking control of your mindset is one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself. Again this is definitely not an easy choice, but it’s possible. And it’s only in your power to choose your mindset. Own that!
3. Focus on what you can do - Sure, there’s a lot in life we cannot influence or change. And we have to accept it. But there’s a lot that we can do as well. Most of that is related to how we act, react, cope, or just our general actions throughout the day. Don’t give that power to someone else. Only you can truly control what you say and do. Make conscious decisions in how you schedule your day, how you cope in stress, and which habits you engage in. We call this the inner locus of control. Studies have shown that individuals who focus on their inner locus of control are more likely to be happy, successful, and will naturally attract others because they are pleasant to be around. Empowering yourself in this way can do the same for you, too.
You get to decide to take ownership of these things. The question is, will you decide to act on these things?
And remember, if you are struggling with how to take next steps in any of these categories, it may be time for you to ask for help. A clinician can walk you through these things to help you practice self-advocacy and find new freedom. It really is worth the effort. You can do this.