What is Empowerment?

woman stands facing backward raising hands gratitude life in sunset sky
by Anne McKeown

Empowerment is one of those words we hear banded about a lot these days. I even have the idea of it embedded in my company name 2Mpower.co (the 2Ms are my daughters Maris & Megan, for whom I strive to be a positive role model).

When we overuse a word, it’s meaning can become diminished. Empowerment is an important ingredient for growth and change, so I want to protect it from familiarity and contempt. This dictionary definition says it all: empowerment is the authority or power given to someone to do something; it is the process of becoming stronger and more confident especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

When we look after ourselves, we are better equipped to look after those around us. A level of self-interest is essential for a successful, satisfying life. Yet so many women struggle to put themselves first.

As a society, we get hung up on the word ‘selfish’.  We don’t like selfish people. We admire humility. Those who are truly selfish lack consideration for others. Most women I know are not selfish, in fact, the exact opposite; they lack self-interest and self-compassion. Mothers especially tend to ignore their own needs in favour of looking after the family.

I became aware of just how difficult it is for women to invest and believe in themselves when I introduced a new exercise at the beginning of one of my workshops.

I handed around a little box with a lid on it and told the audience there was something really precious inside. I informed them that I only share the contents of that box with those who are able to appreciate it. I asked them to commit 100% to respecting what was in the box. I told them to remove the lid one at a time, take a look inside, say nothing, replace the lid and pass it on. Those who got to look first let out a little laugh when they saw what was inside the box. Those still waiting were intrigued and excited for their turn to look.

Inside that box there was a mirror. If you are not committed to looking after yourself, to seeing yourself as precious and capable, then your chance of finding contentment and success is lessened.

For the next exercise I asked the participants to tell me one thing that they loved about themselves. Silence descended on the room. There was a reluctance to announce self-praise. Everyone feared being judged. I told them and I tell you now, “You will be judged anyway, so you might as well hear criticism about something positive you said, rather than something negative someone else said about you!”

I am aware that this can be confronting. We all know how ‘tall poppies’ are treated and we have been told all our lives not to blow our own trumpet.

Looking back, I can see that for most of my young life, I was a people pleaser. I didn’t consciously set this as a goal. I was responding to the lessons I had been taught: put others first, turn the other cheek, pride comes before a fall, it’s rude not to share etc. Where I went wrong, was that I believed I had to be passive or aggressive, selfless or selfish. As I matured, I began to understand these teachings in more depth. I realized that I could be kind and assertive, generous and have an element of self-interest. When I did finally take responsibility for my own future and my own success, I felt empowered in the true sense of the word.

During my Teen Talk program for teenage girls, we discuss the topic of ‘being labeled’ by society. I invite the girls to create their own label with words that tell the world who they are. They write words like Enthusiastic, Considerate and Hard Working. However, when I ask them what they think society would label them as, they wrote words like: Pretty, Skinny, and Emotional.

YOU have a choice; you can either tell the world what you stand for, or sit back and accept whatever labels are thrown at you. What do you want to be known for? Take a moment now to create your own label; write the positive, empowering, descriptive words that tell the world who you are.

Human beings are all the same on the inside. We all have good days and bad days. We all have worries and joys. We all have struggles and breakthroughs. We are all searching and we all find life difficult at times; we are all trying to do our best with what we know and with what we have.  Let’s give ourselves and each a break. Let’s work towards empowering ourselves and one another from this day forward.

To learn more about stress see: Reignite your Spark

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1 thought on “What is Empowerment?”

  1. Deborah Fairfull
    Deborah Fairfull

    An insightful article in distinguishing the difference between being selfish and true empowerment. This often gets confused and it is definitely not selfish for us beautiful, caring, women to step into our empowered selves.

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