Finding Strength in Your True Self
What do you think when you hear the word, “empowerment?”
Some may picture a domestic violence victim leaving an abusive relationship and entering a shelter, others may visualize a young child standing up to a school bully and yet others may simply see a king or queen sitting on a royal throne. All may be correct, but what is it “really?” Here is what I believe.
Empowerment Begins and Ends with You
Empowerment is the full realization of one’s true self. It is finally seeing, understanding and believing that power and confidence begin and end with you. No one can give it to you, although it may appear so on the outside. Unless one truly appreciates and values who he or she has been, is, and may become, empowerment cannot fully mature.
Empowerment leads to wisdom, and wisdom often leads to solutions, and how incredible is that! Our solutions involve all aspects of ourselves, including the thinking, acting, feeling, and dreaming parts that make us who we are, or as I like to think, we are the gift that we’ve been waiting for all along. Life has a funny way of making us forget this vital piece of knowledge when we are feeling at our lowest, and sometimes we need a supportive person to “remind” us in a loving manner. To quote an old proverb, “It’s not what you call me, but what I answer to.”
No conversation about empowerment would be complete without addressing our language, or more specifically, power words versus victim words. I remember the old childhood taunt, as I’m sure many of you do, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Boy, oh boy, was that ever wrong!
Words are incredibly powerful, and may be incredibly persuasive, forceful, commanding, and influential, depending on how and when we choose to use them.
Although we can break down our communication into several categories, for this discussion, I would like to make it simple-our words either hurt or heal. This applies not just to what we say to others, but what we say to ourselves. Name-calling, blaming, yelling, shaming, and manipulation serve no one. In addition, the choice of words we often use is not accidental within our relationships.
We reflect the way we see ourselves. If one thinks of himself/herself as capable and competent, then he/she will talk about themselves or others as capable, competent, and personally powerful towards creating change. However, if people see themselves as out of control, no options to choose from, or victimized or fated, then that is exactly how they view themselves and external situations.
Unfortunately, victim language is far too common and remains a persistent part of our language and communication with others. It crops up and occurs when we ignore the problems and issues, deny them, blame others, minimize or catastrophize, etc. This opens the door wide open to statements or phrases prefaced with, “I can’t,” “I’ll try,” “I have to,” or my personal favorite, “but.”
In comparison, power language uses such words as “I can” “I will” “I’ve decided to,” and so forth. These words convey decisiveness, taking responsibility, accountability, and respect. There is no room for ambiguity. Set your intentions then SPEAK your intentions.
For many of us, using power language or speaking our thoughts and feelings, can be an extremely difficult thing, especially if we are full of self-doubt or are wrestling with other questioning arguments against asserting ourselves. Also for many of us, we were socialized and conditioned to NOT speak up when conflicts with others arose. Concessions were made to keep the peace, or not rock the boat, at the sacrifice of not acknowledging our truth or our authentic self.
Years of denying ourselves this ability to speak or acknowledge can play havoc with our spirit. This may lead to one unfulfilling or abusive relationship after another, job hopping, or actual physical illness after holding so much in and seeking to find solutions outside of ourselves. The bottom line is we owe it to ourselves and the ones we love, to stay true to our soul and honor it. By doing so, we are honoring everyone, especially ourselves.
Living an Honest Life
Notice this has nothing to do with right or wrong — it is only about living an honest life, whereby we talk, share, exchange the wonderful, and sometimes not so wonderful, ideas, hopes, hurts, disappointments, dreams, and goals with one another, which define relationship. When we do this, we are also embracing our differences, showing we are invested in one another, and being positive advocates for ourselves and others by conveying to them that they matter enough to be heard.
When this acknowledgment occurs, a wonderful stage of communication and personal empowerment has been fulfilled, and when a step of this nature is fulfilled, we all feel a little relief!
Only after one has admitted the true feelings within herself/himself, can true communication take place.
We live by communicating with the language we have learned as children. When our communication changes in an authentic way with one person, then our relationships with everyone else begin to change too. Relationships with our work, families and friends all change. And, perhaps, most important of all, your relationship with yourself will change too.
To take this a step further, an important step to take with yourself on the path to personal empowerment is to practice “centering,” or another common phrase meaning the same thing is getting “grounded.” Centering is all about staying mindful of what’s going on inside at all times. Mindfulness is being spoken about quite a bit these days and for good reason. Being centered or mindful feels a special way.
Think about a past problem or difficult situation you not only faced, but successfully worked through. (Yes, you might have to dig a little, but it’s there!) Once you’ve recalled such a time, allow yourself to remember how you felt about the obstacle or particular situation and what you thought. At the moment you experienced awareness that you had taken care of yourself, sense of direction, satisfaction, confidence, or a sense of peace or balance, then you became centered. Staying centered means you’re always checking in with yourself, shifting focus from the external world to what’s going on inside of you … .
How am I feeling? What am I thinking? What do I want? What do I not want? And if that sounds way too hard if feeling emotionally overwhelmed, then just BREATHE.
Pay attention to your breath, inhaling and exhaling, staying in the present moment. The word breath actually means “spirit”, so by paying this kind of attention, you are attending to your spirit. What a concept!
Empowered people practice this skill regularly and rapidly. By staying in touch with themselves, including their confusion about they may be experiencing, they are able to make decisions and act in an effective manner. They do not get caught up in what other people think or focus on what is right for another, (but may not be right for them.) They do not worry obsessively about saving others and end up dishonoring themselves. Somewhere, deep inside them, they just know that they are worthwhile and valued.
There is a demonstration that I have performed several times throughout my years as a counselor to signify that self-esteem and subsequent personal empowerment is a birthright. I will either ask or pull out a dollar bill. I ask whoever is sitting in front of me what it’s worth. Of course, everyone says “a dollar.” Then, I wad it up, crumble it, step on it, kick it, fold it, or even make a tiny tear in it. Again, I ask the question, “what is this worth?” or “what is it worth now?” Again, the same response. Then, awareness starts to set in. The dollar bill that just came off the mint, AS WELL AS the dollar bill that has been in circulation for however many years and has been taped back together and scribbled on, is still worth a hundred pennies and can be used as such. The value never changed. Same is true of us. We have been kicked down by life, felt awful heartache and grief, maybe abused, made some wrong turns, and yet, above it all, we still possess as much value and worth as a newborn. That’s what I mean by who we are is a birthright. No one and NO THING can ever alter that.
Life’s experiences and relationships are our main teachers. In them, we either grow into a greater consciousness or deny ourselves and others the opportunity to do so. What serves an individual’s true good serves us all, as I truly believe we are all interconnected. So, the next time an empowering opportunity presents itself, grab it and always remember the incredibly special and unique person you are!