The Importance of Empowering Yourself by Brenna
Being empowered equates to being oneself, which will develop, change and evolve with you. Empowerment and being poised is individualized. To date, my definition is to be genuine, determined, caring and independent. It started young for me and was ingrained in my upbringing. That’s not to say that I didn’t learn societal expectations, which challenge my definition of an empowered woman - I had to challenge others’ definition of me and then tolerate the displeasure and varying differences.
My advice as a middle aged feminist therapist raising daughters...
1. Boundaries for yourself and others - these will change and require you to reassess and
think what best applies to you and your current life. Often, boundaries are different versions of saying “no” and identifying our limits within our relationships with ourselves and others.
2. Asserting your needs in a healthy and fair manner - I reflect on my early adulthood.
Getting married and not changing my surname was one. I knew from the age of 14 onward that I would not change my name. I remember supportive people, yet I also remember the “why would you do that to your children” responses. I clearly remember self doubt creeping in and thinking, “it would be easier to do what is expected - to be traditional.” Then, I reflected. In the short run, it would be easy. I would avoid conflict with others, yet not myself. I remembered my reasoning and the benefit to my long-term self.
3. Asking for help early on and that is okay to not know the answer or even the
questions - I remember going to high school in a new town with new students and without my family. It was exciting and scary due to the unknown. I remember walking into my science class and my teacher had a sign that said: “There are no stupid questions.” She reminded us of this frequently, with compassion and understanding. 30 years later, and I’m still passing it on.
4. Learn various communication skills and practice being heard and listening to others -
This is a continuing goal with many personal experiences occurring in the decades of life, some memorable, yet many small and long forgotten. This is an every day practice of trying to stop whatever I am doing in order to look someone in the eye and focus on their words then share mine.
5. Be aware of your thoughts and their impact on you, especially the inner dialogue that
is automatic, repetitive and sneaky - These patterns are prevalent in small daily actions as well as traumatic events in our lives. We take responsibility when it’s not ours to control, to feel more in power, yet it often contributes to our distress (for example, “It’s all my fault” and “if only I didn’t...then it would never have happened”). The powerful thoughts of self blame and shame scar us deeply, yet it is important to remember that, just because we think them, does not mean the beliefs are true and accurate.
6. Find and practice small daily things that make you pause and reflect, breath and
enjoy that moment. It is important to ask yourself questions - What do I want? What am I responsible for? How is this impacting my life? Am I paying attention to my physical, emotional, social and mental health. If not, what do I need to change? Be sure to empower yourself.
Being empowered is a process that becomes more comfortable as you practice, but it’s not always easy. Through my actions, I hope to encourage my daughters, friends and clients to become empowered, and support each other.