Illustration by Laura Berger.
Empowerment has incredible influence. The ripple effect of an empowering speech, teacher, friend, or parent can be substantial. I think that’s especially evident in the current climate of our culture. Everyone has the ability to empower others but empowerment has to begin from within. It’s like my favorite saying, “fill your cup first”. If you’re not empowering yourself, how can you feel confident to empower others?
How do you empower yourself? Good question, I’m sure there are too many ways to list here, but I’d like to start with how I build the confidence to empower myself. In my opinion, confidence and empowerment go hand in hand, you can’t have one without the other. Below I’ve shared two ways to embody empowerment––starting with yourself so you are better equipped to empower others.
Feeling Empowered Through Confidence:
Have you ever seen someone do or create something so inspiring and felt a sense of amazement, followed by a tinge of fear or self-doubt? Feeling as though, if they’re doing it, then it’s been done, so there isn’t room for you to do it too?
I have, I feel that way all the time. Because if it’s been done, why bother, right? This feeling is detrimental to success. I’m not sure where it comes from but I do know it’s a fear we have to get over in order to achieve growth.
Whenever I feel this way, I try to shift my perspective. “So what, I’m not the first to do something.” Apple wasn’t the first to build a computer, but that didn’t stop them from trying to create the best computer out there. I swap my fear for excitement. I begin to think of the ways I can learn from this person’s/companies triumphs. Analyze what I like, and what I might do differently. Sure they’ve done something incredibly special, but it doesn't mean your version won't be exactly the solution you, and tons of other people need.
Empowering Others By Listening:
Start by listening, really listen. So often we want to help someone with a problem and we feel we have the answer before they even finish describing the situation. We care for them so much and we want the pain their feeling to go away as fast as possible, so if they would just…!! We have to stop and REALLY listen. We often try to fix the problem by giving someone the solution (we think) they need. But as humans, we don’t like to be told what to do.
Have you ever been venting to a friend and they say “well why don’t you just X, Y, or Z?” Do you feel better? No. You feel worse, because you haven't been doing X, Y, or Z or you don’t want to do X, Y, or Z or you don’t think X, Y, or Z will help you. To help someone is not to give them the answer, but to give them the tools to find the answer themselves. Instead of fixing the problem, support the person in finding the solution by listening to them. Try to find the root of the stressor and gently let them know what it is you hear they’re saying. We often already know what’s causing us so much angst but either don’t realize it yet or are too wrapped up in the situation to truly see it.