Empowerment is about personal power. When you are empowered, it means that you are capable of making decisions and being in charge of your life. Your life consists of your choices and your decisions. You are the expert on your life. To allow someone else that role is to disempower yourself, to give away your power, and to limit your life options. You cannot control very much in life. You have no control over other people, over bureaucracy, or over systems. One thing you can control, however, is you - your choices and your responsibilities. 

When you have low self-esteem, low self worth, and low self-confidence, you are disempowered. Without healthy self-esteem, you may believe that you are not competent, capable, or worthy. When you are empowered, you do not allow someone else to make your decisions for you or define you as a human being. You define yourself. You tell yourself, "I can," and then you act. You do not ask someone else to tell you who you are or to tell you what you can and cannot do.  
As an adult, you have the responsibility and the right to be the person you believe you are and to use your unique talents, gifts, and abilities. Those who are disempowered have usually been crushed by someone else. Perhaps they were beat down emotionally, or they are tired, put down, discouraged, or in despair. Before you can rise up and be powerful and assertive, you have to face your own beliefs regarding your worth and your abilities. Empowerment is the process of increasing your ability to make choices and turn those choices into actions.

To be empowered, you foster your ability to make strong, deliberate decisions. This requires you to:
  • Frame the problem - define the problem, put a frame around it, describe it clearly to yourself and others. You have to know the problem before you can plan how to solve it.
  • Generate alternatives - brainstorm all the possible solutions. Do not leave any options out because they sound outrageous. Include them all. You can eliminate potential options later.  
  • Evaluate anticipated consequences of each alternative. Think through to the end of the tape. If you decide this, _________will happen. If ________ happens, then __________ may happen. If _________ happens, then ____________. Think outside the box. Free associate. Look for unintended consequences of every possible alterative.
  • Choose a course of action. The best choice is likely not the easy choice. Some say that the best choice is usually the hardest choice.
  • Once you have chosen, follow through. Take the first step.

Factors that influence your ability to feel empowered. They include:

  • Locus of control - Whether you believe that responsibility, choice, and control in your life are internal or external. This affects both motivation and decision-making. If you have an external locus of control, you are more likely to feel helpless and continuing blaming external influences, rather than assuming control over your life.
  • Self-efficacy - Your belief about your capability to influence your life and reach goals. You know that you can make decision and make changes in your life. Self-effficacy is a strong influence on motivation, affecting how you feel, think, and act. With self-efficacy, you have a can-do attitude and work to meet your goals. Self-efficacy reduces stress and depression. Self-efficacy has to do with perceptions about your abilities while self-esteem has to do with with perceptions about your value and worth.
  • Emotional intelligence - Your awareness of your emotions, ability to identify and label your emotions, and ability to manage them. Also your awareness of the emotions of others and ability to identify cues, non-verbal and verbal, and respond appropriately.
  • Personal experience - What you have experienced in your life. This includes messages you were given as a child regarding self-empowerment, self-esteem, and self-efficacy; role models; abuse and trauma experiences; mental health issues: depression, anxiety; and relationship experiences as an adult.
  • Personal values and beliefs - What is important to you and what you believe in and value. Examples of personal values include morals and ethics, family and social relationships, spirituality, integrity, honesty, love, courage, compassion, and dignity. Personal values drive choices and decisions.

Empowerment includes:

  • Ability to make decision
  • Access to information and resources
  • Variety and wealth of options
  • Assertiveness skills
  • Hope
  • Belief that you can make a difference in your own life
  • Ability to define your voice and make it heard
  • Ability to express anger appropriately
  • Sense of belonging - you are not alone
  • Knowledge of your personal rights
  • Communication skills
  • Competence - Knowledge that you can act
  • Openness to growth, change, and self-improvement - Knowledge that you have not arrived
  • Positive image of yourself  

Learned helplessness, betrayal bondStockholm syndrome - All contribute to disempowerment and inability to appropriately speak up for yourself, make decisions, and follow through. 
Sometimes you may be in a position that feels disempowering or with a person who usurps your power. You may notice physical signs when you are in the victim role. Perhaps you experience stress in your body: your heart is beating rapidly, you are nauseous, feel pain in your gut, cannot breathe, feel anxiety or panic. Or you may give up, go to bed, and avoid all people. Depression and anxiety are results of giving away your power.

You are responsible for your own empowerment. It is up to you to discover who you are, what you are capable of, and have a sense of your internal power. You can create of your life what you choose. Choose not to be a victim. You can make decisions that will sustain you in the present and lead to a more satisfying and rewarding future. 


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