What Does It Really Mean To Be Empowered?
You do not raise yourself up by tearing others down. I don’t care if it comes to race, gender, financial security, professional accomplishment or social status, you can only become empowered from within. Empowerment can mean different things to different people, but I can tell you that it cannot simply come from one area of your life. Being truly empowered occurs when you have an empowered body, an empowered mind and an empowered spirit. I hate to even say “mind, body, spirit” because it is so disgustingly overused, but bear with me here. There is this burgeoning women’s empowerment movement that is beginning to equate to the likes of the gluten-free trend or the HIIT phenomenon. Overdone and full of mindless followers. I take offense to it mostly because it is perpetuating this misconception that if you are conquering another gender, you are somehow more powerful. Wrong. Being empowered has absolutely nothing to do with squashing the male species and attempting to do so will only disrupt the delicate polarity between the two. To help explain this, let me tell you a story about a woman, who for years thought she was empowered, only to later find she was totally lost. That woman was me. It is important to note that I am a female with both strong masculine and feminine traits. When I refer to the feminine and masculine, what I am referring to is an essence. Masculine and feminine essence is a compilation of traits which has nothing to do with gender. While each of us has a combination of these traits, most people tend to be strongly one or the other. I happen to have a fairly good balance of both but it wasn’t until I realized how to embrace this essence that I became truly empowered. I have to admit, in my early adult life I was really pretty obnoxious. I wasn’t content in my career, I wasn’t really giving much back to the world and my body was pretty weak. So, I made up for it by dominating my relationship, focusing mostly on being skinny and carelessly spent money to prove my worth through wearing more expensive clothes than most people. Think Tia Leoni in Spanglish. Ugh, that’s painful to admit. (As a side note, if you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it. One of my all time favorites) At age 27, I had my universe swept out from under me by the death of my daughter. But, it is in times when we are completely broken that we can find the way to piece ourselves back together. The first step I took was to gain strength in my body. I started working out and found that the stronger my body felt and looked, the stronger my mind became. I needed less and less to find power by controlling my relationship and began to find my true strength was within. As I worked through my grief, I began to realize just how powerful my mind could be. I was overcoming pain and becoming stronger by the day. Then I started to teach other people how to empower their own bodies, and realized my spirit was being fulfilled because I was giving back to the world, the gifts I had to share. I spent the better part of 20 years achieving strength in my body, mind and spirit and it is only now at age 45 that I can honestly say I am an empowered being. Before this, I used my masculine traits to falsely feel empowered by seeking a career I actually despised. I played on my feminine traits in superficial ways that ultimately left me lonely. You see, when you are empowered in only one area of your life, you allow that power to overshadow the other areas of your life. This will only lead to wasted years and a lack of fulfillment. So I challenge you to look deeply and ask yourselves these questions: 1. Is your body strong and capable? 2. Is your mind constantly expanding and becoming more enlightened? 3. Are you giving the best of your gifts back to the world? Without striving to empower all three areas, it is too easy to become overly aggressive in the one area where we do feel powerful. We see it all around us. Powerful, executive men using their power to intimidate (or even worse); Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein are the latest and greatest examples of this. We’ve all encountered women who are powerful in their careers and demean or speak sideways of women who aren’t in the workforce. Ladies who stay at home who think their new expensive shoes are going to prove their self-worth at the next social outing. All of this leads to destructive behavior and ultimately grasping to bring others down to build yourself up. Are there going to be people who try to hold you back? Absolutely. But make sure you are not holding yourself back by attaching to a false sense of empowerment. You cannot perpetuate the weak, small, or feeble physical body-imagine and claim to be empowered. Nor can you rely solely on your professional or intellectual superiority if your physical body is holding you back. True empowerment emerges when you become in mind, body and spirit all you were made to be. That, my friends, has nothing to do with anybody but yourself.