1. Give (someone) the authority or power to do something
2. Make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights
Empowerment is an important and essential element to self-development. To empower oneself is a crucial resource linked to our power and control. The concept of empowerment has solid psychological links in its association to our relationship with authority, attachment patterns, self-control and emotional stability.
We may be more empowered in some aspects of our lives than others. If you lack empowerment you might struggle to make decisions; tend to rely on other’s opinions, understandings and decisions; follow rather than lead; put other’s needs above your own; find commitment difficult; and/or wait to be empowered.
WHY WE LACK IT?
We have the ability to empower all aspects of our life. Understanding why we struggle to achieve it is an important step in establishing empowerment as a resource. We are complex beings so it is not necessarily going to be down to one thing. There are, however, key culprits, listed below who have their part to play in bringing empowerment down.
A huge part of empowerment is related to the worth you hold for yourself, the value you have in what you do and what you say. A mistake people often make is believing that other people’s opinion is how we gauge how valuable we are. Yet your value can only be given to you by you. Self-worth is the foundation of empowerment and how strong this foundation is will reflect how strong your ability to empower yourself is.
Confidence has its links with self-worth and is the next step on the path of self-development. Self-doubt is in constant conflict with confidence. Both have a big impact on our thinking and expectations which in turn guide our decisions and actions. If self-doubt rules, our thinking can become negative and our frame of mind becomes dominated by pessimism. This infiltrates our self-belief system causing our confidence to become unstable.
Distorted relationship with authority
Authority and our relationship with it plays a big part in how we function in our everyday lives. It is first introduced to us in the environment we grew up in. If healthy development ensues we use it to build our own authority creating relationships based on equal footing! If not, we can often dominate or be dominated damaging relationships by disrupting the balance of power.
Fear of how good we are
Just as there is a fear of not being good enough, there can also be a fear of being too good. Rivalry and triumph play a role in our early relationships with our parents. Difficulty in finding the right balance in being able to be good at what we do with worrying about other’s feelings and opinions can impact later on in life. We can be frightened of what achievement might bring to our relationships, perhaps detaching from our abilities, putting yourself down so the other stays on a high.
Giving it away
A well-known difficulty in holding onto one’s empowerment is an unconscious drive to give it to others. There are multiple reasons for why this might be and below are a couple of examples. Both are often underlining unconscious dysfunctional defences used as a tool to ensure safety and stay with the familiar.
1. A Focus on Others
Getting stuck into a defence of projecting out our responsibility through blame and getting lost in what the other person has or has not done is one way of giving our power away and inhibiting our empowerment. It is draining, sucking up all your energy and hindering your ability to focus on the only resource you have complete control over, you. Taking responsibility for recognising ourselves is not about holding onto other people’s stuff but it is about everything that we are in control of and not wasting that time and energy on things we cannot change.
2. Not feeling Good Enough
This is a common issue which is linked to self-worth and confidence. We don’t feel we deserve what empowerment has to give. It can feel quite alien, overwhelming and frightening. This is another example of giving your empowerment away. In this case it is a defence which allows the other person to hold what feels uncomfortable and/or unmanageable to you. A danger is the relationships this can attract, often those who feed off other’s vulnerability, and in extreme cases provides a fertile ground for manipulation and abuse.