Why do we disempower ourselves and others?

Empowerment is a hot topic. The idea that we can step into our brilliance and self empower is a sexy subject and something most of us will admit to wanting in our lives. Yet empowerment assumes that we understand how we disempower ourselves and in my experience that's the piece that often stays hidden in the shadows. I believe this means that we slap plasters on wounds instead of really healing the pieces that give us authentic empowerment.

Go to the profile of Vanessa Anstee
Oct 07, 2014
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Awareness really is the key when it comes to empowerment.

Let me share with you a story that happened in the gym that I go to. There's a new female trainer. She's confident, self assured and direct. She's been through a big personal journey following a really bad car accident where it was believed she would always have problems walking.

It's her journey that drives her. She helps other people with health challenges to really develop their fitness and she inspires them like no other person can because she's been there. She doesn't take excuses. She's fierce but in a loving way.

Yet this woman ruffles feathers. The male trainers resist her. Many of the female clients react to her confidence, finding ways to make her wrong. "She's pushing personal training, the other's don't do that." "She's all about herself." These are all things I've heard people say.

I found myself stepping back from these conversations and getting curious about what was driving these reactions. I could see their perspective but I felt differently about her. I admired her. I could feel the purity in her heart when I asked her what drove her and she told me her story. She's a woman on a mission to help others recover their bodies and health and I love people on a mission. She inspires me.

This woman isn't inspiring to others because she triggers them. As she stands fully in her power and her confidence, it triggers a reaction in them that means they have to find a way to take her down. They want to make themselves right and the best way to do it is to criticise and point out perceived flaws. It makes them feel better about themselves but it's not empowering them.

One of the things I've had to look at in my own life is my relationship to my esteem. It has shown up in several places but in particular at home in my relationship and at work in my relationship to my business. I used to think it was just me that got caught in this cycle of proving myself to myself but I now see it's not just me.

I believe one of the challenges for true empowerment is that we romance our shadows. That we start to bring awareness to the places we go when we feel triggered. That we notice when we're reacting and choose to stop and observe ourselves in that moment, with compassion and curiosity. It's natural that human beings need to feel better than just one person. It's part of the human experience. But it's also part of the challenge for the empowerment movement.

True empowerment comes from knowing yourself deeply. It requires you to know and observe yourself in relationship to your self esteem. Are you someone that needs to let people know what you have in life? Think about the car you drive. At the end of the day it's a tin can on four rubber wheels. What's important about that for you? Are you someone that struggles to own your worth? Are you someone that feels better by having lots of "stuff". If all your "stuff" was taken away from you, how would you feel about yourself?

Many times I've been unaware of how I've disempowered myself. I've looked at others doing what I want to be doing and I've both admired them and been jealous of them. It's simply guidance. When I acknowledge my shadow I don't need to feel like a victim or depressed or worse still sorry for myself.

By being completely truthful to myself about what's going on I soften my defences and stop projecting onto others. I can look at that woman in the gym and admire what she's up to and if I feel some twinge of envy or other reaction, I can ask myself, "What's calling me in this? What is it that I want to have happen but my esteem is holding me back from believing it's possible?"

You are unique. There is no one that is the same as you. If you're walking on the edge of claiming something for yourself, the answer doesn't lie outside you, it's inside. Turn your gaze towards yourself and you'll be amazed what magic is there.

Go to the profile of Vanessa Anstee

Vanessa Anstee

Work with Courage, -

I'm inspired by who you can be without apology and I want to help you release your fullest expression. My life turned around when I was given feedback on a leadership programme that I had an apologetic energy. I felt a mixture of anger and sadness because it was exactly how I was living and who I was being. I'd been giving my power away and playing small in a conditioned way of living. I took my 20+years corporate experience in OD, HR, Learning and Development, embraced my dreams and started living life on my own terms. I learnt to let self empowerment and authenticity trump fitting in, playing nice and fake harmonising. I help clients embrace their inner shine and play their bigger game.
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Go to the profile of Debby Fain
Debby Fain over 2 years ago

THANK YOU I SO NEEDED TO ENLIGHTEN MYSELF TODAY.

Go to the profile of Will Murray
Will Murray over 2 years ago

Thank you Vanessa for a very thought provoking article. You are totally right about the link between self awareness and self esteem. Please take a look at our Be You, Self Empowerment Packs. I think you might love them. If you want to know how they work or even whether they work take a look at the Be You Facebook Group (Be You Packtypes). But the short answer is that we have found away of playfully but profoundly increasing self awareness as the foundation of balanced, positive self esteem.