We often hear of terms like ‘personal power’ or ‘empowerment’. What does this really mean? Some think that being empowered requires money, position or intelligence. While these might help in some situations, they are not necessary requirements.
We have all known two year olds who have an incredible amount of personal power. They know how to take a stand. What can we learn from them? Well, the first criterion they demonstrate is a clear knowing of what they want, and what they don’t want. If we are not sure what we really want, it’s hard to be assertive.
Next, they have a belief that they can have things their way. They are not always correct about this, but holding this belief sets the stage for putting some effort into the matter. They have a willingness to speak up for what they believe in or what they want. If they feel they are not being heard, they are not embarrassed to speak a little louder, or to make a bit of a fuss. They are persistent. They will not back off the first time their wishes are not honoured. They are not afraid that others will be annoyed if they express themselves. And if they are being hurt, they will scream at the top of their lungs.
This is not to suggest that empowerment means acting like an infant. Throwing tantrums is not a demonstration of personal power. The empowered individual takes the time to determine what he or she truly wants. This means separating your own wants and needs from externally imposed ‘shoulds’.
You must believe in your heart that you have value, and that you have a right to work towards meeting your needs. You must also develop the courage to speak up for yourself, and/or the self-control to express yourself calmly. You don’t give up all attempts because it didn’t work out the first time you tried. You may have to come back again and again, from different angles.
You may need the assistance of an objective, professional third party. This might be your minister, doctor, teacher, or therapist. If the feedback you get is that your wishes are reasonable, then that individual may assist you in getting your point across.
Some people believe that they best way to live is to be always co-operative and accommodating. These are positive living skills to be sure, but if they are utilized continually, in a process of denying your true self, they will turn you into a chameleon. If you please everyone but yourself, they will all be happy, and you will be sad and unfulfilled. This is not the way to live life.
Your life is your gift, to be lived according to your inner spirit. Listen to your inner two year old, whenever, from deep inside your own being, you hear that definitive “NO!” You can translate that impulse and emotion so that you come across as a composed adult, but you do not have to live ‘yes’ when your heart says ‘no.’
Gwen Randall-Young is an Alberta author and award-winning psychologist.