How to Empower Yourself by Caring for Yourself and Others
There are few things more tiring than being told "believe in yourself" when you feel powerless. It's not even real advice - sometimes situations really are out of our control, and no perky, go-get-it attitude will do anything to change them. They require something more.
If you feel that your energies are scattered or you feel unable to make a change in your life or your community, stay with us at OneHowTo. In this article, we'll give you a guide and our best tips on how to empower yourself by caring for yourself and others.
The word "empowerment" has been making the rounds in politics, business and philosophy for some decades now, and it's interpreted differently depending on the context. From setting daily goals to improve self-esteem to making radical political statements, empowering yourself always seems to be the first step.
"Power" is often understood as dominance, as something that can be taken. That definition means that no real change is possible, and that social structures will always work the way they do. However, political movements from the last decades, like those fighting for the rights of women, resistant communities and minorities, have redefined power as something made and bound in relations. Power can be shared and negotiated in order to reach a more equal society by establishing networks and working collaboratively.
Understanding power as relational is necessary in order to understand what is empowerment. First of all, it's about having autonomy and choice over your own life. Empowerment affects all aspects in your life, from your daily choices to how you'll be treated by society. Empowerment is articulated in social networks and structures; you can be empowered as an individual, in your job, or as a citizen.
Since empowerment depends so much on context, our definition and tips can seem vague - this is because we can't know your particular life experience. This is a good thing! You can take control over what empowerment means for you.
First of all, start your process of empowerment by finding the reason behind your feeling of powerlessness. The first thing you should consider is whether your basic necessities - an income, shelter, food, support and relationships - are covered.
If one of these basic elements is missing, that might be the biggest stumbling block in your empowerment. If you can fix that situation, start there. If the problem is simply too big to fix it yourself - from being jobless due to a global recession to institutional oppression - engage with your community. Empower yourself by caring for yourself and for others as well.
Consider your physical well-being. Establish a basic exercise routine to stay healthy and at the top of your possibilities. Of course doing yoga won't necessarily fix your problems, but physical exercise does release endorphins that will make you feel happier, more confident and more assertive.
Stretch your legs daily, go for walks - engage with what's around you, be observant - care for your back and neck muscles, eat a healthy diet and remember to sleep enough. Take care of yourself: massage your own legs and feet every evening: you deserve it.
Since empowerment is all about networking and self-realization through others, take care of your relationships. Arrange plans, meet your family and friends - you'll feel inspired and motivated. Strengthen your support network by meeting new people: Join local or online societies, meet your friends' friends.
What about sending them encouraging messages or cooking something for them when they feel down? Caring for others and sharing your most vulnerable moments is an act of social responsibility, not of weakness.
The first step to empower yourself is to take care of your physical, daily needs. However, you can't forget to find mental peace and stability. If the root of your helplessness is not a basic need, take some time to find it: get to know yourself.
Why are you in a situation that's bringing you pain and anxiety? Once you've found that, ask yourself: How does that situation work? Meditation does not bring sudden breakthroughs or unique ideas that will fix your entire life, but rather it focuses on mindfulness for its own sake. Find a spot for meditation in your daily routine, no matter how tiny, and enjoy being awake.
Remember that recovery and empowerment are not a straight upwards line from a bad situation to an excellent one - they're processes that never actually end.
Find inspiration from people you consider empowered and assertive. Some people find positive mantras useful, while other prefer keeping gratitude journals. Perhaps you prefer reading or listening to interviews with successful, interesting people, or you're more inspired by close contact with people from your daily life.
Surround yourself with positive messages, from quotes to songs. Remember that "positive messages" do not necessarily mean sappy, "every cloud has a silver lining" attitudes, but rather messages that remind you of possibilities in everything and everyone.
Sometimes we feel powerless out of a sense of insecurity, as if there is always someone better. The solution to that is not to throw yourself to learn something new and flashy to impress others. Instead, you can empower yourself by honing the skills you already have.
If you have a niche interest, develop it - who knows, maybe a bizarrely specific knowledge of moth anatomy will make you memorable for someone who can give you a chance in a zoology museum. If you're into languages or technology, save some time in your schedule to learn more. Use your skills in whatever you want to change; your daily life, your job, your involvement with others.
Just as you work on your own empowerment, help others empower themselves. As we said, empowerment is not about control: we're not talking about starting a rescuer/victim dynamic. Instead, be a listening ear. Find strength and community in being vulnerable.
Learn from the experiences of others and treat them with respect - just as you're worthy of others' time, they're worthy of yours. Dependence is not the opposite of empowerment; people's situations are more complex and complicated than that.
Empower yourself through self-care. Even if it's just for 10 minutes a day, take some time for yourself. Throwing all your energy at your career, health and relationships is exhausting. Find what you like, from watering your plants to doodling in a notebook, and enjoy it. It's your time after all.
Here are more tips on how to take care of yourself.
Empowerment is also used as a business strategy. "Employee empowerment" involves sharing information with employees and giving them tools and resources so that they can take initiative. If you're the boss in this situation, keep in mind you're not making concessions - you're pushing your company forward by collaborating.
With great empowerment comes great responsibility - or something of the sort. If you're aware of power dynamics and of your own role in them, you must share that knowledge be it in business, academia, grassroots movements or your own home life. Become a leader; you have the tools to analyse and understand situations - communicate and share them.
Once you know how to empower yourself by caring for yourself and others, you'll feel more confident and have access to more resources to make your life better according to your own standards. Trust others and open yourself up to them.
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