“A strong man cannot help a weaker unless the weaker is willing to be helped, and even then the weak man must become strong of himself; he must, by his own efforts, develop the strength which he admires in another. None but himself can alter his condition.” ~ James Allen
We associate empowerment with the liberation of a group of people, race, creed, religious ideology or personal belief system. Empowerment is the enabling of another person through the strengthening of their personal self-esteem and the development of their personal ego. It is through this development of the ego that an individual gains an individualistic impression of their self-importance and their inner self. The empowerment of an individual should never come at the cost of another’s rights, freedoms, or liberties.
As children, our personal self-esteem, self-worth, and internal drive are enhanced by those who shape our being. It is through the recognition of our personal goodness, abilities, talents, worth, and individuality that we gain a healthy sense of self. When we are empowered, we are less willing and likely to be drug through the mud by another.
Empowerment teaches us that we are worth more than the negativity that may be slung our way. Even if, we are responsible for a negative deed, act, or event; it is through our own acceptance of our roles in life that we maintain our personal empowerment. It is the acceptance of our roles in life that we are living a life guided by personal responsibility. Personal responsibility is the willingness to accept both the good and bad choices in life. It is through personal responsibility that we accept the ownership for our lives.
It is through our acceptance of choices made in life that we act in a responsible manner. Moreover, it is through the empowerment of our sense of self that we do not have to be frightened to accept the responsibility of actions, deeds, or choices in life. However, if we choose to deny our roles in life, then we resign our right to be the directors of our lives.
Being empowered is not only about making the right or correct choices for and in our lives; it is also about living lives that we choose to live.
THE DENIAL OF SELF
When a child is denied the right to live a carefree and healthy life, they are also commonly denied the right to self-empowerment. Living a carefree life is about living a life free from anxiety, stress, and adult responsibilities. Living a carefree life is not about living a careless life, which is the avoidance of personal responsibilities, attention, or consideration of harm. Even the life of a young child can be guided through instructions, structure, and personal disciple. Again, living a carefree life in childhood is about living a life free of adult worries, fears and stressors.
In the event that a child is either intentionally or unintentionally denied the right to personal empowerment; a child’s personal makeup may still provide him or her the insights in to personal empowerment. It is a child’s own personal resiliency and temperament that often defines the person they will, and are, becoming.
While a child’s loss of power and the deflation of their inner being can, and often occurs through even the most subtle of events. A child can overcome the denial of their personal empowerment.
What does it mean to be empowered? Empowerment expresses to a child that they have the right to draw outside the lines. Personal empowerment expresses to a child that they have the right
to freedom of all forms of harm. Moreover, personal empowerment also expresses to a child that they have the right to obtain counsel (help) from another even in the unfortunate event that they are personally or vicariously exposed to harm.
Children do not have to be personally or vicariously harmed to be denied personal empowerment. For parents who lack their own empowerment, they themselves are often unable to teach their children the value and personal need for empowerment. If a parent has not been taught the value of empowerment, then they most commonly are lacking insights into their own personal self-esteem, self-worth, or sense of personal self. A person who is not empowered is a person who is willing to accept false messages, unacceptable truths, emotional deregulation, and physical harm or abuse. Whereas, a person who has been personally empowered will not tolerate or accept anything less than offerings of health and wellbeing.
Yet, for many children, parental messages can and do destroy or deny their right to personal empowerment. Personal empowerment should never lead a child down pathways of harm or potential negativity. Ideally, all children should be granted the right to personal empowerment.
THE BENEFITS OF EMPOWERMENT
When we are empowered, we are not invincible, rather we are equipped with the right messages to overcome the wrong ones. If we hear messages of hate being spewed or negativity, then we know to turn our minds to the correct and comforting messages. If we witness or are victims of egregious acts of violence, then we know that such acts are only created to deflate and bring harm unto a person.
Even if, you are negatively criticized by another; acknowledge receipt of the criticism, but avoid taking ownership of it. It is “the negative opinions of other people (that) can be deadly to (our) self-esteem… Criticism is such a powerful deflator of weak self-esteem because it arouses your own internal pathological critic and supplies him (or her) with ammunition.” (McKay & Fanning, 2000, p. 147)
If possible, always do your best to avoid providers of harm and negativity. As parents, if possible avoid injecting your child with negativity. Unfortunately, not all harm will and can be avoided, but do your best to shelter your children from harm. If your partner, friend, and/or family member has been known to offer negativity; be certain to do your best to teach your children messages of health that counter such negativity. It is unfortunate that we cannot avoid all harm, but the reality of life is that we often are injected with harm sporadically throughout our lives. While the levels and degrees of harm may vary, harm itself will test the essence of our being.
As parents, we not only need to teach our children messages of empowerment, but we need to be examples of such messages. Messages of empowerment should teach us:
- “You are greater than anything that can happen to you.” (Peale, 1982, p. 27)
- “You are a human being… You are bigger, stronger, know more, can do more.” (Tolle, 2005, p. 105)
- “Fundamentally,… any man (or woman) can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him (her)-mentally and spiritually. He (she) may retain his (her) human dignity even in a concentration camp.” (Frankl, 1984, p. 87)
- Who you are, has nothing to do with what you do right or wrong, your successes or failures, or the unnecessary opinions of others. Who you are is much grander than the mundane obstacles of life. Who you is a person deserving of a health and happiness.
- “To accept responsibility for one’s existence is to recognize the need to live productively.” (Branden, 1988, p. 116)
Personal empowerment cannot guarantee freedom from harm or emotional or physical injuries. Personal empowerment is not an exercise in excessive or the over inflation of the ego. It should never cause an individual to be egocentric or narcissistic.
Personal empowerment is the necessary tool to equip each individual with the recognition that they deserve to live a life free of harm and full of care. It is through one’s personal empowerment that they will sound the bugle if harm is being committed, alerting the proper authority of such harm. It is personal empowerment that will also drive perpetrators of potential harm out of our lives and the lives of others.
Personal empowerment is not only a skill learned, but an internal act employed. It is through personal empowerment that we become more aware of our own needs, desires, and wants. If we are personally empowered, then we are the captains and commanders of our lives. Even if, we are not in control of our physical beings, personal empowerment is the anchor of the mind. If I am in charge of my mind, then whatever occurs outside my mind is beyond my control.
Personal responsibility acknowledges the individual needs, gifts, and talents of others. It is not all about oneself, rather it is through the discipline and recognition of our own lives that we should in turn have a desire to bolster another.
Personal empowerment should always be about using appropriate and positively constructive language. Avoid using lavish or insincere praise or compliments. The intent of personal empowerment should always be about uplifting another person. Avoid negative criticisms and negative language. Always use positive praise when offering positive critiques of a person. Personal empowerment is about enriching the life of another. It should always be about offering support, acceptance, approval, and the foundations to create an unshakeable being.
Authors: Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., N.C.C.M.
Branden, N. (1988) How to raise your self-esteem, The proven action-oriented approach to greater self-respect and self-confidence. New York, NY: Bantam Books
Brown, A. D. (2010) Waiting to live, Bloomington, IN: IUniverse
Carnegie, D. (1945) How to win friends and influence people. New York, NY: Pocket Books
Frankl, V. (1984) Man’s search for meaning. New York, NY: Pocket Books
McKay, M. & Fanning, P. (2000) Self-esteem, A proven program of cognitive techniques, for assessing, improving & maintaining your self-esteem (3rd ed), Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publicaitons, Inc.
Peale, N. V. (1983) Positive imaging, The powerful way to change your life. New York, NY: Fawcett Crest Books
Tolle, E. (2005) A new earth, Awakening to your life’s purpose. New York, NY: Plume Books
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA