Empowerment: 1) authority or power given to someone to do something, 2) the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.
My sister posed a great question to ponder this holiday: “When have you felt most empowered? Most disempowered/least empowered?”
The question gets at the crux of limits or no limits to individual power, ways that others assign power to us or seek to restrict our power, stereotypes we have based on external factors about other’s power, and allows us to unmask pain points and vulnerabilities in our own experience.
Like a dutiful ponderer, I pondered. And walked.
Thoughts I arrived at in approaching the question.
- I have personally rarely felt empowered in relationship to other humans. I do not understand fully why though probably could concoct some long explanation.
- Activities that I have been told by others would be empowering, like public speaking, completing a college degree, being in intimate relationship, earning money I have experienced as less empowering than completing a knitted project, volunteer work, walking by myself, experiencing energy from trees, meditation, caring for myself in ways that reconnect my mind-body-spirit into a whole.
- The fact I choose to live with limited relationship to people it dawns on me may actually be my ultimate self-empowerment and a profound privilege many women may not be afforded without having their very survival and body violated.
- My privilege is that I am a woman who is choosing to say “I like to and want to live alone.” As a woman who does not want to choose dependence on a man, I could have been born into countless circumstances that would make this choice impossible.
- Despite carrying an intense desire for independence, I am aware that ALL is relationship. As independent as I may wish to be, my existence and every breath is dependent on a series of interconnected relationships.
- If we accept that we are steeped worldwide in a human society that is abusive to women on the whole and not serving men’s souls either, only with that awareness can scripts begin to be rewritten.
- Can all humans learn to be “pro-human empowerment?” Can we as a society learn to stop destroying ourselves and taking the planet along with us long enough to truly foster spaces where people can be in touch with their own knowing in connection with all that has supported us?
- Recently, I have had many awakenings and healings after countless baby steps over decades, so they did not happen “overnight.” I am free of body hatred. I have let go of reliance on asthma medications and antidepressants because I arrived at healing through food and daily self-care practices. My experience tells me that self-empowerment is at least as powerful as being provided empowering space by others, because only the self can rewrite what goes on in our own minds. I can choose to make myself feel empowered at any given moment. And maybe by virtue of my introverted, extremely rare INFJ personality type, I feel best when alone and self-supporting despite caring about others. That in itself is a privilege and an empowered place for me to be, even if others may not perceive it as such.
- I know my own life experience has crossed many boundaries that defy stereotype others may have of me as a white woman currently living in an ethnically homogeneous, rarefied setting among a fairly monetarily privileged community. I know I must keep my heart open to awareness that I cannot judge another’s life experience by any external factor (skin color, economic status, profession, etc.). I have spent a good chunk of my years living in places with much greater socioeconomic and ethnic diversity than I do now and I appreciate to no end the humility and perspective this taught me, aligned with the universal ecological principle that diversity equals sustainability and strength.
- My ethnic background includes generational trauma just as many people’s lineages do. Carrying the weight of this in my very DNA helps me have empathy, even if I like every other person also have largely unconscious biases. I recently learned of the Whitney Museum sugar cane plantation open since 2014 that is the first space to memorialize slavery from slaves’ perspective. To genuinely comprehend that African-American men and women propped up world economy from the birth of America to very recent history and is equivalent to terrorism and genocide feels essential. And that the cost of living in a world economic system that depends upon such atrocities and suffering in order to maintain itself is truly a dead-end and must never continue. I also recently saw an Instagram post that read “black people had lives before slavery,” reminding me of the bigger perspective that says, “We were whole people with whole lives before the destruction.” And “We are resilient survivors.” I also recently learned of Jane Elliott‘s famous experiment exposing that treating anyone inhumanely based on arbitrary characteristics is insanity. To keep in awareness that everything can change in a blink of an eye for an individual or an entire group of people in the equation of disempowerment/empowerment fosters at least compassion in my heart for every other human being that I can bring to the luxury of my meditation time.