To me, self empowerment is a phrase that we shouldn't really have to use at all. In an ideal world, we would all grow up loved and cared for, nurtured and supported, as we develop and confidently expand out into the world around us with a healthy and realistic sense of our own innate value, together with a feeling of wonder and optimism about the life that waits before us.
Sadly, this isn't the case for many of us, though our personal experiences are different for a wide variety of reasons. For example, if our parents were, themselves, poorly parented then they will be strongly inclined to follow the same patterns with us, for they know no different. Consequently, we, knowing no different, will be strongly inclined to follow the same patterns with our own children. To recognise the ways in which our perceptions of ourselves have been influenced and shaped by those around us in our developing years and to break this generational pattern takes a masterful degree of perception and will.
In the living of our own lives, by the time we are old enough to look around and take stock of what is going on, of what isn't working in our lives, and wonder why, habitual patterns and ways of being, based on our subtle perceptions of ourselves, have become so embedded in our psyches, that it has become extremely difficult for us to break out of the mould, for we know no other way of being. It's rather like finding oneself on a train , not knowing where it's going, or being dimly aware that it's going to a place you don't really want to go to. You can see other trains, on other tracks, going to other destinations, but you ask yourself " how did I get onto this train and who was it that decided where it was I was going?" By this time, of course, You're probably looking about you because you're feeling that things aren't looking too good, or they're even falling apart, or not working out in ways that we'd like them to, or in ways that other people's ARE working out. At some point, we either get the message, or we don't. If we're lucky, we find ourselves asking
- "What's going wrong with my life"?
- "Why is my major relationship so bad"?
- "Why am I afraid to ask for a pay rise"?
- "What's holding me back from doing the things other people are doing all the time"?
Observing how other people are living their lives and comparing that with one's own experience of how your life appears to you is one of the clearest ways of opening the door; and to even do that requires an amazing amount of personal honesty and integrity because for most people, most of the time, that option is too painful. It requires an admission of what appears to be failure and implies the possibility of frightening future decisions. No, it's easier and more convenient to bolster ones own battered sense of Self through self justification and the blaming of others... making others responsible for the way things are. In fact, the more bruised and battered our self image, the further we have moved away from being our Real Selves, the more we have had to create an ego, a self image that we can bear to live with, and the more energy we have to put into supporting and defending that creation. It all seems pretty hard work, and it is.
A poor self image creates a need for self empowerment, but it can also create ego, or false self, that needs to be put to one side sufficiently to allow the process of empowerment to begin, for real empowerment, as distinct from bolstering the ego, or even strenghening one's self image, is about connecting with one's own true Self, the self that you were in the beginning, before this journey got underway; the you that doesn't even need a self image, never mind an ego.
All pretty idealistic stuff, I hear you saying and that's completelly true. I'm talking here about a process, a journey that you might be on for the rest of your life, or many lives, and that's fine. You can travel as far or as fast as you wish and you can get off at any time. And back on at any time. Perhaps all that really matters right now is to feel o.k. inside of yourself about asking for a pay rise; and o.k. about standing in front of your boss while you're asking; and o.k. WHILE you are standing in front of your boss while you're asking!
One of the dangers we can encounter is in how we handle the elements in our lives that are showing us how bad things have got inside of ourselves. For example, when seeking to improve our self image or self esteem, we can be tempted to dump our crisis-stricken major relationship "because I deserve better," before going off to do the same thing over again with an identical partner. But, equally, we shouldn't stay put in a victim role that only exists to tell us that our self image is at an all time low and we need to do something about changing it! The situation that we find ourselves in is telling us far more about ourselves than it is telling us about the outside world. Change you and it is hard to imagine how much the world about you will change in response. The way people - those same people!- behave towards you does change when you change. The experience you have of your life does change, for, incredibly, the life that you experience is a reflection of how you experience you.
So good, so far. But how... HOW... HOW...? Well, that's a fair question. It's a very personal journey, just as the journey to where you are now has been a very personal one. It does help enormously to work with another person. It is very much a step by step process... setting agreed goals, achieving them, feeling differently about yourself... perceiving yourself differently... experiencing yourself differently. When your experience of You has changed, then that becomes the you that others will experience and it's time to move on to the next clearly defined and determined goal. The other approach, which is entirely complementary to the first, involves quiet self-observation. Watching the negative, limiting or even destructive thought forms that arise within... tracking them back to where they came from... confronting their source... and then releasing them before replacing them with positive and more accurate alternatives. This can be done by oneself but, again, the way is easier if followed with another... a witness who can stabilise and ground the process and the recognitions made. Using deep relaxation techniques and guided imagery, the process can progress more easily, more swiftly and at a deeper level that can produce more effective changes. It does sound like a long and slow process, and it usually is, but not always. Indeed, if a person decides which direction they want to walk in, and walks consistently in that direction for a year, then they will find themselves in a very different place to the world they left behind.
Real empowerment is about becoming, once again, the Real You. It's about exchanging the walls and buttresses, spears and shields that you construct to protect an afraid and vulnerable image of yourself for a deep awareness of the natural strengh and integrity of your own Inner Being; a fundamental being that is who you really are and always have been.