I think we all come into the world with the ability to empower ourselves, do for ourselves, solve problems for ourselves, lead ourselves, create opportunities for ourselves. I have observed through the years, however, that for some, this ability seems to diminish over time. I suppose there may be several explanations for this.
Perhaps hurtful relationships have shaken our confidence. Maybe unkind words about our abilities have made us avoid making forward looking decisions for fear of failing or being embarrassed. Life has a way of delivering the unexpected and the painful, but we can choose to take those situations and turn them into something positive.For many of us, this starts with empowering ourselves in very small ways, and expanding from there.
An Example of Lack of Empowerment
I once announced a teleseminar that would take place at a specific time, EST. About an hour later, I received an email from a person who asked me what time the event was in his time zone.
Why didn't he look it up himself? I don't know the answer to that question, and it perplexes me.
This may seem like a small thing, but it's really not. Making the choice to ask me to calculate the time for him illustrates a lack of empowerment. A fear of miscalculating the time, and thus, missing the event. A fear that if he looked it up himself, he might be wrong.
My Own Lack of Empowerment
When I worked as an attorney just out of law school, I was told to write all of my legal briefs according to the grammatical instructions in a legal style manual. I was given a copy of it on my first day on the job.
One day, I was in a hurry to finish a brief, but I knew that one of my sentences contained faulty grammatical structure. I didn't know how to fix it, so rather than looking it up myself, I went down the hall to ask a senior associate for the correct grammatical structure for that sentence.
She looked at me like I had lost my mind. Didn't I have a style manual? Couldn't I look it up myself? I was stunned. I thought we were friends.
What I didn't know at the time was that she was forcing me to empower myself. Yes, it stung. I felt puny and stupid. I even felt a lump in my throat. Tears welled up as I searched the style manual for the correct answer.
A few minutes later, I turned my brief in to her. She reviewed it and it was filed without any edits. She told me that I had done a great job and she praised me for taking initiative. She apologized for barking at me. Then, she empowered me.
Empowerment is a Choice
She then reminded me that leaders choose to empower themselves. She said, “No one is going to empower you if you have not first demonstrated a commitment to empower myself.”
Thank you Rebecca Ann Laws, Esq., wherever you are today, for teaching me the art of empowering myself.
Question: What do you think? Do you remember when you learned the art of empowering yourself? Please share your experiences with us.