I hope that wherever you are, whenever you read this, that it finds you well and in pursuit of something that brings you joy, moves you forward or adds to your wellness.
We’ve talked pretty extensively on this page about EMPOWERMENT. It’s kind of a big deal around here, and the goal of this site is to inform, encourage and inspire you to feel empowered in your own life. Empowerment is about embracing the parts of yourself that can bring about the changes you want to make in your life. In every good course of study, it’s important to understand the other side of the thing you pursue. While I usually choose to write about the things that we’re striving toward: wellness, greater love and joy and fulfillment, finding and pursuing your purpose; this week I want to talk about a state or feeling we usually work to avoid: disempowerment.
It will help our discussion if we all have the same definition of disempowerment. Here’s mine:
a feeling that we do not have power to make change in a given situation
feeling that any power we had has been given to or taken by someone else
choosing not to know what can be done to impact our lives
dwelling in thoughts and feelings that tell us that we are incapable of change, improvement or success
Universally acknowledged as a bad time, right? Of course. No one wants to spend their days disenfranchised, frustrated at their lack of ownership over the course their life is taking. This week I stumbled onto a website that defines this state of being as-
Disempowered : the universal human experience of feeling deflated or defeated
‘Universal’, meaning experienced by everyone. Every person alive has experienced the feeling that they have no power over their current situation. Each of us has, at one time or another, felt, or known that someone else is calling the shots. We all feel that there are no good choices at times, and that any choice we make will end up causing us more harm. We have set backs, we feel like there isn’t anything we can do to improve our situation, we try everything in our arsenal and yet the situation does not change in our favor.
And since no one likes to feel powerless over their own life we respond by:
- criticizing ourselves
- blaming others
- keeping it hidden
- pretending we are unflustered
- distracting ourselves
- using it as proof of our unworthiness
When faced with a situation that reminds us of how little we can control we turn to the above behaviors to try to fight the feeling.
We decide that we must be ineffective in all areas of our lives; none of our efforts are ever effective. Other people must be behind our feelings of inadequacy; it’s their fault for putting us in this situation, they took away the only good choices we had leaving us with only options that will hurt.
No one will ever hear about the situation. In order to protect our feelings about ourselves and others’ perceptions we don’t share our feelings of frustration and powerlessness.
Sometimes we even try to act like this is what we wanted all along. We’re fine with having to spend more than we wanted for something we don’t even like.
The thing I do most often when feeling like my power of change has been taken away or isn’t effective is turning my attention from the problem at hand onto something else. Feeling like my attempts at moving my business forward isn’t producing the results I want, I ignore the whole thing and watch Sci-Fi channel on the couch with a bowl of popcorn. When I feel like all of my efforts at physical health have been for nothing, after picking apart my less than healthy choices, reminding myself of the things I don’t like about my body, and deciding that even I don’t believe that it’s fine and I love my body just the way it is, I go find a book or load a game of The Sims with a protagonist over whose life I do have control.
What we all most commonly do with these feelings is use them to justify our long held beliefs that this life we’ve been working toward is really not meant for us after all. Holistic wellness hasn’t happened yet, and honestly, did we really think that people like us could achieve something as wonderful sounding as that?
Now, this website determined that instead of using the above list of coping mechanisms that the world would be a happier and healthier place if we simply determined to accept those feelings, share them and in sharing them see the humor in them. I like it. I think we all need a greater ability to accept the rough things that happen, compassion when they happen to others and an ability to share and lend perspective. But I think there’s more we can do.
- Instead of criticizing ourselves, we can choose to lean on the power we do have. You are not a powerless person, you feel powerless in this situation.
- Blaming others continues to give them the power, owning our responsibility for the situation necessarily starts to reinstate our self-determination. If it’s not all someone else’s fault then it is within our power to change.
- While keeping it hidden may help us preserve our image, sharing these challenging feelings with others helps our self-image. When we know that others have the same universal struggles, our perception of ourselves improves.
- Pretending we are unflustered keeps us in a place of disingenuousness. Honesty with ourselves and others is a strength.
- Distracting ourselves might feel good for the minute, but the second the distraction is gone, the feelings come back. Acknowledging and facing emotions is the only way to move through them.
- Instead of using it as proof of our unworthiness, let’s remember that this feeling is a single instance, not an indicator of your character. You are a person with value and ambition, this feeling is the result of a momentary situation and a chemical reaction.
Bottom line: from the moment our little cries filled the birthing room, we were aware of the limits of our power. Some of us have learned beyond the feelings of helplessness that filled our childhoods, others still struggle to feel like their actions have an impact. In either case, there is much we can do about it, and it all starts when we are honest about exactly what those feelings mean, and what we can do about them.