Let's Talk: What is Empowerment?
Empowerment seems like a bit of a buzzword lately - but what does it really mean? By dictionary definition, it is the
“process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.”
With all kinds of movements going on throughout the world, people are claiming their rights and standing up for themselves in beautiful ways. Before any great movement or monumental change can happen, we first have to believe we are worth standing up for - and that everyone else is too.
When I was in middle school, I had the self-esteem of a worm. I believed everyone else was more valuable than me and lived like that was true. Despite all the people in my life telling me otherwise, I walked around, spoke, made choices, and acted in ways that reflected how I thought about myself. Spoiler alert: they weren’t good. It wasn’t until I grew into who I am and started to understand my uniqueness as a strength rather than weakness that I could stand firm. And once I had this foundation, I had something to offer the rest of the world. Empowerment works like a net, lifting others alongside you as you step into your own power.
Empowerment works like a net, lifting others alongside you as you step into your own power.
Today, there are systems in place that depend on the disempowered lives of lots of people. Human trafficking is one of these systems. Abusers tell lies to degrade, disempower, and manipulate even the strongest of people into submission, all for the sake of money. When we stand up to the lie that any person can be sold, used, or trapped in systems of oppression, we put worth back where it belongs. With that kind of power, we can literally change the world!
By grasping the inherent worth woven into our beings, we can see it in everyone else, too. And when we see it in everyone else, we can (and must) rise up to fight for those oppressed, on the margins, and living below their worth. The more of the world I see, the more people I meet who are living empowered, walking around with command of the ground they step on and with a direction in mind, radiating strength and beauty like they’re made of it. Empowerment lifts people up, rather than belittling them. It’s the gentleness that shakes the earth and leaves people and places changed for the better.
By grasping the inherent worth woven into our beings, we can see it in everyone else, too.
Of course, a nice idea is nothing if it can’t be implemented in real life. Here are some practical things you can do today to empower yourself and those around you:
Find out who you are
Author Craig Groeschel once said, “When you know who you are, you will know what to do.” Figure out what gets you excited, what you’re talented at, and what makes you different from everyone else. Ask people who know you well what they see in you. Make a list and reflect on what you have to offer the world - you might be surprised!
As you develop a sense of what makes you unique, trust that those things are important and valuable. If everyone had the same qualities to offer the world, we would get nowhere. Believe that what you have to offer is just as important as that of anyone else.
We all have shortcomings, which is actually a great thing! It means we can’t do big things alone, and we shouldn’t. Know where your non-strengths lie and let other people make up the difference. For example, most people think you need to be a natural leader or extremely social to be a good advocate, but behind the scenes work is just as important. When we all work together and lean on one another to fight injustices or make changes, we become nearly unstoppable.
This is the most fun step, in my opinion. We don’t live our lives as individuals but as a whole group of people learning from each other and working together for the greater good. Once you know who you are, you know what you have to offer the world. There is something all of us can do, using our own specific strengths, to help where people fall through the cracks or where injustices run rampant. In the fight against human trafficking, there are as many roles as there are people. Advocates, effective communicators, writers, artists, event planners, fundraisers, introverts, extroverts, politicians, community organizers, and mathematicians are just some of these roles. Wherever you are, whoever you are, you have an important part to play!
Consider yourselves equipped, friends! Go share the love and keep doing what you can, in whatever way you can, to live out who you are and what you have to offer the world.
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About the Author
Mallory Mishler is a Michigander, studying Women’s and Gender Studies and Peace and Justice. She is passionate about using her voice to advocate for the freedom of all people, especially through creative mediums. When not writing, she can be found climbing mountains, caring for her plants, or painting on things that shouldn’t be painted.