Have you ever been excluded from something?
A club or team? Or maybe the life of the rich, beautiful, skinny, or successful?
You feel like an outsider with your nose pressed up against the window, looking at all of the sparkly fun inside that you don't get to experience.
That feeling of being left out, excluded, not part of the real fun, is one of the loneliest feelings in the world. What is it that they've got that you don't? What is it that you are missing that holds you back?
The truth is, you don't need to be rich, beautiful, successful, or invited to join the club to be happy and confident.
You just need to empower yourself.
In my previous post, The 20 Most Life-Altering Concepts I've Ever Embraced, one reader (Paige) commented that I'd left off an important concept. Here's what she said:
A big one that I would like to add is taking personal responsibility. For years I thought I understood this but really didn’t. I didn’t want to admit it but I did a lot of blaming. At a very low point in my life when I felt that nothing I did was working (I used to be a control freak too), I felt like I gave up. In hindsight I realized that I didn’t give up, I just decided to accept everything and everyone the way they were. I let my feelings be known and accepted whatever came next. Now I take full responsibility for my actions and my circumstances. When things aren’t the way I would like them to be, I look at how I got myself into the situation and how I can get myself out. I apologize more. I feel more open and compassionate of others. Things are easier and I’m a lot happier.
The essence of self-empowerment is personal responsibility– taking full and complete control and accountability for you own life and circumstances. And this is both liberating and totally scary.
It's liberating because taking full responsibility for your life means you . . .
- make your own choices and decisions;
- live according to your own personal operating system and values;
- are free from the anxiety of living up to the expectations of others;
- experience the joy of being authentically yourself.
But it's frightening because you . . .
- can no longer blame others for your failures and disappointments;
- can't cling to childish, dependent security from others;
- have to let go of the “old you,” even if that person was holding you back.
However, once you empower yourself through personal responsibility, those fears begin to dissipate. And like Paige, you find that things are easier and life is more enjoyable because you are creating it on your own terms rather than reacting to it.
So what are the secrets to living a self-empowered life? The real secret is awareness. Once you are aware that you are giving away your power through fear and blaming, you are more than halfway there. But there are some specific mind shifts and actions that can help you.
Take a hard look at your life to see where you might be giving away your power. How are you letting other people define or control you or your behavior? Who are you blaming for your situation? What is your contribution to a conflict or life circumstance? What are you avoiding and what excuses are you giving yourself and others?
Kill the Victim
Self-empowered people don't see themselves as victims. They view themselves as a creator, a catalyst, an exemplar, a thriver. To take control of your own life, you must let go of the victim mentality. You may not even recognize you embrace a victim mentality. It could be deeply entrenched in your psyche from being victimized in the past. Sometimes it even feels good to be a victim because it brings sympathy and attention. But that's all you get from it. And sympathy and attention aren't enough for a happy life.
Drop Your Story
Part of being a victim involves perpetuating a “story” about yourself that you repeat to explain why you are who you are and why you behave the way you do. All of us have these stories, and they are based in truth. You had a bad childhood. Your lover left you. You have an addictive personality. Everyone has suffered, and some have had truly horrifying or debilitating life events. But if you use these situations as the constant backdrop for your life, you will never escape being the leading character of a sad story. The more you reinforce your story, the more entrenched you become in it.
Fake It Until You Feel It
Becoming a self-empowered person doesn't happen overnight. You have to practice. You need to do the things that self-empowered people do until you gain mastery and confidence. Begin by actively shifting your thoughts away from victim language and toward success language. Try to catch yourself in thoughts of blame, shame, guilt, or self-pity. Then replace those thoughts with words of gratitude, self-love, and acceptance. Begin supporting your new thinking with action. Where you once said, “I can't, I'm too weak, I'm too afraid,” take one small action in the direction of “you can.” Every small action will empower you.
Contrary to popular belief, self-empowered people embrace positive support. Asking for help does not mean you are weak or incapable. It means you are empowered enough to take full responsibility for your own personal evolution. It means you are seeking portals to expedite your awareness, confidence, and knowledge. This help can come in the form of books, courses, therapy, coaching, and the counsel of friends and family. Everyone, even the most self-empowered, can benefit from the support and insights of others who have our best interest at heart.