The Secret Life of the Self-Empowered

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.

beautiful woman with freckles smiling self-empowered

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.

Related: 101 Breakthrough Questions To Accelerate Massive Action

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.

Examine Yourself

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.

woman flexing her arms self-empowered

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.

Related: 40 Compelling Quotes About Life To Empower You

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.

Seek Reinforcement

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.


40 thoughts on “The Secret Life of the Self-Empowered”

  1. Great stuff as usual 🙂 Examine yourself, kill the victim, and drop your story are probably the three most powerful concepts to any type of self-improvement. Any intense emotional reaction is an opportunity to observe your thinking, listen to the story you are telling yourself about the situation and take control in the situation rather than reacting to it. I used to avoid situations that had me react emotionally, now I not only handle them, I welcome them–I look forward to them because I know that there’s a new lesson!

    • That’s wonderful Paul! I’m the same way. Those emotions are opportunities for digging around and learning something new — growing even more. It’s so great to get to the stage in life where you welcome that self-work. 🙂

  2. I really like the “drop your story” part. So many of us carry our narrative inside our heads that tells us what our life is and what direction it is heading. We need open ourselves up to new plot-lines and new possibilities.

  3. Hi Barrie,

    If your confidence and happiness depends on external factors or approval, it is bound to experience wild fluctuations. Thus it is highly important to empower ourselves. Unless we take personal responsibility for our lives, unless we take full and complete control, we can never be truly happy.

    I agree with you fully that awareness is the secret to an empowered life. I think the mind shifts and actions that you have shared really get to the heart of the matter. The point that stands out most for me is reinforcement. I feel it is vital to constantly nourish ourselves with knowledge that empowers us. Whether it is learning new skills or just learning through books, courses and so on, as our experience and knowledge increases, so will our confidence and happiness.

    The more we know, the greater control we have over our lives as we can call upon our skills and knowledge to aid us in different situations. One of the most important skills I ever learned is to foresee the outcome of my choices and actions before I make them. This has helped me to make the best choices in any given situation and it has made a great difference in my life.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

    Irving the Vizier

  4. Hi Irving,
    I would love to hear more about the process you go through to foresee the outcome of your choices and actions. I don’t think you mean that in a “psychic” way — but maybe I’m wrong. Can you explain further?

    • Hi Barrie,

      Sure I would be happy to share more about the process.

      Basically, I divine the outcome of whatever action or choice I wish to make.

      Let’s say if I had a job interview with Company ABC, I would prepare for the interview and then divine to see how the actual interview would turn out for me. From the answer, I would be able to see the following:

      -Opportunities or pitfalls that would arise in the interview
      -How the interview would go
      -How I should pitch myself to the interviewer and so on

      The answer to my question would also show me how prepared I am for this particular interview. If you know what is going to happen, you’re likely to be in control of the situation.

      After I get job offers from Company A, B and C, I can also divine how working at each company for a period of time will turn out. Typically I would use 6 months. From the answers, I can gauge how I will fare in the company and how happy I will be. It is then an easy choice to pick the best company of the lot to start my new job. There is no point getting hired by a new company with a high pay if you cannot hold down the job in the long run.

      I use the I-Ching for my divinations and it has always been insightful. Carl Jung himself said that divination with the I-Ching works because of synchronicity. Career is only one aspect I can apply the I-Ching to. I can do relationships and any problem you can think of.

      If you’re interested, I am giving away a free reading at Han of Harmony. Just drop me an email, let me know what problem you wish to find out about, your goals, challenges and so on and I will give you the answer and how to manage the situation each step of the way. If you don’t know what to ask, here are some suggestions:

      a. How 2012 will turn out for you in general?
      b. How 2012 will turn out for you at work?
      c. How 2012 will turn out for you in a relationship with someone?
      d. Specially tailored question suited to your problem or situation

      Foresight really makes a difference in life. 🙂

      Irving the Vizier

  5. A great post. Probably the one note that resonates the most with me is Seek Reinforcement. Just today a friend and I had been discussing the negative energy that Debbie Downers can cast out onto other people, bringing everyone around them down too. A key factor in being Self Empowered is definitely to be able to step away from negative atmospheres and to purposely place themselves in the path of positivity, support and love. To be able to recognise the need for that support system and to actively seek it out is indeed a mark of a self empowered person. It is the Debbie Downer (not self empowered) that seeks to find support through commiseration instead of looking within and finding a positive outlook on life.

    • Hi Caitlin,
      You are so right. I think we’ve all known our share of Debbie Downers, and sometimes we don’t even realize the shadow they cast on us. We can get trapped into their stories, like a fly in a spider’s web. Having awareness about people who lift you up rather than pull you into their doom and gloom is truly self-empowering. Thank you for your insights!

  6. Barrie,
    Thank you for quoting my comment! Taking personal responsibility for our lives is a whole different perspective from which we see ourselves and the world – a very liberating one. In terms of making it a practice, as you’ve mentioned, I’ve made mindfulness a priority throughout my day. Being mindful of my thoughts, words and actions without judgment. Sometimes I’ll catch myself saying or thinking something that sounds like blaming or victim talk. As soon as it comes out I stop and say to myself, “Look at that. Where did that come from?” and I examine what deeper issue I’m facing or what un-met need I’m not fulfilling for myself. If I made the negative comment to someone, I immediately apologize. By turning my thoughts back in on myself, I can find solutions to my deeper issues and longings and act on that instead of giving my power to others and hoping they’ll make me happy (which never happens, no matter how much the other person loves you).

    • Paige,
      That is so wonderful — you have discovered something that is truly life-changing. Self-inquiry and examination is truly the key to releasing yourself from false and painful beliefs. Thank you for your very thoughtful comment — and for the quote!

  7. “Dropping my story” is what I WILL do from this moment on! Wow, I had not even realized I was doing that. Thanks for this eye-opener. I had always told myself: no whining, stop making excuses, just DO IT! But I had not realized I had turned even those mantras into part of my storyline! I am quite happy and feeling truly on the right track with my writing, and how I am handling family, friends, money, community service, etc. However, I KNOW there are always higher steps on our “stairway to Heaven” and I can feel myself lifting my foot joyfully to land on that next higher step after reading this post!

    • I am so glad the post resonated with you Rose. We are all on that stairway, and I try to enjoy the journey! 🙂

  8. ‘Stop playing the victim’ is a biggie, Barrie. It’s subtle for many however when they become aware of this & start taking personal responsibility, then it’s very powerful. Marvellous post, thankyou.
    be good to yourself

    • It’s easy to fall back into “storyland” — we have to keep ourselves vigilant always. Being the victim has some strange payback, but not anything that is healthy or life-affirming. I’m so glad you like the post David. Thank you!

  9. Hi Barrie! Great post, as usual.

    I think the concept of self-responsibility is one of the most liberating concepts out there. It is empowering and freeing. It is so tempting to look to others for why we feel the way we feel. We hear it all the time in everyday speech: “Look how you made me feel!” “You make me so mad!” and the like. But to take responsibility for our feelings to, to accept that we choose our responses to life (even if by default because we haven’t taken steps to l earn how to choose them on purpose).

    Clear and profound as always!

    • Thank you Ken. When we get to the bottom of our feelings, then it’s easy to take responsibility. Then we understand why we behave the way we do.

  10. I’ve often felt a bit excluded – at parties, on the sportsfield as a schoolchild and so on – so I can really relate to this post.

    I go to Ceroc dance classes and sometimes the men just don’t ask me to dance and I sit there like a wallflower, feeling stupid. On other evenings, the men don’t stop asking me to dance and I go home exhausted. I’ve tried to analyse the difference between the two types of evening: does the way I dress affect it or whether I’ve got glasses on or contact lenses? The answer seems to be simply that the nights when I go along feeling happy and confident are the nights when the men ask me to dance! The nights when I go along wanting someone else to make me feel happy and confident are the nights when no-one notices I’m there.

    One day, I hope to be happy and confident enough to ask them to dance!

    • Hi Jen,
      What a great story! I think happiness and confidence are very attractive qualities, and people notice them. And it’s possible that all the men who don’t ask you are unhappy and lacking confidence themselves! 🙂

  11. Hi, I like what you have to say BUT for some of us there are others in our lives who torment and bully until all is left is the victim with the story. That is me. Yes I had a very shitty childhood and yes I am trying to escape the monster who won’t leave me alone. BUT HOW do I replace the story? What do I replace it with? Facts are facts. I’m not trying to be obnoxious here, I really don’t know what to do, it feels like there is nothing left …….

    • You create a new story Michelle. Do what you can to let go of people who hurt you and find people who love and support you. If you need help dealing with the past, then do that work with a counselor so you can heal and move forward. Define what you want your life to be and start creating it. I would highly recommend the books of Byron Katie. I think they would be helpful for you.

  12. Hi Barrie,as usual you give me a go,go. Am the kind that always has a story for why. Thanks for the guide and i hope to keep up with the guidlines.

  13. Hi Barrie,

    Inspiring post! We become strong when we do take full responsibility for our lives and accept the negative outcomes as well as the positive achievements. It’s so easy to fall into that victim mode when things aren’t going well and we need someone to blame. We find our strength and become empowered when we dig deep, trust ourselves and believe in our abilities.

  14. I think the biggest roadblock for me was that I was trying to live up to everyone’s expectations and left mine behind. As children, we try to please our parents, teachers, etc. until we find one day that we do not know who we are. I felt like a stranger to myself—that is when it hit me that I now needed to find out more about me and pay attention to what brought me joy, love, abundance, health, etc.
    I love my life now and I give gratitude for everyone and everything in my life. I am eager to uncover more of myself—life is good.

  15. Hmmmmm…Fake It Til You Feel It.

    I know what you mean, although to be perfectly honest the word “fake” is a bit of an emotional trap.

    One of the things I did at the start of my own healing journey was bombard myself with positive messages…about myself. Written, spoken, I sought them out from others…and I disciplined myself to do things that made sure I had something authentically good to say about myself.

    Over time and experience (with plenty of setbacks) that started to become my default position. So when things went poorly, I didn’t have to fake it. It just became who I was…and the fear based Larry was the exception, not the rule.

    Plenty of great food for thought here. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  16. agreed – personal responsibility and accountability
    to empower us, and give us that willpower to change what we want to
    Noch Noch

  17. This is awesome – pretty much sums up my entire life coaching experience. As I began working with mine, we discovered that I wasn’t taking responsibility for my choices or my life in general. I didn’t realize what a big deal this was until I started doing it.

    Once I decided to take responsibility, an amazing thing happened: I felt empowered. Empowered to make decisions and commit to them…To stick to my meditation practice, to take care of myself, to revisit and revamp my blog. It’s incredible!

    Great article. I LOVE the way you broke it down!


  18. Sometimes we can find ourselves in situations where there is no escape. No matter how hard you use these principles they can become futile due to your circumstances. Without being a victim I can tell you that this is my story. I keep going because I understand the fundamental laws/principles i.e. non-codependent living and self-empowerment; it’s the only way.

    Sometimes though, sometimes, there is no way out.

  19. Hi

    Thanks for the awesome share and I really appreciate it

    Just to share my little thought on this subject. I feel that a man of gratitude and person who like to give rather that just take is someone that we must aim to be

  20. I know I’m a bit late here but I really like this post! I recently started a blog on this topic and was just searching around to see what others might be out there. Neat stuff!


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