Women's empowerment is self-empowerment
March is Women’s History Month. It is a month of celebrating and commemorating women that have contributed to history, culture, and society. From science to politics, women have been at the forefront of the changes that give us the power and courage to be and do anything we put our minds to — together. This month is a powerful and empowering practice that helps build and shape future generations of women. Celebrating and honoring women's history gives little girls the confidence to be and do anything they want. And that is amazing!
Yet, outside of this month and these historical women, we are not taught to celebrate, praise, and elevate women in our daily lives. Instead, many of us have been conditioned to compete with, tear down, and minimize other women. Numerous industries thrive on perpetuating catty behavior, jealousy-driven possessiveness of partners, and general competitiveness among women. There are countless ads, tv shows, and gossip magazines in which comparisons of beauty, confidence, sexiness, body size, and other things between women are the focal point.
Think about it: have you ever judged, criticized, gossiped, put down, or felt jealous of another woman? Sure you have. We all have at one time or another.
Let’s say you see another woman in public. Maybe she is well-dressed, carries herself with confidence, and others turn to notice her. Do you think, “What’s so special about her?” or, “Whatever, she’s not even all that,” and roll your eyes? Did you know that when you do that, consciously or unconsciously, you’re reflecting parts of your unhealed self to the world? It illustrates that you might be struggling with self-empowerment.
At work, when a coworker succeeds, do you celebrate their accomplishment? Or do you think, “Okay, sis! I love what she’s wearing!” and genuinely compliment her if the opportunity presents itself? This, too, is a reflection of your own self-empowerment.
What is self-empowerment?
Self-empowerment or personal empowerment is knowing that you are in control of the quality of your life. It is the confidence of pursuing things that matter to you. It is the deep understanding of your values and yourself, including your strengths and weaknesses. It is easier for us to empower others when we are self-empowered because we no longer deem them as competition or rivals. Instead, we are able to acknowledge that the parts we consider “better than” in others are aspects that we can aspire to, appreciate without judgment, and accept as a possibility for us.
Here are three ways that you can empower and support other women:
1. Encourage and praise
Giving sincere compliments not only makes others feel good but also boosts your self-confidence and enhances your well-being. What's more, it makes people want to be around you more, because people want to be around positive people. When you praise, recognize and highlight others, you are more likely to be perceived as a leader and positive influence. The compliment should be genuine and sincere. It is also essential that you do not expect anything in return. Remember, most people struggle to accept compliments and may need time to process them. It’s also okay if they don’t immediately say thank you.
If you want to compliment how someone looks, enhance the compliment. Instead of saying, “I like your dress,” or “you have pretty eyes,” say something like, “That dress makes you look radiant.” or “I love how this color brings out your eyes.” At work, praise a coworker’s accomplishment. Instead of simply saying “congrats” or “great job!” you can say, “Wow, you must be so proud of yourself for X. I love that it worked out for you!”
You can also apply the same practice to self-praise. Learning to give yourself compliments can be difficult if you have a long history of self-deprecating or minimizing yourself. Still, it will feel more natural with practice— both to give and receive compliments.
2. Create a supportive space
It is vital to create a supportive space when we support one another. Many women value safe, secure, and supportive spaces. While we may not always have the answers or solutions, it is important that we encourage others to not only seek the support they may need but also ensure that we can hold that space when needed (if you are able). If a coworker or friend is struggling with something personal or professional, let them know that they are supported. Oftentimes we think that “It’s none of my business,” or “If she needs me, she knows where to find me,” but for someone who is struggling, they may worry about being a burden. So it is crucial that we communicate possible options. This can help you learn to ask for support when you need it. It may also help you practice more compassion and patience with yourself and others.
3. Listen to understand
All too often, people listen to respond rather than to understand. When someone comes to us, we may be too quick to offer advice, provide a solution, or interject with our own experience. When we listen to understand, we show that person that they are worthy of being heard and that their feelings are valid. If they ask for advice, give it. If you’re not sure, you can nod your head, ask, “Are you open to some advice, or would you like to sort through your thoughts with me?” Practicing this skill will teach you how to tune in and listen to yourself and teach you that you, too, are worthy of being heard and validated.
Shine your light through empowering others
It is easy to celebrate historical figures of the past and present. We speak so highly and applaud those women. But what if we did that for the women in our daily lives? In a society that thrives on competitiveness and rivalry, be the beacon of light for others. When we are able to shine our light, we create a bigger, more positive impact on the world. Remember, that when we judge others, it is often out of our own insecurities and shame. When a woman has something you might desire, know that it is a sign that you are on the right path and that her type of success is also available to you. Empowering other women teaches us aspects of self empowerment. It creates healthier and more positive energy, boosts our mood and self-confidence, promotes self-awareness, and helps us contribute purposeful and meaningful ways. When women support each other, instead of trying to tear each other down, incredible things happen.
Aleks Zavlunova is a Holistic Behavior Therapist and Wellness Coach. She uses principles of human learning and behavior modification to help people develop sustainable skills and habits to lead healthier and happier lives. Aleks combines cognitive behavior psychology and nutrition science to help her clients begin to address maladaptive and self-destructive patterns and habits, build self-esteem, confidence, and self-love, by systematically improving their relationship with food. She strongly believes that our relationship with food greatly correlates with our relationship with the self, our emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing, as well as our relationships with others.