Defining Empowerment for Women
Before you can step fully into your own power sexually, you need to understand what empowerment is and the role it plays. What it is, is really quite simple:
Empowerment is the ability to choose what you want, when you want it,
taking into consideration, but not being ruled by,
the desires and needs of others.
But understanding it is more complex. Let’s break that down because while it is a fairly simple statement, there is a lot more implied between the lines.
The Ability To Choose
Having the ability to choose for yourself means that you can identify what it is that you want in any given situation. This means that you have to know how you’re feeling and how you’d like to feel and be able to articulate those things in the moment. This is much more difficult than it sounds.
To begin with, in U.S. culture, women aren’t supposed to say “no”. If you doubt this, think about saying “no” to different people in your world and see how your body responds. If there’s tension that forms or a sinking feeling in your stomach or some other form of discomfort, you’re beginning to see what I mean.
Women are expected in our culture to be the grease that keeps everything moving smoothly. Our needs are secondary to the needs of the group. This is why so many of us come last on our own priority lists. It’s been culturally programmed into us to sacrifice ourselves on the altar of other people’s happiness. So we become a gender of co-dependents constantly checking to see if our needs are as important as the needs of those around us – usually resulting in us coming up on the short end of the stick. Eventually, we forget to even check our own needs and then we forget HOW to check in with ourselves at all.
And, if we do manage to discover what it is that we are feeling and what we want to say, then we run up against the “woman-speak” dynamics. In woman-speak we are expected not to actually ask for anything but instead to put our needs into the room and hope that an offer of help is forthcoming from the others in the room. So instead of saying “I need help with getting things ready for this big presentation I have”, we say “I’m really overwhelmed with all the work I have to do on this big presentation. There’s no way I can do this all by myself.” Why do we do this? So that the other women in the room are not put on the spot and forced to say “no” if they can’t help. But what that says is that our needs are less important than the other women’s needs. In fact, if a woman does actually place a request, it is assumed that she is desperate and needs the person receiving the request to say “yes” no matter what.
And, if you are planning to do things with people, a woman is programmed to offer up options, rather than stating a preference. In fact, we are programmed to even offer options that we wouldn’t want to do but anticipate that the other person would want to do. If the person we are offering the options to is another woman, then she is in the position of having to determine which items are the ones that we might actually want to do and eliminate the option or two that were offered just to be nice. Talk about a waste of time! I have an agreement with my friends that I will always state a preference if I have one and will only offer options that I am happy to participate in. And I expect that they will do the same. This makes life so much easier and clearer as long as everyone is on board.
Home of Origin Programming
If you are brought up in an environment where you have to sublimate your needs then the issues I’ve already described will be even more powerful in your life. Some examples of this are:
o You live with:
- A sick or disabled person (mentally, emotionally, or physically)
- An addict
- A narcissist
- A troubled sibling who got all the attention
- A sociopath
o Some trauma happens to the family that causes everyone to have to scramble and you get lost in the chaos (the breadwinner loses their job, dies, goes to jail, etc.)
o Your family lives on the edge of poverty/ruin and it’s “all hands on deck” no matter what – to the exclusion of personal needs. (Many farming families fit this description.)
Another thing that can impact your ability to choose what you want, when you want it is if you are an empath. Empaths are people who feel what other people feel. They can be completely overwhelmed by another person’s need/desire making it almost impossible for them to determine what they are feeling. The best solution if you are an empath is to get away from the other person and be able to be alone to determine how you feel about the situation before you give your answer. My favorite way of doing this is to go to the bathroom. It’s a plausible reason to leave and a great way to be alone with your thoughts.
Not Being Ruled By The Desires of Others
Once you know how you feel about something, now it’s time for you to take what the other person’s needs are into account. The challenge is to do this without taking on responsibility for the caretaking and wellbeing of that person. You have to remember that they are an adult and therefore are responsible for their own problems and that you don’t have to make their problems yours. One of the primary rules of owning your own power is allowing others to own theirs as well.
If you lived in one of the environments above, it’s not uncommon for your child-self to have created a story that she wasn’t important, wasn’t lovable or wanted, wasn’t good enough to get the love and attention she needed. Or, if you got in trouble a lot, it’s also possible that your inner child determined that she was too big or too much. All of these issues become buttons that can throw you off balance when they get hit by others – whether they mean to or not. When these buttons get hit they can make you feel like you are in fear of dying because to your inner child, this is a very real risk. If a child isn’t loved by its parents, it can be left out in the elements to die. Your child self knows this instinctively and this is the response that shows up in the moment the button is hit – even though you are now grown and not in danger of death at all. The end result of all of these beliefs is that you lose your ability to love yourself. This creates the need to find love from others to fill the void in yourself.