What is Personal Empowerment?
We tend to equate personal empowerment with a subjective emotion — the feeling of being empowered. Yet personal empowerment, by its very definition, is not something one feels but rather something one demonstrates. To be empowered is to have actual influence within any of the many spheres of our lives. At a basic level, the term ‘empowerment‘ simply means ‘becoming powerful‘. But building personal empowerment involves reflecting on our personal values, skills and goals and being prepared to adjust our behaviour in order to achieve our goals. Personal empowerment also means being aware that other people have their own set of values and goals which may different to ours.
Many other, more detailed, definitions exist. These usually centre on the idea that personal empowerment gives an individual the ability to:
- Take control of their circumstances and achieve their own goals in their personal and working life.
- Become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses and therefore be better equipped to deal with problems and achieve goals.
- Enhance the contribution they make both as an individual and as a member of a team.
- Take opportunities to enhance personal growth and a sense of fulfilment.
Developing personal empowerment usually involves making some fundamental changes in life, which is not always an easy process. The degree of change required will differ from person to person, depending on the individual starting point. Personal empowerment is about looking at who you are and becoming more aware of yourself as a unique individual. Personal empowerment involves developing the confidence and strength to set realistic goals and fulfil your potential. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and a range of skills that are used in everyday situations, but all too often people remain unaware of, or undervalue, their true abilities. Yaaani, true personal empowerment has to involve real world evidence of our ability to have an impact on our relationships and social surroundings. Indeed, current psychological research posits that personal empowerment is an interactive process of taking action, getting feedback, making adjustments, taking further action, and eventually attaining real results.
A person aiming for empowerment is able to take control of their life by making positive choices and setting goals. Developing self-awareness, an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses – knowing your own limitations is key to personal empowerment.
Taking steps to set and achieve goals – both short and longer-term and developing new skills, acts to increase confidence which, in itself, is essential to self-empowerment. ‘Personal Empowerment’ and ‘Personal Development’ are two areas that overlap and interweave, you may want CLICK HERE to read our writting about Personal Development.
The Steps to Increasing Personal Empowerment
Because the attainment of personal empowerment is an interactive process, it usually involves several steps, time, and effort (which means that it also requires patience and persistence)….So the following ‘dimensions of personal empowerment’ are based on the belief that the greater the range of coping responses an individual develops, the greater their chance of coping effectively with diverse life situations.
These dimensions are:
Self-awareness involves understanding our individual character and how we are likely to respond to situations. This enables us to build on our positive qualities and be aware of any negative traits which may reduce our effectiveness. Self-aware people make conscious decisions to enhance their lives whenever possible, learning from past experiences.
Values are opinions or beliefs that are important to us but of which we are not always aware. They can be any kind of belief or perceived obligation, anything we prefer and for any reason. The reasons we may prefer one thing over another, or choose one course of action over another, may not always be obvious or known; there may be no apparent reason for our values. Nevertheless our values are important to us as individuals. In order to be self-aware it is necessary to be aware of our values, to critically examine them and to accept that our values may be different from those of others.
An individual’s skills are the main resource which enables them to achieve their desired goals. Skills can be gained through experience, practice, education and training. It is only by developing such skills that individual values can be translated into action.
Knowledge or information is necessary in the development of self-awareness and skills. Knowing where to find appropriate information is in itself an essential skill. Without information, the choices open to people are limited, both in their personal and working lives. The internet has provided an easy way for everybody to access huge amounts of information very quickly and easily. The problem is then centred around the quality of the information found, and the skill set is concerned with finding accurate and reliable information.
Setting goals is a means by which an individual can take charge of their life. The process of setting a goal involves people thinking about their values and the direction that they would like their lives to follow. Choices are made through reflection followed by action. Goals should always be both specific and realistic. Setting personal goals gives us a sense of direction in life, this direction is essential to personal empowerment…….any way, in short may be the following could The Steps to increasing Personal Empowerment
>Defining Our Goal: Since real personal empowerment requires the ability to attain specific outcomes, the first step we must take involves defining a personally meaningful goal that demonstrates our ability to have an impact.
>Taking Action: In the second step we take action toward reaching our goal and proving our influence. Of course, the actions we take will only contribute to a sense of empowerment if they have the intended impact and we meet with success. Although failures will hamper feelings of empowerment and set us back, they should be anticipated and even welcomed because they contain crucial information that can help us adjust our efforts and increase our likelihood of future success.
>Assessing Our Impact: Most of us are not going to be fortunate enough to meet with success right away. Therefore, once we take action we can assess our impact and figure out how to refine our approach and improve our future efforts. Completing this crucial third step will increase our competence, improve our knowledge base, and make us feel more effective and assertive.
>Repeating Our Efforts: Because personal empowerment is a process, steps 2 and 3 above will probably need to be repeated several times before we reach our goal. However, with each round we will refine our skills and efforts and get closer to attaining the outcome we desire.
Let’s look at an example of the entire process. Imagine you live near an intersection that lacked a traffic light and your goal was to get your local municipality to install one. You might start with making a phone call or writing an email to the relevant elected official. But if that does not work (and it probably won’t), you need to become more knowledgeable. You can investigate who is in charge of making such decisions. You can then organize a petition signed by neighbors in the area and send that to the appropriate person. If that too does not work, you can try enlisting the local press to report on the need for the traffic light.
Personal Empowerment and Self-Esteem
With each round, each time you fail to achieve the impact you desire, you assess what you can do differently in the future, make changes, and try again. Persisting toward your goal in this way will not only make you likely to eventually succeed, but it will do wonders for your self-esteem in the process. Attaining personal empowerment by demonstrating actual influence in your social or personal environment will build more substantial and longer-lasting self-esteem than any other technique or approach, because it is based on real world and demonstrable outcomes (as opposed to other techniques of building self-esteem which merely address your beliefs about your character and attributes).
The bottom line is there are no shortcuts one can take to feeling personally empowered. However, the substantial effort and work that are required for us to demonstrate a real influence in our environment is extremely worthwhile, as it is guaranteed to produce not only real life improvements but psychological and emotional payoffs that are just as valuable and even longer lasting.