From Victim to Victor: The Power of "True Empowerment"Nov 30, 2023
Empowerment is one of those buzzwords that we hear all the time, right up there with phrases like "mindfulness" and "self-care." But what does it actually mean to be empowered?
There's a trend that I've noticed with many of the women that I support in my coaching programs. Because many of them have experienced trauma or chronic adversity throughout their lives, they have adopted false empowerment as a subconscious mechanism for coping with the stress and pain. In an effort to restore their personal power, they adopted toxic female empowerment traits that thrive on control, overexertion and manipulation, to avoid feeling oppressed.
I like to refer to this as false empowerment.
False empowerment refers to an individual or group that appears to be in their power, but in reality, their thoughts, actions and feelings are tied to a deeply rooted sense of not being enough or not creating a life that is perceived as successful.
False women's empowerment can look like…
The woman who hides her true feelings by projecting an image of strength and invincibility to the outside world.
Feeling like vulnerability or admitting weakness is a sign of failure or inadequacy.
Working hard to present a facade of perfection through external sources like appearance and work.
With all of this internal and external pressure, it’s no wonder most women feel burned out in comparison to their male counterparts.
Spotting Fake Female Empowerment
Many women justify false empowerment by convincing themselves that they are taking control of their lives through doing the things that “make them feel good.” While this is often the case in the moment, they do so without considering how it aligns with long-term goals or the long-term consequences.
This often leads to engaging in behaviors or attitudes that are harmful to themselves or others under the guise of exercising their autonomy. Behaviors like:
Denial: Falsely empowered women often deny their true feelings to themselves and others. They may believe that acknowledging their feelings of weakness are a sign of weakness, and so they avoid discussing their struggles or seeking help, often until it's too late.
Avoidance: They may keep people at a comfortable distance and avoid situations or people that make them feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. This is a subconscious effort to maintain a sense of control and power. The result? Feelings of being unlovable that are perpetuated by an inability to develop healthy intimacy in connections.
Distraction: Falsely empowered women may distract themselves from their true feelings by keeping busy or by engaging in addictive behaviors such as overworking, overeating, or substance abuse.
Blaming: Blaming others or external circumstances for their struggles, rather than taking responsibility for how their own actions and decisions influence the outcomes in their lives.
Gaslighting: Unfortunately many falsely empowered women unknowingly gaslight themselves and others. Although gaslighting is a term often used to describe narcissistic behavior, it's important to understand that not everyone who gaslights is a narcissist.
Gaslighting is any attempt to dismiss, distort, deny someone's reality. It is a form of manipulation often used by narcissists and emotionally stunted individuals to feel validated, justified and in control. These tactics manipulate individuals into believing that their feelings or experiences are invalid or incorrect, creating a sense of confusion and self-doubt for the person experiencing the gaslighting.
Do you always need to be right? Is it hard for you to accept that not everyone is going to like or agree with your opinion? Gaslighting is something you’ll want to look out for.
The True Meaning of Empowerment
It's important to note that these behaviors are not exclusive to falsely empowered women, and can be exhibited by anyone who is struggling with feelings of vulnerability or insecurity.
However, with studies reporting 80-85% of the world's female population suffering from low self-esteem, it is a concept that we need to be aware of if we truly desire to achieve individual empowerment.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the prevalence of false female empowerment narratives in our modern day world. In recent years, the concept of female empowerment has been increasingly commercialized, with the rise of companies using feminist messaging and imagery to sell products to women. This has led to a watering-down of the concept of empowerment and the co-opting of feminist language that although well-intended can promote toxic positivity and false empowerment.
Some of the most common narratives are:
"Anything a man can do, a woman can do better." While this narrative aims to promote gender equality, it can also create a toxic environment that pits men against women. It also promotes a "us vs. them" mentality that diminishes the importance of collaboration and mutual respect.
Or, concepts like, "You can have it all."
While this narrative can be inspiring, it also has many undertones of privilege. Everyone has the capacity to maximize their full potential, but not everyone has the same access to resources or the same lived experiences. This ideology creates imbalanced expectations and further perpetuates feelings of failure and inadequacy in women who have had to overcome a lot of adversity and trauma.
It can also encourage women to glorify aspects of their life that are not even in alignment with their core values. Such as prioritizing a marriage for the sake of marriage or running a six-figure business over other important aspects such as living a fulfilling and healthy life.
I by no means am saying that striving for these goals is bad, but prioritizing them for the sake of appearing successful to the gram or people that one day you’ll realize really don’t matter, is a problem.
How To Take Back Your Personal Power
Achieving true empowerment requires a willingness to be honest and vulnerable with yourself and others. It's a process of understanding your true feelings and spotting self-deception so that you can eliminate the old patterns and habits that are ultimately detrimental to your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
At its core, empowerment is about taking control of your own life and making the most of your own unique abilities and potential. You cannot truly experience empowerment until you identify who you are outside of your wounding and your trauma. This involves building self-acceptance, self-awareness, and self-efficacy, as well as cultivating healthy relationships. In doing so, a truly empowered individual accepts that in spite of the variables that they cannot control, they are 100% responsible for improving their quality of life.
An empowered woman does not rely on external factors like luck or other people to change her circumstances. She accepts the things that she cannot change, takes responsibility for the things she can, and most importantly, takes ownership for how her decisions and actions shape her life. She understands that we may not always have control over our external circumstances, other individuals or events, but we always have the ability to restore our personal power and confidence by making decisions that are in alignment with our values and purpose.
The Importance Of Trauma-Informed Empowerment
False empowerment is often a symptom of being disconnected to these values. It’s a sign that we have become disconnected from our true selves which has led to deeper issues such as low self-esteem, insecurity and a lack of self-awareness. Quite often it is also a sign that we have lost ourselves in an attempt to cope with past trauma.
This is often the case with many of the women that I support in my women's empowerment programs. When they don't realize that the motivation to succeed and achieve certain goals is fueled by a deeply rooted sense of not being enough, they seek external validation and approval through career or relationships.
This is why it is important for individuals to adopt a trauma-informed approach to manifesting their goals and stepping into their personal power. There are many factors that can impede an individual's ability to grow. Systemic oppression, lack of economic resources, and personal barriers such as mental health issues and disabilities are just a few examples of the factors that need to be taken into consideration when setting our sights on maximizing our full potential.
In a world where female empowerment is increasingly commercialized and misrepresented, the true meaning of empowerment has been distorted. It’s important to remember that it isn’t just another buzzword like boss bitch and woke AF. It's a meaningful concept that requires us to be brave enough to face our shadows, embrace vulnerability, and take personal responsibility for our lives.
If you're feeling like a fraud, projecting a facade of perfection, or blaming the world for your problems, the good news is, now you know exactly what you need to do to kick those toxic habits to the curb! Just remember: true empowerment is not about having it all, instead it's about being true to yourself, flaws and all.
Ready to take back your power? Join me on my talk on the power of cultivating a resilient mind at this year's Women Thrive Summit.