Thoughts and Musings on... Empowerment
Posted on 16th January 2024 at 13:47
A definition... 'Empowerment is a set of measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority.' Empowerment - for me at least - is the process and realisation of becoming stronger. I don't believe that it means that you are the finished product - sometimes this is not in sight - but it is definitely a state of mind that cannot be wrestled from you once you realise that this is where you heading towards your goal or goals. And like a coat of many colours, you can feel amazing - as Joseph did when Jacob gave his favourite son a present that sadly sealed his fate as he headed, not for the summit as Joseph thought, but for the valleys....the pits. The major difference between you and Joseph is that no one would have given you the coat - you have done the work yourself - or with some support - to have moved on to a point that you may not have thought that you would ever have achieved. This is the fuel that keeps you going in order to 'finish the race'.
I am no mountain climber. Or hill walker. In fact - any form of incline used to get me upset....I didn't want to expend any effort in order to get from A to B. But I found myself - in October 2019 - climbing one of the Three Yorkshire Peaks (Whernside). I thought that I could do it relatively quickly and had anticipated that I was going to do two of the three Peaks!!!! Madness - I had not practised and as a result, my levels of fitness did not permit me to do two.
Just because the mountain is there doesn't mean that there is a compulsion to conquer it. Well, not for me!! Many of us will see it and still want to go 'around' the mountain. Risk adverse or lazy - I'll leave you to insert your own definition!! Going over it just feels like it is too much.....effort, planning, emotion, money, risk - again, insert your own words. I have to tell you that the pic of me smiling as I touched the 'peak' was bitter-sweet - most people had reached the summit at least an hour earlier than me and were heading down as I smiled for the camera. Did that matter? No. All that mattered was that the summit had been conquered. By me. I was exhausted but happy. I didn't call an Uber to take me there; no one carried me on their back (that would have been an interesting sight ;-) ) and I had the support of a friend whose physical presence and psychological and verbal encouragement kept me moving. Just a few hours earlier, I had been told by one of the organisers that it was unlikely that I was going to be able to complete the first peak, and I had to stop. The feelings that I felt as I was given the instruction to turn around, just twenty minutes into the first peak walk, was devastating to me. I had never experienced someone telling me that I couldn't do something and the feeling of shame, belittlement and feeling 'less than', burned me. Hard!! However, as I stood smiling and exhausted, at the summit, I knew that this was a huge life lesson that I needed to re-apply as many times as required to hit the summits that I want to surmount.
What creates a sense of empowerment? Control, confidence, preparation, positivity, perseverance, motivation, attitude - and the combinations of the ingredients depend on our own specific circumstances. I know that my sense of self worth was not particularly high at this time so I really don't know why I felt I could manage a couple of mountains - an inflated sense of self? Maybe? Unrealistic? Who knows?
What do I know now? Everyone's route/pathway to empowerment is different. However, I would stress that its achievable for everyone that wants to feel a sense of autonomy in their lives. Some people have a sense of empowerment in everything they do and are able to engender this to those that they meet. I would suggest that most of us have to work at it and this makes us feel all the more confident when we achieve. The role of my friend who kept me going as I traversed the rough terrain and sometimes stumbled, was an essential part of my journey. The role of the said key person or persons cannot be underestimated and it's often what is said or not said that can make the difference.
Whichever role you are in - 'enpowerer' or 'empoweree' - the process of achievement and autonomy can change lives. We are all running our own race. Climb your own mountain. Get help as and when you need it. Start or continue the journey. You CAN do this. Believe.
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