How to step into your personal power

I have heard people talking about stepping into their power, but I never understood what they were talking about until recently when I got a little curious and did some research. The first thing that went through my mind was…personal power? Yeah, right.

As a childhood trauma survivor growing up with a narcissistic and abusive father, the only thing I knew about power was that he had all of the power, and I had none. That is what I was led to believe, but I discovered that was not the truth…go figure.

Dr. Judith Herman, a pioneer in the field of Complex PTSD, said that “the core experiences of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. Trauma robs the victim of a sense of power and control. The first principle of recovery is the empowerment of the survivor.”

If one of the experts in the field of trauma emphasizes empowering survivors, I think we should explore why that is so important. In this article, I will explore personal empowerment, why it’s important, and how to step into it.

What is Personal Empowerment?

Empowerment is “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.” Personal empowerment is more about taking control of our own lives rather than trying to control everyone and everything around us.

I love this definition. The first thing that jumps out is that personal empowerment is a process, not a one-and-done activity. It is not black and white or, as is really common for trauma survivors, all-or-nothing. So, perhaps we shouldn’t say that we step into our power but that we are stepping into our power…one baby step at a time.

The second thing that jumps out at me about this definition is that the process is about becoming stronger and more confident. It doesn’t say that we aren’t strong or confident but that we are becoming stronger and more confident. The term “becoming” makes me think of the transformational process that a moth goes through to become a butterfly.

Personal empowerment is something we already have and that already lives within us. It is your inner strength, your confidence and belief in yourself, and your ability to be the creator of your own life.

The next thing that jumps out to me is the part where we get to control our own lives. What? Yes, that’s what it says… we become stronger and more confident about taking control of our lives.

Why is Personal Empowerment Important?

Personal empowerment is essential because it represents a significant mindset shift from powerless victim → survivor → thriver. From this progression, you can see the movement and growth.

When I started my healing process, I felt powerless, pitiful, damaged, and hopeless. I couldn’t see any way through it. What was done was done, and there was nothing I could do about it. I thought I would be that way for the rest of my life.

However, once I got into therapy, my therapist prioritized personal empowerment in my healing process. She did this by listening to my thoughts and ideas and demonstrating trust in my ability to know what I needed to heal, even when I didn’t trust myself. This was done little by little…one appointment at a time.

Personal empowerment is also important because it helps us take ownership of our lives and actions. Many of us employed a freeze or fawn coping strategy during childhood trauma so we could survive. Empowerment helps us get unfrozen, make decisions, and take actions that contribute to our safety.

Powerlessness in the Workplace

Powerlessness is a triggered mindset. We are triggered back to a time in our childhood when we were genuinely powerless. We are NOT powerless in the present.

In a previous article on powerlessness, I shared some workplace situations that triggered a powerless mindset for me. Inflexibility, feeling overwhelmed, stuck, and cornered were all on that list.

There may be a host of other situations or scenarios in the workplace that trigger a powerless mindset. Creating an awareness of our triggers is critical to the healing process. I created a FREE resource, the trigger tracker worksheet, to help you capture and record your triggers.

What Does Stepping Into Our Power Look Like?

Most of us are very unfamiliar with what stepping into our power is, so we might not know what it looks like if we see it. Here are some examples of what stepping into our power may look like for us:

  • Able to see and believe in your own self-worth
  • Confident and comfortable standing up for your own truth
  • Able to set firm boundaries and enforce them
  • Living your daily life on your terms and in the way you want
  • Able to trust your own instincts and make decisions that are true to who you are and what you want
  • Working on things that give you joy and a sense of purpose

How Can We Step Into Our Personal Power?

Start where you are. What is one decision you can make today about your life or your healing journey? I want to remind you that you have already made an amazing investment in yourself by reading this blog. You chose to do that. Look at you go.

Enlist support. I started with my therapist, but you can start with a coach, friend, or accountability partner. I have a friend who reminds me of my decisions about my future when I get distracted by shiny things. Everyone should have that kind of friend in their life.

Shift your mindset. Sometimes we get stuck in a mindset that keeps us powerless or tells us we can’t possibly do the thing. We need to shift that mindset a little at a time by finding things we can take action on, which proves we are not powerless.

Take baby steps. Baby steps reflect forward movement. Remember, this is not a race. We need to move at the pace our nervous system can handle.

Get back up when you fall down. I want to set expectations right up front by letting you know that part of the learning process is falling down. Babies don’t usually go from crawling to walking in one day…they fall down a lot. Nelson Mandela once said, “I never lose. I either win, or I learn.” We need to have that same mindset.

Celebrate success. Celebrate the small things. Write them down. Create memorials for them. I can’t tell you how many times my therapist had to whip out my list of accomplishments to remind me how far I had come during times of deep discouragement. It helps.

Ending Our Time Together

Empowerment is necessary to develop or find a career that brings us fulfillment and purpose. You can have that. You are not stuck. You are not helpless.

What is the one thing you can do to start stepping into your personal power? I invite you to put it in the comments for encouragement and accountability. You don’t have to do this alone. I’m with you.

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