Self-empowerment means you have no fear in making the decisions that are right for you.
It is having options when there appear to be none because you accept the consequences for decisions you wouldn’t normally make.
After all, if you can accept almost any consequence, even when it is unpleasant, you have more options.
My main goal when coaching clients is to get them to a place of empowerment where they aren’t hindered by indecision or stuck in a rut of fear.
For about a year, I wrestled with an appropriate title for myself:
- Personal Growth Coach
- Personal Development Coach
- Emotional Strength Training Coach (yes, I used this title for a short time!)
- Life Coach (extremely vague)
And finally, I settled on what described me best: Personal Empowerment Coach. (update: Now Behavior and Relationship Coach – more accurate)
That best describes where I want you to be so that you can create the life you want.
However, what I’ve learned is that with empowerment comes much responsibility. Once you are empowered, you have more options.
Empowerment gives you the ability to make choices that are right for you. You no longer make choices based on fear, but on honoring and respecting yourself. And once you possess the power of choice (that internal empowerment that overrides your fear) you have a great responsibility.
That responsibility is that you will start getting what you want in life instead of what you don’t want. So the trick is to be careful what you ask for because you will most likely get it.
I think that scares a lot of people.
Having power over your own life may not be something you’ve experienced a lot of. So when it happens, it may scare you because it’s new… it’s different. It’s something you’re not used to.
Think of a time in your life where you felt like you had the ability to decide your own path.
Have you ever? Do you have that ability now?
Empowerment leads to options, leads to creating a life that fulfills you more than you thought possible.
Martha Beck once said, “The process of spotting fear and refusing to obey it is the source of all true empowerment”.
My mom lived with an alcoholic, abusive man for over 40 years of her life. Having to care for us three kids from her last marriage with my father, our stepfather became our new father figure.
His aggressive, out-of-control, alcoholic binges and sometimes abusive ways put terror in all of us.
Yet, my mom never left him.
As all of us kids grew older and we all eventually moved out. We all figured that she would finally leave him now that the kids were all grown up and out of the house.
But no… she stayed.
And what’s even stranger is that she hated every minute of it.
She hated her marriage with him for as long as I can remember. She would even jokingly say that she should just kill herself and get it over with.
Quite a limited perspective!
There was no, “I’ll leave instead”, it was only, “I’d rather kill myself than be with him.”
We kids were confused. We “knew” she’d leave after we moved out because there’d be no reason to stay. And even if her original reason for staying was because she needed the financial support for us kids, she could no longer use that excuse. We were no longer there and any one of us would have given her a room (and we all offered).
After all those years of being abused, she chose to stay.
Because she submitted to fear.
Martha Beck says that ‘refusing to obey fear is the source of all empowerment’.
My mom obeyed her fear.
When you obey fear, you give your power away.
When you feel powerless, you also feel like you have no choices – no options. You can’t see past the fears so you never see that you actually have more options available to you.
My mom could not consider options she didn’t know she had.
Her fear of never having been without her husband, as awful as it was, was greater than her desire for some peace in her life. So she stayed.
She feared not having money, even though her life was in danger.
She feared being hurt by him even though he was already hurting her.
She feared what he might do to her if she left him, even though she feared what he might to do her every single day she stayed with him!
She hated him but didn’t want to leave him out of fear.
When fear drives you, you stay fearful. It’s always present. You are in fear which brings more fear.
When you are motivated by not wanting to be in pain, you stay in pain.
In abusive (or potentially abusive) relationships, sometimes the thing you fear most is exactly what will happen if you don’t get away from the thing you fear most.
The longer you stay, the more likely what you fear will manifest it into being.
This really saddens me because I see many people in abusive relationships stay because of what might happen if they leave. They choose to live in fear rather than leave in fear.
I mean, if you’re in an abusive relationship and you’re already afraid, why not just leave anyway? What’s stopping you from making decisions that empower you now?
The problem is that some fears are stronger than others, so you are driven by what has the most power over you. The solution is to come to a place where you’re okay with fear and you’re okay no matter what happens.
This is the hardest part for a lot of people: They don’t want to be okay with what happens.
When I had my first and only panic attack in 2009, I came to a point where the fear got so bad that I thought I was going to die. Then I found out what happens when all my fears come true.
I died! Well, a part of me died, that is. The part of me that feared the worst possible outcome. Because when the worst possible outcome (my biggest fear) did happen, the bottom dropped out and I fell through it.
And when your worst fears come true, there’s nothing left to fear. It becomes something that already happened, not something that is going to happen.
That’s where I ended up that day in the Arizona desert, 1000 miles from home when my car broke down. That event changed my life forever (full story here).
That event caused me to find out what happens when what you fear most comes true.
What happens is that there’s nothing left to fear.
This is powerful. This is empowerment.
And this is the very place that many people with fears, anxiety, and even depression don’t want to go. They don’t want to face the worst possible thing that could happen because they believe it could just keep getting worse and worse. So they spend the majority of their time avoiding what they fear.
Resistance to what you fear can lead to anxiety and depression.
I’m not saying resistance is the only thing that creates anxiety and depression, but I will say that it is a huge factor. And for many, it’s the only factor that creates those conditions in them.
If you don’t want to feel anxiety anymore, then imagine the worst-case scenario. That way when what you fear most happens, there’ll be nothing left to fear.
I’m not saying it will be easy. My panic attack was one of the worst experiences of my life… but it changed me. It brought me peace. It prepared me for the future when I lost my job and I was broke standing in line at a soup kitchen.
The bubble burst that day in Arizona and I was no longer anxious.
This is empowerment; It’s not facing your fears, it’s living them and experiencing them to the fullest.
When the bottom drops out and the panic reaches its threshold, then busts out the top, you walk away as a new person.
This is what my mom ultimately experienced just a few years ago when my stepfather finally left the house.
Over 40 years of fear, and he finally left.
Had my mom left years ago she would have had more time to start enjoying life. But now passing 70 years of age, she can finally start living a happier existence.
Had she only left him earlier she might have had a lot more time to realize there was so much more to life than living in fear.
But her happiness didn’t start immediately. After he left, she was still not empowered. Sure, what she feared had left the house, but she still had thoughts about letting him back in if he wanted to come back.
Even after all those years of abuse, she would still let him back in!
However, in about 6 weeks, her empowerment set in. She came to an epiphany and asked herself something along the lines of, “What the F am I thinking? I would never let that man back into this house ever again!”
And she stuck to that sentiment because when he did reach out again and want to come back, she said “Hell no.”
She knew that he could get angry and maybe even break into the house and hurt her, but she didn’t care. She tasted freedom and it was sweet.
She didn’t care what he tried now, because she now knew what she’d been missing for all those years.
Being away from him was a new realization for her. Her power came from her honoring herself and respecting her own life enough to make decisions that might even endanger her.
Let me rephrase that because it’s important:
Your power comes from you honoring yourself even if doing so feels dangerous.
That doesn’t mean you put your life on the line. If it’s a real life or death situation, then you need to get out and get help. There are people and organizations that have been created for that very purpose.
But it does mean that many times we evaluate situations as being dangerous that really aren’t so, we’re just afraid of accepting what could happen.
Accepting that what could happen will happen no matter what feels dangerous. But it is closure!
And closure means there’s nothing more to fear because you have no choice but to accept and move through it or resist it until you break blood vessels trying to prevent the inevitable.
When I broke down in the desert (well there was a highway and service station so I don’t want to make it sound overly dramatic), I believed the outcome would be that I’d lose my car and everything in it. And that I’d have no transportation for work when I got back home.
This made me so sick and panicky because I didn’t want to accept that that scenario could happen.
But it did. The bottom dropped out and I fell into the hole I resisted.
The resistance was me not wanting to lose my car and all my stuff. The bottom that fell was:
Acceptance of the worst possible thing that could happen.
In the grand scheme of life, losing a car and possessions is really not all that important. It’s inconvenient and may change your life but it’s not falling off a cliff.
I think the quote “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” rings so true in situations that cause us panic or anxiety.
We fear being afraid. We fear the feeling of fear so we resist it with all our might. And that resistance is what creates anxiety.
My hope for you is that you will see fear as an opportunity to release resistance.
There is a path to releasing all resistance but many people will not walk it. It is the path of the warrior.
Don’t worry, I won’t get too metaphorical here but when you embrace your inner warrior, you embrace that: one possible result of your situation could be death.
A warrior walks into any battle knowing it could very well be his or her last battle. The acceptance of death as an option brings courage and confidence in their every step.
You don’t hear me talk about an “inner warrior” on this show because it won’t resonate with everyone. But, whether you choose to believe it or not, you have one inside you. I know this is true because I’ve witnessed the meekest person reach their breaking point and have that fire lit inside them to take the action they need to take.
I’ll never forget the time when my stepfather slapped my mom in the face. She picked up a TV and threw it at him!
Well, she threw it near him.
She is the kindest, most generous person and never yelled or even disciplined us kids growing up (it’s hard to believe I didn’t get into more trouble when I was younger).
But she reached her breaking point… this sweet, innocent woman picked up one of those tube televisions and threw it! She reached inside and accessed her inner warrior.
When I say that the path to releasing all resistance is to accept or embrace that the situation you’re in could mean death, it doesn’t mean you are doing things that lead to your literal death.
It is the death of fear. It is knowing the path is hard and scary with many pits and dangers, but you choose to accept that is the path you are going to walk even if it means you’ll fall.
It is full acceptance of the phrase, “There’s absolutely nothing you can do.”
In Arizona, I panicked until I told myself, “That’s it, there’s nothing I can do. I’m going to lose everything. I have no choice.”
When “I have no choice” crossed my mind, I let go of choice. I let go of my attachment to choice.
I had no choice.
Did I really have no choice? Could there have been anything else I could have done? Absolutely! But the continuous debate in my mind of whether something could be done or not was irrelevant because that line of thinking was what was causing my anxiety.
Thinking about what else I could do to avoid this situation where my car broke down and I was going to lose that, and everything inside of it, caused me to fear the fear itself.
So I chose to accept that I had absolutely no choice and this was how it was going to be whether I liked it or not.
And that freed me.
That helped me let go of the burden of thinking and choosing. Like a waterfall, my panic and anxiety washed downward and into the earth where I no longer had to worry.
And what was left was a new person.
This can happen to you. Anxiety can be released if you accept there’s nothing you can do about it, and there’s nothing you can do about what happens next or even after that.
There is nothing you can do.
There are many options available to us all the time, but when you accept that there aren’t, and you let go of your resistance to what is happening, options that you wouldn’t have considered or thought of suddenly show up.
It really is a mystical experience.
I went from, “I will never let my car go” to, “It’s so easy to let it all go” simply because I chose to accept death as an option.
Let me explain that because it probably sounds weird.
The reason I take you to “death”, as in a worst-case scenario, is to show you what’s really most important in every situation.
Your life is the most important component of every situation. And the closer you are to death, the less material items and scary situations matter.
When it comes to anxiety, most of the time you are not in physical danger. And if and when you are, you take action to avoid that danger of course.
And let me be very clear here: You do take action to avoid getting physically injured.
When there’s no actual physical danger, and to accept that “death” is the scariest thing that could happen (being okay that it could happen) will set you free and alleviate all other fears.
This is all a mind thing really. Accepting death isn’t welcoming it. It’s accepting that you value being alive over everything and anything.
Without life, nothing else matters, right? If you’re not here, then nothing here really matters anymore. In death, you wouldn’t be in a physical state of being anymore, so you don’t have the physical dependencies you used to have.
What happens is that we get so tied down by so many physical dependencies that we tend to forget what’s most important start equating ‘losing our favorite shirt’ with ‘losing our life’.
It sounds weird but at a very deep level, I believe this is what actually happens: We equate losing money, or a loved one, or our house, or even our favorite cup with losing our life.
We also equate being judged, humiliated, or embarrassed with losing our life because deep down, it feels like we’re going to die.
And by accepting that yes, you could die, you learn to let go of everything before that.
I realize this is probably controversial and maybe I’m crossing the line, but if you have anxiety, you know what I’m talking about here because many times you already feel that way – You already feel like you could die.
Accepting death isn’t wanting or welcoming it, it’s allowing it as an option so that there’s no resistance to it. No resistance to death means no anxiety about the things we depend on or desire to have in our lives.
It doesn’t mean we should let go of our ego and all attachments (although that is a path to enlightenment), it just means there’s a way to enjoy life without being so stressed all the time.
You get closer to living a stress-free life by accepting that something worse will happen than what’s happening now. That way when you evaluate what’s happening now, you figure out it’s not as bad as it could be.
Sure, the situation could be an important life-changing event, but it doesn’t have to give you anxiety. Accept that what you fear will happen, then choose to be okay with the consequences.
When you are in that space, you decrease the stress and anxiety about the situation and you gain more options. And you take action based on honoring yourself for your best interest in your overall mental health, instead of continuing to be motivated by fear.
You have that inner warrior inside you that is fearless. Develop a “Bring it on” attitude and just become that warrior whenever you need.
My mom threw a TV at her abusive husband knowing she could be physically injured in retaliation.
She got in touch with that warrior.
She faced death and won.
Again, I don’t recommend doing this in actual, physically threatening situations. Get out of those as fast as possible.
But do remember your inner warrior when facing most things that give you anxiety.
The warrior faces fear knowing that death is an option. Then when the warrior doesn’t actually die, he or she gains more confidence, strength, and empowerment than ever before.
Quick Disclaimer: If you are seeing a doctor for your anxiety, don’t listen to anything I just said. Always listen to the person you’ve entrusted to help you with your specific challenges. I can only speak from the experience of busting through that panic wall I once had.
Will any of what I’m talking about work for you? My belief is that it does and will. But go where your instinct tells you to go. Find the path of healing that works best for you.
I know what I know, but I don’t know you. So be where you need to be until it’s time. Anxiety doesn’t have to be prevalent in your life, so just know there is a way out.
If anything, knowing there’s an exit gives you hope.
That’s what I want for you.
I used to think “hope” was a word used by people who couldn’t or wouldn’t take the steps they needed to empower themselves. Now I see it as a tool to reach empowerment.
Or, at least reach a new place of less stress and anxiety.
Hope helps you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hope can be there even when there’s fear.
Sometimes hope is the first step. But, bring on your “bring it on” attitude and accept what could happen so that stress and anxiety wash away.
I know it’s not easy, but know it’s possible and you’ll be on your way to empowerment.
I want to mention one thing before I go…
The new year is upon us and you might be making a resolution or two. If you’ve done resolutions in the past, have you stuck with them?
I’m going to give you the opposite advice you’ve probably heard: If resolutions never work for you, stop making them.
Seriously, don’t make resolutions if you can’t keep them. The reason I say that is because when you make a commitment to yourself to do something and you don’t do it, you build incongruence in yourself. If you don’t know what that means, I’ll explain it in a minute.
The more you commit to and fail to follow through on, the less often you will be able to trust yourself and make decisions.
And if you don’t understand what I mean, just ask yourself, “How often do I find myself unable to make a decision?”
If it’s more often than not, then you’re probably setting yourself up for failure. Making promises or commitments that you end up breaking sets yourself up for failure because there’s a part of you that doesn’t really believe you anymore.
In other words, when you say, “I resolve to get more exercise this year” and it never happens. Or it starts then you quit, what you’re really telling your subconscious mind is:
“I resolve to confuse you and make you think I’m going left when I’m really going right”.
Whenever you commit to something, follow through or don’t commit.
I realize sometimes you can’t follow through – there are circumstances where stuff just happens. But more often than not, follow through or don’t commit.
And I’m not talking about just New Year’s Resolutions, I’m talking about any type of commitment you make to yourself or anyone else.
“Incongruence” is when you say one thing but do another. It’s when you’re smiling but you’re actually sad. It’s when you commit to something then choose not to go through with it.
There are times where not going through with something is absolutely in your best interest. I’m not talking about those moments. I’m talking about everyday situations where the simple messages that you send to your subconscious mind are either beneficial to you in the long run or detrimental because of incongruent behavior.
It’s almost like you’re lying to your subconscious mind. And the more you do it the less integrated your life will be. You will continually set yourself up to fail and you’ll have no idea why your plans keep getting sabotaged.
Always do your best to stay congruent.
If you tell yourself that you will absolutely read 20 pages of your book today but never get around to it, that’s incongruent. It’s not bad or evil, it’s just confusing to the subconscious mind.
When you start being more congruent and doing what you actually commit to, you’ll find that your life works with you instead of against you more and more each day.