My dearest SOTGC community!
In today’s day and age, the word “empowerment” has become omnipresent across many spheres of society. We speak of empowering women in their professional and career lives, of empowering adolescents to take ownership of their futures, of empowering underrepresented and underprivileged populations to reach greater heights than previous generations. In my own field of medicine, we celebrate a new culture in medicine where patient-centered care means empowering patients to become educated and proactive about their own health.
In light of the great presence that this word has in our quotidian lives, I felt it only fitting to explore its meaning in this month’s post … a sort of homage to the weight that this word carries in the way we currently seek—it can be argued—the road to success, in both accomplishments and wellbeing.
Thus, to begin, what does empowerment mean exactly? Personally, I’ve come to see empowerment as the way by which, each and every one of us, renders ourselves “powerful,” in a unique way that makes sense within our own lives. In this way, to empower one’s self, or to empower someone else, is very much context dependent, as it depends on different situations and different people alike. For instance, sometimes empowerment can be directed towards bettering or encouraging ourselves, an internal force that is, in turn, also directed inwards. Sometimes though, empowerment can be direct towards someone else or even a group of people as a whole; in this way we have the capacity to empower others, making a difference in other people’s lives. Different situations can also bring different meanings to the act of empowering, whether it is directed towards ourselves or others. For instance, the manner by which one may empower a child to be confident while giving an oral presentation in a classroom may be very different than what it may mean to empower a group of women in a developing nation to participate in the local economy.
The meaning of empowerment also boils down to how we perceive the word “power.” Again, just like the term “empowerment” itself, I feel that “power” carries different meanings based on context; different meanings for different situations and different people. When I think about “empowerment” however, there are certain common forms of “power” that come to my mind. I tend to think of power in terms of gaining autonomy – of becoming more independent and self-efficient. I also tend to think of power in this context as ownership – whether it be “owning” who you are or “owning” a cause or passion; having the power to be authentic and true to yourself and to your cause. Finally, I also tend to see power in the act of empowerment in terms of confidence; confidence in one’s self, confidence in a cause, and confidence in one’s ability to carry through on a dream or ambition.
When it comes to exploring the meaning of empowerment I also feel it important to discern its temporality and role. What I mean by this is when does empowerment come into the picture exactly? The way I see it, empowerment is very much part of the journey. In my opinion, between a starting point and an end goal, dream, or objective, empowerment is a means by which we may flavor the journey towards accomplishment to be one of positivity. Empowerment is a happening; an installation of power in the individual or group, in the form that they require, that allows for the journey between start and finish to be one full of wellbeing, growth, success and belief in said success.
My dearest readers, I think it is quite clear that empowerment is truly a dynamic concept that shifts meaning from one context to another, from one individual to the next. As a concept it can be thoroughly abstract or made concrete, it can be a strong player or a soft undertone in one’s day, it can be somewhat actively pursued or passively stumbled upon, it can be a means by which we may better ourselves or in turn make a difference in the lives of others. I hope this homage to this term, despite only touching upon the subject superficially, has drawn realization to the strong presence of this concept in our society.
So, what does empowerment mean to you? If this post resonated with you, share it with your friends, family and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter! Feel free to comment and share your thoughts on the topic!